The recent Times article on flooding after our “hundred year storm” didn’t mention one likely contributor to the storm water runoff problem — McMansions. Teardowns surely contributed to the recent flooding, because each new McMansion’s large footprint eliminated a big chunk of drainage land from Needham’s overall water absorption capacity. And building large homes on previously open lots is an even more direct “drain” on our Town’s total runoff capacity.
I’m sure someone could go through the records and calculate exactly how many acres have been lost to big houses (and driveways) over the past 10 years of heightened development. Though we haven’t exactly “paved Paradise and put up a parking lot,” I’m guessing this is enough of a factor that it should be taken into account as Needham considers its longer range development future.
At face value, this seems to make sense. However, I would still have a few questions:
1. What if the new teardown McMansions actually include more efficient drainage systems? This might occur because of updated building codes. I’m not quite sure how this might balance out against having a larger footprint.
2. Is the problem really McMansions, large houses on smaller lots, or is this more of a problem of sprawl in general? Perhaps bigger suburban houses are worse than smaller suburban houses when it comes to water issues but it seems like the underlying problem might be suburban development in the first place.
3. Are there better ways for homebuilders to limit water runoff with new homes? If so, why not require these options for new homes? Local municipalities could make such decisions if they are unwilling to limit more sprawl. Why not require permeable driveways and roadways in new developments?