Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Baltimore Woman Fined for Green Landscaping

Wood Chip Playground
A local Butchers Hill resident, Maxine Taylor, used wood chips to create a parking pad at her woodsy, stable-house that she renovated. She lives in the house and also has her studio in the space. The city ordered Ms. Taylor to use either asphalt or concrete, both impermeable surfaces. This article provides a lively discourse on the conflict over green options. There are some gnarly transitional issues involved in moving to a greener community. Most conflicts involve building codes that have not caught up with sound environmental practices

Our favorite quote, from Ms. Taylor:
"I though there was way too much concrete," she said. "I didn't know about sustainability or runoff. I was just trying to be...what's today's word? Green?"
The city's own Sustainability Plan for a "cleaner, greener" city calls for removing impervious surfaces citywide to reduce the runoff into the storm drains and into our dying Chesapeake Bay. In fact, the Parks & People Foundation, with help from city grants has removed 20 acres of pavement. In place of the pavement, they planted trees, grass and flowers to soak up rainfall.

Its a loopy time.


paul bowman said...

Saw this in today's Sun. What a frustrating deal.

I suppose, though, that from the city's position it's poorly maintained (& eroding, sediment-producing) non-paved parking that registers as the priority prevention concern. More than one way to go wrong here. It would be good to see some discussion of the practical issues.

Wonder if we'll see some sort of campaign mounted around this — like the one that saved the Hampden flamingo a couple of months ago.

Anonymous said...

Although the city is definitely playing catch up, the new zoning code, hopefully adopted by the end of 2010, should be much more responsive to the environmental needs of the planet.

Remember that bureaucracies are large, plodding beasts that are notoriously slow to respond, regardless of how obvious that response should be...

bca said...

Anonymous, thanks for that reminder about the bureaucracies, we have been there. These kinds of changes are happening because we all keep the pressure on and lobby for our imperiled environment.

Swamp Thing said...

Honestly, the notion that a 2" layer of wood chips will absorb significantly much more runoff than concrete is pretty silly in an old neighborhood like Butchers Hill.

The soil (and subsoil) underneath the parking pad are so compacted and (from a soil structure standpoint) absolutely destroyed from 200+ years of human activity that it has very limited (or no) ability to absorb rainwater.

Do we need to upgrade the codes to "do more good than harm?" Absolutely, and ASAP. But let's stop with this thinking that just by removing concrete, that we are exposing virgin, arable soil to rainwater.

Can you imagine the anti-green backlash if all of downtown Baltimore was overlayed with 2" of wood chips, and the Patapsco continued to be polluted? Yet, that's exactly what some are pushing for..."looking" green without acknowledging the true (but necessary and valid) cost of GETTING green.

bca said...

Swamp Thing. There are PERVIOUS surfaces that can be used for roadways. In fact, legislation was passed last year in Annapolis by Rep. Maggie McIntosh that would tax developers for each section of IMPERVIOUS surface they installed on certain properties. We are not suggesting paving the city with wood chips. Far from it. Unfortunately, these micro issues are extrapolated and applied to larger issues. It seemed to us that landscaping with woodchips on private property did not require the city's intervention or worse, fine. As to the inability of "old" earth with lots of human use, to absorb rain water, we don't have the specifics. We would be happy if you could direct us to some source that details the issue. Thanks for your interest and response, it really helps to get the issues debated.

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