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Remarks of Khizar A. Sheikh, Chair, Environmental Commission & Mimi Kaplan, Member, Environmental Commission

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Mountain Lakes Borough Council Meeting May 11, 2015

(Draft form – not intended to be final)

1. Structure

a. Remarks in 4 areas:

i. Several ordinances with building restrictions that reference borough’s policy of strong environmental protection.

ii. Specific issues that have already been identified.

iii. Answers to specific questions Council has posed to the Environmental Commission.

iv. Additional questions that should be discussed by Council in addition to other environmental issues.

2. Examples of Existing Ordinances with Building Restrictions that show borough’s policy of strong environmental protection

a. “Critical Area” – 40-3{51]: Any area which is environmentally sensitive, such as the prime aquifer area, or which, if disturbed during construction or operation of the proposed development, would adversely affect the environment, including but not limited to stream corridors, flood hazard areas, steep slopes, highly erodible soils, areas of high water table and mature stands of native vegetation.

b. “Environmentally Critical Area” – 202-2{8}: An area or feature which is of significant environmental value, including but not limited to: stream corridors; natural heritage priority sites; habitat of endangered or threatened species; large areas of contiguous open space or upland forest; steep slopes; and wellhead protection and groundwater recharge areas.

c. “Standards for structural stormwater management measures” – 202-6: Structural stormwater management measures shall be designed to take into account the existing site conditions, including, for example, environmentally critical areas, wetlands; flood-prone areas; slopes; depth to seasonal high water table; soil type, permeability and texture; drainage area and drainage patterns; and the presence of solution-prone carbonate rocks (limestone).

d. “Site plan submission and design requirements” – 208-17(A): Requires (18) Location of all major trees and tree masses. (26) Environmental impact statement. (27) Soil erosion and sedimentation control plan. (28) Surface water management plan. (29) Groundwater management plan in the Prime Aquifer Area.(30) Landscaping plan.(31) Steep slope calculations in accordance with § 245-20C of Chapter 245, Zoning.(32) Wetlands and transition area delineation or waiver approved by the NJDEP. (33) Wetlands calculations in accordance with § 245-20D of Chapter 245, Zoning.

e. “Subdivision submission requirements” – 208-7D(5): Submit the following plans and statements: (a) Environmental impact statement.(b) Soil erosion and sedimentation control plan. (c) Surface water management plan. (d) Groundwater management plan in the Prime Aquifer Area.(e) Landscaping plan. (f) Steep slope calculations in accordance § 245-20C of Chapter 245, Zoning. (g) Wetlands and transition area delineation or waiver approved by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). (h) Wetlands calculations in accordance with § 245-20D of Chapter 245, Zoning.

f. “Conditional use requirements” – 245-16F(1) (“Cluster Development”): Criteria for cluster development. (a) Cluster development shall be permitted as a conditional use in the Residential Zones RC-1, RC-2 and RC-3 only. (b) The minimum tract size shall be eight acres.[Amended 8-21-2006 by Ord. No. 19-06] (c) The housing type shall be the same as permitted in the zone.(d) The maximum number of lots to be permitted shall be arrived at by the applicant’s submitting a sketch plat showing a conventional subdivision with the minimum lot sizes as indicated for each zone in Schedule I[2] and with proper consideration given to the requirements in Chapters 102 and 208 as well as the steep slope requirements and other applicable requirements in this chapter.[2]:Editor’s Note: Schedule I is included at the end of this chapter. (e) The minimum lot sizes in a cluster development shall be 15,000 square feet for the RC-1 Zone, 10,000 square feet for the RC-2 Zone and a size that meets the requirement of a maximum of four dwelling units per acre in the areas to be developed in the RC-3 Zone.(f) The minimum setbacks shall be as shown in Schedule I for the respective zones, except as permitted under the zero lot line option. (g) The amount of open space shall be at least 20% of the total tract size but no less than two acres.(h) The requirements in Chapters 102 and 208 shall be met as applicable.

g. “Supplemental bulk regulations” – 245-20C(3): “The building envelope shall be free of: (a) Easements that restrict development. (b) Wetlands and wetland transition areas defined and delineated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). (c) Slopes in excess of 15%.(d) Open water bodies and watercourses.

