June 2, 2021

To Manage Stormwater Issues, Put Moratorium on Variances That Increase Impervious Surfaces

To the Editor:

The Harry’s Brook watershed is recorded to be one of the “flashiest” in the country. That means that it does not take much rain to produce a flash flood. I live on Harry’s Brook, and in the last decade what used to be called 100-year floods have, for some of my neighbors, become five-year, two-year, or even one-year floods. Every time the Zoning or Planning Boards issue a variance allowing for an increase in impervious surfaces on a lot on our street, the mismanagement is made visible by our eroding backyards and flooded basements. The typical excuse for the variance is “property rights,” but what about the property rights of people who have owned their properties for decades? And why should taxpayers have to pay more because these variances are making our stormwater infrastructure issues significantly worse?

The developer of the last over-sized house built on our street was told by the Planning Board to plant native trees and install rain gardens. The trees were not native, they died, and the rain gardens were poorly designed. Now the new owners are stuck having to cut down the dead trees and their unresolved water issues contribute to the downstream flooding. I am amazed that the Zoning and Planning Boards have not figured out that the only people benefiting from the construction of over-sized houses, that increase impervious surfaces, are the developers; not the new buyers or the existing homeowners.

This has to stop. To effectively manage Princeton stormwater issues, I want to encourage residents to demand that the Zoning and Planning Boards put a moratorium on variances that increase impervious surfaces. Princeton has a strong ordinance that requires stormwater management for new development. If we are going to begin to address flooding in neighborhoods like mine, we also need to ensure that stormwater is managed with green infrastructure when appropriate redevelopment occurs, and we need enforcement.

Carolyn Rouse
Wheatsheaf Lane