After hearing opinions, both positive and negative, from a number of residents with specific interests Monday night, Princeton Township Committee unanimously approved an ordinance devised to curtail further flooding in a municipality whose residents have already suffered their share of flood-related headaches.
While the ordinance limits the square-footage of impervious surfacing on single-family lots, it is not expected to mitigate flooding that already occurs. Its purpose is to keep matters from getting worse in often-saturated parts of the Township, including the Harry's Brook and Riverside neighborhoods.
But the surface coverage caps, mandated in response to an increasing number of driveways and home additions being constructed, was cause for alarm for some residents who worried that placing limits on lot development would have a negative impact on property values.
Norman Callaway, of the real estate broker NT Callaway, said that while provisions in the Township were necessary, the ordinance could ultimately affect the value of some homes and that the restrictions should be applied to the harder-hit areas rather than to the entire Township.
"I think maybe the Harry's Brook area does need more attention than other areas in Princeton, and we ought to spend a little more time talking about this ordinance," he said.
But Olivia Applegate, the Random Road resident who has been among the supporters of the now-adopted Township ordinance, said that flooding has, in part, been the result of increased development in other parts of the Township, and not just those that flood the most.
"Let's work with the ordinance for a year," she said, adding that it should be reassessed and amended if necessary.
Princeton-Kingston Road resident Robert Von Zumbrusch agreed. "Tweak the ordinance," he said, "but it's a mistake to not pass it now."
According to Joe Skupien, a stormwater consultant contracted with the Township, when an additional 25 percent of impervious surfaces are added to a lot, it introduces the potential for flooding and stream erosion. Once homeowners begin to go above that level, Mr. Skupien said, "we start to see significant rises in flooding."
That said, a homeowner can still seek a zoning variance if there is a chance the cap might be exceeded. An applicant expecting to go over the cap would have to seek a variance and mitigate the increase with dry wells, catch basins, or stone trenches.
Mr. Skupien said that while the Township has had standards related to stormwater control in developments, it had not, up until now, set any for single-family homes.
Rosemary Blair of the Princeton Environmental Commission, which signed off on the ordinance last week, encouraged Committee to pass the code: "Frankly, it only seems fair that new construction helps downstream neighborhoods."
Committeeman Bill Hearon conceded that while the ordinance needed work regarding "clarity" (a reservation echoed by Committeeman Lance Liverman), the impact of not passing an ordinance could be more harmful in the long term.
"We have to take action; we're dealing with the benefit of the community as a whole."
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