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In 2002, a number of county and municipal governments in the Upper Cahaba Watershed came together to develop a coordinated approach to guide future development while protecting the Upper Cahaba and its tributaries. That effort was called "the Upper Cahaba Watershed Study," or UCWS.

When the UCWS established technical and advisory committees to guide it, business interests were not afforded a significant voice at the table. Those various committees, overloaded with no - growth activists and sympathizers, drafted, or endorsed, several highly restrictive, and unworkable, "model" ordinances and regulations that were to be presented to the 12 governmental entities participating in the UCWS. Those ordinances addressed four major issues affecting development in the greater Birmingham area and Jefferson County:

  • development in the floodplain;
  • stormwater runoff;
  • riparian rights of property owners along waterways;
  • subdivision construction regulations.

Had they been adopted as envisioned by the anti - growth faction who controlled the UCWS, the cumulative impact of those four ordinances would have shut down growth throughout the region - particularly had they been applied in combination, as was the intention of those drafting them. The intent of those who dominated the UCWS process was to coerce Jefferson County and area municipalities into passing all four, which in combination would have made development in a 550 square mile area of Jefferson County virtually impossible.

Alarmed by misinformation being distributed by the Cahaba River Society and other no - growth groups, the Business Alliance for Responsible Development (BARD) was formed in 2005 when a group of businesses came together to demonstrate to policy makers the disastrous economic consequences that would inevitably follow the adoption of such onerous regulations.  

The legal, technical and scientific experts BARD brought together - including several of the most respected engineering, legal and communication firms and individuals in their respective fields - exposed the numerous reasons the draft ordinances would have made development impossible in 40 to 50 percent of all the land in the Upper Cahaba Watershed. BARD then began supporting alternative ordinances for consideration that provided all of the necessary environmental protections without sacrificing economic growth in the process.

BARD not only provided a solid scientific rationale for the co - existence of environmentally sound ordinances and reasonable growth and development, it also aggressively communicated its findings to officials and to the community at large.

Thanks to BARD's efforts and its fact - based approach to issues, a scientifically based floodplain ordinance was passed in Jefferson County that now enjoys the highest rating of any such ordinance in the U.S.

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