Stormwater, climate items

3/20/20222 min read

purple flowers with yellow and white sun light
purple flowers with yellow and white sun light

New Library Parking Lot--more than meets the eye
Even before the solar panels went in, the main library parking lot was in need of resurfacing.

But this summer’s $1.8 million in work is more than a repaving job. After dozens of patrons lost their cars in a flash flood in the late 1990s, it was clear that the Library lot had a problem with water.

Further, EPA’s storm water permit for Newton requires the city to remove phosphorus and salt from the parking lot (and all our other) runoff before it pours into the Charles River. Phosphorus (present in car exhaust) and heat create ideal conditions for blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) that can make swimming or boating on the river unpleasant (and is deadly for dogs).

So I was pleased to vote to include investment in storm water retention and treatment--about $775,000 from the storm water fund for this parking lot. By putting in permeable pavement and underground water retention, the new parking lot will be less likely to flood and will remove nearly 3 lbs of phosphorus per year. This will be a significant improvement for water quality.

Next Step on Newton’s Climate Goals

Council learned more Monday about measures to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A Building Emissions Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), modeled on one passed in Boston, would require owners of our largest structures to plan to cut emissions to zero by 2050.

City staff determined that roughly 400 large buildings contribute ~27% of Newton’s emissions. This step is probably the next-easiest way to significantly reduce greenhouse gasses after Newton Power Choice.

The idea would be to give property owners multiple paths and time to make orderly changes when their heating & cooling equipment reaches the end of its useful life, or when doing planned renovations or construction.

The first step is city engagement with owners before the ordinance is written.

Separately, Council is petitioning the state legislature for permission to require all new or substantially renovated houses to go all-electric. I see this is a consumer protection measure, since we will be required to retrofit our homes by 2030 or thereabouts.

Short Items:

  • Police Data; Training: Join the Public Safety & Transportation Committee tonight 7 pm for our quarterly police data update, plus information on Police and Fire Department staff training.

  • Housing Costs and 'Scarcity Mindset’: Digging deeper into why housing is so expensive and why we fight so hard about it--Noah Smith here describes the “scarcity mindset” (and shouts out to Rick Pearlstein’s Reaganland, a longer good read). Thanks to Phil Hanser of Newton Centre for the blog that linked to both.

  • MBTA Zoning: Regulations are still in draft form, but Councilor Bill Humphrey nicely lays out a possible vision for how Newton might comply. I would like to see Newton create more neighborhoods where residents can walk or bike 15 minutes or less for all their needs. I think this law may help us get there, but we will have to run several scenarios.