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Upstate Forever is working with local governments and developers to enact changes to local development regulations to reduce unnecessary pavement and maintain natural areas in strategic locations that help filter rainwater before it reaches our local waterways. Such changes not only benefit water quality – they save big dollars through avoided capital infrastructure and maintenance costs.
Our work is informed by a series of Pavement Audits that identify opportunities to improve Upstate communities’ pavement standards, as well as a Parking Study that highlighted how parking requirements in the City of Greenville often resulted in excess pavement.
In the United States, impervious surfaces cover roughly 43,000 square miles, with parking lots taking up much of that land. Parking lots, in particular, pose a major threat to water quality and aquatic life. As rainwater washes off parking lots, it becomes polluted with oils, greases, chemicals, heavy metals, soil, and trash. This polluted water causes erosion and contaminates nearby streams. Runoff from parking lots is especially harmful to aquatic life because it is the main source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a known human carcinogen found in automobile exhaust, lubricating oils, gasoline, tire particles, and parking lot sealants.
Current development patterns in the Upstate result in enormous amounts of pavement in the form of over-sized roads, highways, and parking lots. Some of this infrastructure, of course, is necessary. However, much of it is not. Upstate Forever found that in many cases throughout Greenville we have far too many parking spaces; 37-65% of parking spaces sit empty – even during peak hours! This means that the size of parking lots often can be reduced significantly, while still accommodating parking needs all year long. Read about more ways to reduce stormwater runoff.
Upstate Forever retained the Lawrence Group to conduct audits of paving requirements in the codes and ordinances for the counties of the Upstate. The audits identify areas in the codes where changes or flexibility could help reduce paved surfaces and infrastructure costs associated with development.
Upstate Forever, Furman University and the City of Greenville studied parking lot usage to determine the ideal number of parking spaces for commercial land uses. Researchers estimated actual parking usage across the City of Greenville and Greenville County using aerial and on-the-ground monitoring of over 120 commercial parking lots during both peak and non-peak hours. The results of the study show that in many cases throughout Greenville, we could reduce the size of parking lots and still have plenty of parking. Even during peak hours, 37-65% of parking spaces sit empty — a waste of space and an unnecessary threat to our water resources.