The KCMO stream setback ordinance: Science, public involvement, and water quality protection

Brown, Laurie
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This case study evaluates the suitability of the Kansas City, Missouri Stream Setback Ordinance as a model ordinance that illustrates the integration of science and public involvement in an effort to achieve water quality protection. Nationally, there is a vast knowledge base on appropriate riparian buffer widths that can provide the scientific foundation many communities are looking for to legally and politically defend a riparian buffer program. Many communities are recognizing the economic value of protecting water resources for the benefit of public infrastructure, health, and community quality of life. The City of Kansas City ordinance meets multiple community objectives from stormwater management to recreation and wildlife habitat, while minimizing the impact to developable land. By taking an ecosystem approach to development of the setback ordinance, the City of Kansas City ordinance balances environmental, economic, and social factors. The City can conserve functional riparian forest buffers which can enhance and improve water quality, and provide habitats for wildlife and recreational opportunities for people, and in turn enhance quality of life within the communities that make up Kansas City. Implementation of the setback ordinance illustrates that Kansas City has taken a major step toward improving water quality and protecting other valuable resources that will require less economic input while providing greater social and environmental benefits. This study clearly illustrates the integral components community planners and decision-makers can use in the development of buffer ordinances that meet their ecosystem planning goals.

Ecosystem Management, Riparian, Stormwater, Stream Buffers, Urban Ecosystems