Royal Oak introduces amendment to allow permeable pavement

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 1, 2019


ROYAL OAK — On Sept. 23, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved the first reading of zoning ordinance amendments to allow permeable pavement for parking lots and driveways.

The amendments would add definitions for both impervious and pervious or permeable surfaces to the zoning ordinance and allow for permeable paving for parking lots, driveways and other surfaces.

All applications are subject to a site plan review, and the ordinance would prohibit permeable surfaces at locations where fuel is dispensed into motor vehicles or where hazardous liquids could be absorbed into the ground. It would also prohibit gravel, loose aggregate and similar surfaces.

The ordinance would allow two-track or ribbon driveways with reinforced turf in between strips of pavement for single-family and two-family residences.

“Pervious pavement is a modest tool towards removing or putting stormwater back into the soil and keeping it out of the sewer system,” Mayor Pro Tem Sharlan Douglas said. “This also helps people plan. We got this started even before the stormwater ordinance was worked on because, as people are building new homes, we want to make sure they have those options, because we have people moving into our city who are interested in sustainability and stormwater reduction.”

The city of Royal Oak currently is formulating a stormwater utility ordinance that will change the way residents are billed.

After a $2 million settlement reached in a class-action lawsuit against the city, Royal Oak had to change how it bills residents for debt service on the Oakland County Water Resources Commission’s George W. Kuhn Drain.

On July 1, 2018, the city began to levy an ad valorem tax, based on property value, for the debt service instead of including the debt service fee in sewer charges as it had before; however, the city does not wish to continue financing the debt service or other stormwater costs through such a tax.

It plans to implement a stormwater utility that would charge property owners based on the square footage of their stormwater runoff, which officials hope will reduce peak flow and backups to prevent flooding, as well as cut the costs of treating stormwater.

The goal is to adopt the ordinance change in November or December in order for customers to see the first stormwater utility bills on Jan. 1, 2020. The city previously hoped to implement the stormwater utility by this past July, but a number of variables caused a delay.

In July 2018, the City Commission approved a proposal from Livonia-based OHM Advisors for the implementation of a stormwater utility for $226,000. The firm assessed the runoff potential of all properties in the city based on hydrologic engineering principles for calculating runoff using pervious and impervious surface areas.

During the Sept. 23 meeting, the City Commission voted 4-3 to extend OHM’s contract through summer 2020 for an additional $44,200 for project management coordination, establishing an impervious-area database, and spreading the word to those affected by the utility.

“We’re making some progress here,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “It brings up some opportunities to make the water go back into the ground, which is a benefit to our lakes, streams, environment and our basements, and it’s a little more economical too.”

If the commission approves the second reading at its next meeting Oct. 14, the amendments will go into effect after 10 days.

For more information, visit or call the Royal Oak Planning Division at (248) 246-3280.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.