Attempting to come into compliance with statewide stormwater mandates enacted in early 2004, Princeton Borough Council last Tuesday weighed in on a proposed municipal ordinance that would, if passed, establish management mechanisms for large scale developments, curbing the amount of runoff entering surface and ground water.
And while it is not yet clear when the Borough plans to enact its own ordinance, as the Township did in 2005, state law requires a municipal measure.
Based on the 1987 Federal Clean Water Act, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) stormwater regulation program applies to all non-residential projects, including major developments that require site plan or subdivision approval. The program essentially provides techniques that preserve natural drainage systems, control erosion, and protect surface and groundwater resources. Major developments are defined as those that disturb more than one acre of land or increase impervious surface coverage by 200 square feet.
But since a majority of the Borough contains impervious surfaces, enacting a runoff regulation plan requires different considerations than those in the Township, parts of which have been plagued with chronic flooding, particularly in the Riverside and Stony Brook sections. Princeton Township took steps last December to discourage increased runoff with an ordinance that limits the square-footage of impervious surfacing on single-family lots.
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 areas 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.
The Borough would also be responsible for ensuring that builders and the municipal contractors abide by the new requirements. Under the state rules, towns can fine those in violation of the regulations. Additionally, DEP can issue fines to towns if codes are not created to reflect the state requirements. The Regional Planning Board of Princeton would have to factor in the regulatory standards on most of the applications it considers, as it does for Township-based development.
David Breithaupt, chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission, emphasized the need for public information sessions that educate prospective builders in the Borough. Public information sessions were conducted in April 2004 in Township Hall when Joseph Skupien, president the Ringoes-based SWM Consulting the same firm working with the Borough on its ordinance orchestrated hearings to inform architects and builders of the new regulations. Carl Peters, Borough engineer, also participated at those hearings.
"We have been in support of the new ordinances for some time," Mr. Breithaupt said, adding that while the proposed Borough ordinance primarily focuses on site plan, further public educational campaigns should be conducted "to ensure residents here understand the requirements to have clean streets."
In other news, after holding off on a vote at its June 6 session, Council unanimously moved to pass its $22.9 million operating budget for 2006. The vote reflects a set tax rate at 94 cents for every $100 of assessed property value a five-cent increase from the 2005 budget. As such, the owner of an average Borough home valued at $350,000 will pay $3,290 in municipal tax this year, up $175 from last year.
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