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Gainesville embraces porous parking push to limit stormwater runoff
Changes aimed at limiting strain on infrastructure from asphalt, concrete
Home construction along Enota Avenue will feature a type of permeable paving to help limit stormwater runoff. Gainesville is amending its code to allow businesses to construct gravel and other permeable parking lots as a way to limit such runoff.

The cottage homes Frank Norton, president and CEO of The Norton Agency real estate firm in Gainesville, is building along Enota Avenue will include porous parking surfaces.

“I think it’s better for the earth,” he said. “So I’m encouraging others to have porous parking facilities.”

The development was given an exemption from the city’s code that required impervious parking surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete, Norton said.

Now Gainesville officials have gone a step further and amended the city’s Unified Land Development Code to provide guidelines and discretion for when and what porous materials can be used in parking lots.

The move is focused on “implementing better water quality objectives by encouraging opportunities to reduce impervious surfaces,” Matt Tate, Gainesville planning director, said.

There are more than 124 million square feet of impervious surfaces in Gainesville. The stormwater runoff that creates has strained the city’s infrastructure, resulting in aging pipes and costly road washouts.

Add in new state and federal water quality regulations and city officials have their motivation to adopt a fee program to pay for infrastructure improvements.

But officials voted down a fee structure in December after business owners and residents objected.

The original stormwater fee proposal called for charging $1 for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface on residential, commercial, nonprofit and government property.

With the proposed “rain tax” on hold, amending the parking lot regulations is seen as a revised way to address the runoff problem.

Norton said this change had been on his radar for several years. He said he had tried to get approval for porous surfaces at an office building he owns, but was denied and had to cut down existing trees as a result.

Norton said he intend to use pea gravel or crushed stone at the cottage development, with a stone curbing to contain the material.

If he doesn’t properly maintain the porous material, Norton could be forced to lay down asphalt, he said.

But Norton said the upside is too great since porous parking surfaces “help soften the impact of development.”

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