Proterra Design Group

May 24, 2010

FCC Clarifies “Shot Clock” for Wireless Facility Siting

Filed under: Telecommunications — admin @ 6:21 pm

On November 18, 2009, the FCC published a declaratory ruling clarifying certain ambiguous sections of the revised Communications Act of 1934. The ruling addresses concerns of an industry advocacy group — the Wireless Infrastructure Association (PCIA) — regarding perceived bottlenecks to wireless infrastructure expansion arising at the local government level.

The 42-page document has the effect of quantifying time limits on local jurisdictions to approve or deny the siting of a wireless facility. The limit has been set at 150 days excluding co-location sites which have a time limit of 90 days. This “shot clock” can be frozen by the local jurisdiction should the applicant need to provide additional information or by a mutual agreement of both parties. If the time limit is exceeded, the applicant has the option of bringing the matter to court. The time limit imposed by the FCC is meant to streamline the construction of wireless infrastructure and does not modify the authority of any local agency.

The ruling also clarifies a section of the revised Communication Act of 1934 noting that a local government cannot deny an application solely on the basis that a different carrier is already serving the area.

References:
http://www.pcia.com/shotclock
http://www.fcc.gov/telecom.html

May 20, 2010

Zoning and Land Use Laws

Filed under: Land Development,Resources — Tom Johnson @ 4:55 pm

Did you know that zoning and land use laws are made up of regulations and policies to protect community resources while guiding new development? Zoning and land use laws are enacted as a device of land planning that regulates nearly all new construction, most alterations, commercial occupancy changes, property line changes and most site development activity including some tree cutting and landscaping. The word is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one use of land from another. Zoning may be use-based to dictate activities that can be conducted on the land or it may be dimensional-based to regulate building height, lot coverage, or a combination thereof.

These regulations are often difficult and cumbersome to navigate and are enforced by various federal, state and local laws and by-laws. Before beginning a project, it is necessary to become familiar with the regulations and policies that need to be adhered to in your jurisdiction. The web has a collection of searchable databases containing information on the zoning codes, subdivision requirements, and environmental regulations. Interested parties can search the database by regulation or locality and can download information in a variety of formats. A word of caution, however, is to contact your local jurisdiction make sure you are relying on the latest information.  The staff at ProTerra would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to perform an assessment of your property to help determine its highest and best use. Pay subscriptions to some of the website may apply.

Ordinance.com

Massachusetts Housing Regulations Database

Massachusetts City & Town Websites by MIT

MACC Database of Wetlands Bylaws, Regulations, & Policies

Navigating the New Stormwater Regulations in Massachusetts

Filed under: Land Development,Resources — jmoreno @ 4:51 pm

Mass DEP has recently revised the Stormwater Management Standards and Handbook to promote increased stormwater recharge, low impact development (LID) techniques, pollution prevention, the removal of illicit discharges, and the maintenance of stormwater BMP’s.  The Stormwater Standards, originally adopted as Policy in 1997, are now adopted as part of the State’s Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) and Water Quality Certification Regulations that took effect in early 2008.

Many of the 350 cities and towns have enacted local by-laws requiring compliance with the new rules which went into effect on January 2, 2008. Unlike previous iterations, the new standards apply to smaller projects such as telecommunications facilities, parts of phased projects, and in some instances, a discharge outside a protected area.  The Applicability of the regulations has in the past been ambiguous in certain instances and has been clarified to include stormwater runoff from all industrial, commercial, institutional, office, residential, and transportation projects including site preparation construction, redevelopment and all point source stormwater discharges from those projects.

The updated Standards accomplish seven goals listed below through a series of substantive and minor changes made to seven of the original nine standards, the addition of a new tenth standard, and the inclusion of Low-Impact Development (LID) Site Development Credits.

Increased Stormwater Recharge: Developers are encouraged to allow run-off to be absorbed into the ground on-site rather than routing the water away from the development. This allows for continual recharge of groundwater sources which are being depleted across the Commonwealth.

Low Impact Development (LID): New techniques are designed to treat stormwater at its source using natural features and processes leading to more recharge and decreased pollution. DEP now requires that LID techniques be “considered” for every development.

Redevelopments must improve existing conditions: All redevelopments — large and small — must contribute to a continual improvement of the site’s stormwater management. Redevelopments can no longer get away with maintaining the status quo.

