About the Code Audit
The Green Infrastructure Code Audit, created by the Stormwater Coalition of Albany County and modified by CDRPC, was designed to engage communities in an in‐depth review of how local laws, ordinances, development review, design standards and natural resource protection influence stormwater management. The Audit identifies barriers and gaps in the adoption of Green Infrastructure practices and low impact development. It also leads to a prescriptive set of model local laws and guidelines that can be adopted to encourage and require increased employment of GI as a stormwater management technique – thereby reducing stormwater runoff and improving water quality. This Green Infrastructure Code Audit was developed to provide each community with assistance in developing green infrastructure guidance for public and private application of green infrastructure. The Audit will help communities identify gaps and barriers in local land use code, policy, or stormwater regulations that inhibit or discourage the adoption of GI practices, constructed or policy. The results of the Audit will highlight areas of local code that a community may wish to strengthen.
Before You Begin the Audit
Before your community engages in the audit’s self assessment tool, it’s critical that you gather the resources that govern land use controls in you community. Keep in mind that the information you may want on a development rule is not always found in code or regulation, and may be hidden in supporting design manuals, review checklists, guidance documents or construction specifications. In most cases, this will require an extensive search. Few communities include all developed guidelines and rules in a single document. For example, stormwater controls, zoning, comprehensive plan, and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans may all be in separate locations. Keep in mind that the information you may want on a development rule is not always found in code or regulation, and may be hidden in supporting design manuals, review checklists, guidance documents or construction specifications. In most cases, this will require an extensive search. Few communities include all developed guidelines and rules in a single document. For example, stormwater controls, zoning, comprehensive plan, and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans may all be in separate locations.
Once the development rules are located, it is relatively easy to determine which local agencies or authorities who are actually responsible for administering and enforcing the rules. Completing this step will provide you with a better understanding of the intricacies of the development review process, and for contacts to speak with to obtain answers to the Audit questions or obtain more information. Ideally, there should be ONE primary Audit respondent, obtaining information from several sources and filling out the Audit instrument. You may wish to identify and assign a different representative for each section of the Audit. For example, in the “Design Elements for Stormwater Management” section, an engineer responsible for site plan review would ideally be suited to fill out this section. For the section “Preservation of Natural Features and Conservation Design” a Planner or the chair of the local conservation advisory community (should your community have one) would be best suited to fill out this section) The development process is usually shaped by a complex labyrinth of regulations, criteria, and authorities. A team approach may be helpful. You may wish to enlist the help of a local plan reviewer, land planner, land use attorney, or civil engineer. Having input for each person in your community that has a role in managing stormwater is the best way to make sure that the Audit question responses are accurate. Their real-world experience with the development process is often very useful in completing the audit.
Having these documents at the ready and individuals to rely on for answers will help ensure your audit is accurate and thorough. It will also help us confirm responses or follow-up with your community.
Two tasks should be performed before you begin the audit.
Conducting the Audit
The Green Infrastructure Code Audit is organized into four parts. Each part addresses specific strategies within a code that promote green infrastructure practices. While each part of the Audit can be completed independently for a targeted audit of a municipal code, it is recommended that all four parts are completed so that a complete audit can be provided.
Determining a response to some of the Scorecard questions can sometimes result in an objective answer. This is OK. When you answer “Yes” to an Audit question, the Audit will automatically prompt you to provide a reference to the relevant pages of their local law/code/etc. with relevant source material. This will assist you and/or a review team to check your answer or circle back with any questions about the source language. This will also save substantial time and frustration later on from needing to locate source material to clarify answers later on during the review phase of the project.
The results of the Audit are not intended to be a report card. Do not feel guilty for answering “no” on a question. This is not a test. The scorecard is a self‐assessment tool, so don’t get worried about achieving a perfect score. This is a diagnostic tool, thus, the more honest and thorough the responses the more useful the instrument will be in the end. Once you have completed the Scorecard, go back and review your responses. Determine if there are specific areas that need improvement (e.g., development rules that govern parking standards). Review is key to understanding where there are gaps in your current laws and developing a strategy for addressing which laws and procedures to change. The intent of this assessment and the stormwater regulations in general is to protect water quality within your municipality.
The full audit consists of four parts and is roughly 80 questions. Because many of the questions incorporate logic, the number of questions and time to take the Audit may vary greatly. Communities taking the full audit are those that may be seeking a comprehensive assessment. If your community wishes to take on a more prescribed audit, it is possible to conduct a more limited self diagnostic.
The first category of the Audit looks at practices for reducing impervious cover. This looks at issues such as minimum road widths, parking, and the use of pervious materials.
Category 2 of the Audit asks about your code’s approach to open space as a method for strengthening green infrastructure practices.
Category 3 of the Audit reviews your code for design elements pertaining to stormwater management.
Category 4 of the Audit examines your codes for density and infill requirements in your municipal code.
I’m done! Now What?
CDRPC will review and tally the Audit results and provide your community with the “gap” analysis. CDRPC will also assemble a report, customized for your community, that includes model code and guidelines that your community may wish to consider adopting.
This Audit is modeled on the scorecard distributed by the Stormwater Coalition of Albany County and an updated version developed for use by the Albany Pool Communities. The questions in this Audit were generated in large part from the following sources:
- Center for Watershed Protection Code and Ordinance Worksheet
- The Code and Ordinance Worksheet for Development Rules in New York State (a document developed by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program
- NYS Water Resources Institute in Cooperation with the Center for Watershed Protection)
- The U.S. EPA’s Managing Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure Municipal Handbook‐Water Quality Scorecard
- The Capital District Regional Planning Commission
- The Capital District Transportation Committee
The Audit instrument and model local code program is supported by a grant from the New York State Department of State’s Local Government Efficiency Program.