Municipalities Ready to Grapple With Storm Water Regulations
As New Jersey begins to put into motion strict regulations to control storm water run-off pollution, municipalities throughout the state, all 566 of them, in fact, are faced with the daunting challenge of changing their ways to comply with a regulatory initiative that is viewed by many as the most sweeping effort in 20 years to protect water quality and preserve drinking water supplies.
At a meeting of the Princeton Community Master Plan Sub-Committee yesterday morning, members of the Princeton Regional Planning Board met to listen to a presentation by Joseph Skupien, of the Ringoes-based SWM (Storm Water Management) Consulting firm, as he explained how the planning board would have to factor in the new regulations in weighing development proposals, and what type of ordinances would need to be drafted by both municipalities in order to reflect and recognize the new regulations.
The state rules, which were issued in March 2004 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), require towns to adopt a storm water management plan. The requirements involve a two-pronged process for municipalities. The first is DEP's municipal storm water regulation program and the second is the DEP storm water management rule. The municipal regulation program assigns towns to either a "Tier A" or "Tier B" classification with Tier A municipalities typically located within the more densely populated area or along coastal regions. Tier B municipalities are more rural and in non-coastal regions. Both Princeton Borough and Township fall under the Tier A designation.
Under the new rules, Mr. Skupien said, every municipality must obtain a permit by April 1 to discharge storm water from their storm systems, the same way waste water treatment facilities are required to have such certification. The permits are issued through a formalized permit program, New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES). Up to now, individual NJPDES permits had been granted to independent facilities, but municipalities will soon be required to be card-carrying members.
"It's now the municipalities' turn to start cleaning up their acts," Mr. Skupien said.
After the DEP regulation requirement is put into place, the second process, the storm water management rule, would require towns to create an ordinance that would enforce builders and the municipality to abide by the new requirements. Municipalities will be able to fine violators of the regulations. While there is some leeway for towns to enact various laws for compliance, DEP can issues fines to towns if codes are not created to reflect the state requirements. As far as the planning board is concerned, when examining various applications, these mandates would regulate the run-off from what are termed as "major land development and redevelopment projects." A "major" project, Mr. Skupien said, is "any type of project that disturbs at least an acre of land." An ordinance would have to be adopted to regulate the run-off in projects of such a nature, he added. The planning board would have to factor in this information on most of the applications it considers.
Interestingly, there is a public complex component to the regulations, essentially taking the burden away from institutions like Princeton University and putting the onus on the municipality to ensure that any construction on campus is compliant with the regulations.
Additionally, there is one planning zone on campus that does not fall under the developmental jurisdiction of the planning board. This exemption applies to buildings with a particular setback. However, Lee Solow, planning director for the planning board, said he does not envision a scenario where the University would not comply with the mandates on this part of campus.
Planning Board member Marvin Reed said the board will also have to anticipate the state's regulations when examining potential occupants for the 11.76 acres on the main Witherspoon Street campus of the University Medical Center of Princeton, whose trustees hope to relocate the facility to a comprehensive campus within two to six miles of its current site.