Eliminate Illicit Discharges: Illicit and unknown discharges must be identified and removed. Removal is critical in sensitive environments where small amounts of contaminants can have far-reaching effects.

Operation and Maintenance: Mass DEP requires that the stormwater controls put in place during construction be maintained through the life of a development. A plan of inspection will be outlined to gauge the effectiveness of the controls over time and repair or replace them as necessary.

Soil Evaluation: New procedures have been enacted to more thoroughly evaluate the on-site soils while the design process is in its infancy. A certified soils professional will visually identify the depth to groundwater, infiltration rates, presence of fill materials, and soil classification.

New Stormwater Attitudes: A number of regulations within the Stormwater Handbook have been revised to reflect more progressive attitudes and the latest scientific data from the past decade of active stormwater management in the Commonwealth.

The new standards reflect changing attitudes towards stormwater management in the Commonwealth. The complexities of stormwater permitting in Massachusetts and many other jurisdictions require knowledge and careful review of state, municipal and federal guidelines and regulations. Let the professionals at ProTerra assist you with your next stormwater or jurisdictional project or make sure you have a design that meets the new standards. For more information about Massachusetts stormwater visit the MassDEP website.  Other state regulatory guides can be found at Stormwater Authority.org.

Land Disturbance Permitting

Filed under: Environmental Permitting,Resources — admin @ 3:23 pm

Do you have a project that will disturb > 1 acre of land?  If so you may need to file for coverage under a NPDES Construction General Permit (CGP).

The Construction General Permit (CGP) is a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued under the authority of the Clean Water Act.  This stormwater permit is frequently overlooked by developers and is necessary prior to commencement of earth moving activities. Most states are authorized to implement the NPDES permit program, including the stormwater program, however EPA still administers the permitting program in four states (MA, NH, NM, ID), the District of Columbia, most of the territories, and in most Indian Country Lands. Use this list to determine if your state operates the NPDES stormwater program.

Construction activities (which include soil disturbing activities such as clearing, grading, excavating, stockpiling, etc.) that disturb one or more acres, or smaller sites that are part of a larger common plan of development or sale, are required to prepare and submit a Notice of Intent and Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). A Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan or more often referred to as a “SWIP”, must identify erosion controls and operations to be implemented prior to and during construction operations.  The disturbed soil, if not managed properly, can easily be washed off of the construction site during storms and enter water bodies causing an array of physical, chemical and biological impacts.

More recently, states such as Massachusetts have implemented the preparation of SWPPP’s for the individual project site into the wetlands permitting process. Under current Massachusetts’s DEP Stormwater Management Handbook & Regulations promulgated in February 2008, any jurisdictional filing must meet “Standard 8” and include A plan to control construction related whether or not they disturb 1 acre. However, often one document can be used to satisfy both requirements.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and new source performance standards (NSPS) to control the discharge of pollutants from construction sites. The Construction and Development ELG, or “C&D Rule” became effective on February 1, 2010. After this date, all permits issued by EPA or states must incorporate requirements that provide  a technology-based “floor” that establishes minimum requirements for the discharge of pollutants. This is the first time that EPA has imposed national monitoring requirements and enforceable numeric limitations on construction site stormwater discharges. EPA is phasing in the numeric limitation over four years to allow permitting authorities adequate time to develop monitoring requirements and to allow the regulated community time to prepare for compliance with the numeric limitation. Beginning on August 1, 2011 all sites that disturb 20 or more acres of land at one time are required to comply with the turbidity limitation. On February 2, 2014 the limitation applies to all construction sites disturbing 10 or more acres of land at one time. These sites must sample stormwater discharges and comply with a numeric limitation for turbidity.

For more information on the CGP permitting process visit the EPA’s website and contact us here at ProTerra Design Group and we can walk you through the process to get your new project covered or on the path to compliance for your current endeavor.

Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency

Filed under: Sustainable Design — jmoreno @ 3:03 pm

Having trouble determining what incentives may be lurking out there for your renewable project? Try navigating to DSIRE™. DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Established in 1995 and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is an ongoing project of the N.C. Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

Many incentives and policies included in DSIRE are reviewed several times annually and updated as information becomes available.  Some of the incentives include grants, loans, tax incentives, rebates, and utility discounts.  The site contains many resources useful in determining eligibility, policy, and searchable databases on renewable energy and energy efficiency including solar electric, solar thermal, wind, & hydropower.

Call ProTerra be a part of your renewable team and guide you through the incentive, design, and permitting process.

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