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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stream buffer variance- Action you can take to help Richland Creek

Below is a brief summary about last Monday’s public stream buffer variance request discussion at the Cohn library and the stormwater management committee hearing that followed on Thursday March 4th.

In short, the stream buffer variance was approved, with conditions.

After reading all the tedious details below you may ask, what can I do?

YOUR ACTION MAY BE THE pivotal voice!

You can write Mayor Dean and ask that his Green Ribbon Committee recommendations (Executive Order 33) be upheld. The Green Ribbon Committee recommends Nashville restore stream riparian areas and flood plains 100%.

Please refer to Case #201000002 stream buffer variance for the Metro Nashville-West Nashville Police precinct and crime lab project at 5500 Charlotte Avenue.

You can read the Green Ribbon Committee report and recommendations on Mayor's webpage at and about water on pages 42-44.


RCWA would like to thank all the stakeholders that showed up at the March 1st (Monday) public discussion at Cohn Library for the stream buffer variance. This is how we make positive change! A special and extra thanks to those that spoke at the variance meeting and took so much time out of their lives to speak up for stream riparian areas.

We received numerous emails from members and readers that opposed the variance but could not make the meeting. Thanks to everyone for his or her attention to this important issue too! Plus, two stakeholders' written comments were read at the hearing. Thanks!

Also, thanks to our Councilman Jason Holleman, the meeting was arranged and the engineering firm was also present for the discussion last Monday evening.

I counted about 40 people present Monday from the community. The community had thoughtful and intelligent questions and comments supporting stream corridor restoration and protection. Also mentioned was the welcome of the greenway but more stream buffer was needed for a more natural setting.

RCWA received numerous emails wanting to know the outcome of the variance hearing.


The Stormwater Management Committee heard comments from Councilwoman Evans, who filled-in for Jason because he could not be there. Four speakers from the community made comments and two written comments were sent to the Committee and read. It was a two-hour taped discussion and many details were discussed that are just not possible to disseminate in this email. Anyone can buy a copy of the meeting on cassette or send a blank CD and get a copy for free from Paula Klee, Stormwater Management Coordinator, at 880.2334, 800 2nd Avenue South, (email-

Councilwoman Evans first commended the project engineers for putting in place some stream buffer restoration and low impact development aspects but then quoted from Mayor Dean’s (Executive Order 33) Green Ribbon Environmental Sustainability summary report’s recommendation, “to remove 100% of Davidson County’s streams from EPA”s 303(d) list [impaired list]. The Mayor’s GRC summary report calls for stream corridors riparian areas be restored 100%. Evans also stated that this Metro project should set an example for future redevelopment. Below are some quotes from the Green Ribbon summary and I urge more of us to read this report

“Improve protection of the watersheds in Davidson county by honoring the natural flood plain and stream buffers, which will result in improved water quality, acceleration of Nashville’s Greenway system and myriad environmental benefits.”

“Changing zoning ordinances to disallow development in 100% of flood plain (with the exception of walking or biking trails and educational buildings such as nature centers), with little variance option, in all land use categories.”

“Require a minimum natural buffer of at least 50 feet for all water resources (streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands).

I, Monette Rebecca, contributed my comments next and submitted them in writing for the record. They focused on the stormwater regulation and FEMA guidelines that the Committee refers to for variance requests. Send me a request for my comment (, I would be glad to pass along.

I quoted the Committee’s own guidelines like “a variance is a grant of relief by a community” and…. “Because a variance can create an increased risk to life and property, variances from flood elevation or other requirements in the flood ordinance should be rare.” And, "granting this variance will result in victimization of the public and existing local ordinances," as stated in the FEMA guideline.

Three other speakers addressed specific issues that the variance would affect too. They were: not enough room for the greenway trail, insignificant riparian area for a wildlife habitat area and details about hydrology issues that effect safe flow and water quality. The last speaker also spoke to his sighting of an Alligator Snapping turtle, which is on the EPA Threatened List. He saw this rare turtle in Richland Creek at the area of this project. Much detail was presented at the hearing. I also pressed on the EPA riparian area guidelines- to be 60 feet as a minimum for effective preservation, filtration, habitat and water quality. And made the point- I favored a greenway trail, but that if we only leave a short width the paved greenway trail will diminish the final riparian width further and therefore; the 75 foot width, that the Metro Water stormwater regulation calls for, is a good stream buffer to establish.

In short, the variance was approved with conditions.

The conditions for the variance approval instructed the engineer team to return with a revised final plan with a somewhat modified (not less than 25 ft and an average of 45 ft) stream buffer, conduct soil sampling in areas of concern and complete the grading permit application. The last condition of the variance approval is for the applicant (Metro) to return to the Committee after the final plan is submitted to the Stormwater-Development Review office for the grading permit application. They anticipate this to be in May or June.

Monette Rebecca

Richland Creek Watershed Alliance

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