3. Preliminary Recommendations

a. Since this is a new zoning designation, ensure that the above issues are addressed.

b. Also, understand what features are present in the property:

i. Prime Aquifer Area.

ii. Stream corridors.

iii. Flood hazard areas.

iv. Steep slopes.

v. Highly erodible soils.

vi. Areas of high water table.

vii. Mature strands of native vegetation.

viii. Natural heritage priority site.

ix. Habitat of endangered or threatened species.

x. Large areas of contiguous open space or upland forest.

xi. Wellhead protection.

xii. Groundwater recharge areas.

xiii. Wetlands.

c. Comments on a few of the above:

i. Steep Slopes. Know they are present on property. Believe in some places up to 35%.

ii. Shade Trees. There is a large, old black oak along the path just up (east) from the stream. It is certainly worthy of mentioning and preserving, along with the many other large deciduous trees on the property. A few years ago, the Shade Tree Commission was searching for the largest trees in Mountain Lakes (only on residential properties) in honor of the borough’s hundredth anniversary. The tree that is probably oldest in town in the white oak on the east corner of the lower soccer field in Halsey Frederick Park. When the soccer fields were first laid out, their position was adjusted to save that tree. The black oak may not be the largest or oldest tree in town, but it may be close to being so. It certainly is worthwhile to consider whether any proposed development be adjusted to save this and other large deciduous trees on the property.

iii. Woodlands. A significant issue about the woodland is how large a tract it is when combined with the adjacent conservation land, extending all the way to Maple Way, Center, Crescent and Grove. A map put together by Rutgers for the Troy Brook Regional Stormwater Plan identifies the combined tract as a contiguous forested area and a NJDEP critical environmental area. We will need additional time to understand what effect this designation has on development.

iv. Wellhead Protection Area. The property is in a 2nd tier Wellhead protection area. Question is whether the well owner should, or must be, consulted?

v. Stormwater Management. The developable area is on a plateau, with steep slopes on the sides of the plateau running down to the ravine and to the townhouses. Under state law, a developer cannot increase the runoff from their property, but stormwater management may be tricky, because the slopes do not leave a lot of room for detention basins. State regulations require that low impact stormwater management be employed if at all possible.

vi. Stream. The stream going through the King of Kings property is the headwaters of Troy Brook. In 2007, the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee and Rutgers University completed the Troy Brook Regional Stormwater Management Plan, the first of its kind in the state. The plan identifies a number of water volume, quality and recharge issues in the watershed, plus some management steps to enacted. The plan was endorsed by the 3 principal municipalities (Mountain Lakes, Parsippany, and Hanover), but never approved by NJ Dept of Environmental Protection. While the provisions included in the plan will have little official impact on development the watershed, unless NJDEP were to suddenly approve it, the borough should consider whether it would follow its own prior commitment to this water element.

1. Below is a link to Rutgers’ web site with a version of the plan: http://www.water.rutgers.edu/Projects/Troy/Troy.htm.

4. Questions Posed From Borough Council:

a. What is meant by ‘environmentally sensitive’ / Is this a technical, legal or land use term?

i. Whether it is a technical, legal, or land use term is a legal question. It is defined in the Mountain Lakes ordinances.

ii. The definition of “critical Area,” 40-3{51], includes the term, but leaves it open to broad interpretation, as it includes: the prime aquifer area, or any area that, if disturbed during construction or operation of the proposed development, would adversely affect the environment, including but not limited to stream corridors, flood hazard areas, steep slopes, highly erodible soils, areas of high water table, and mature strands of vegetation.

b. What is the definition of and the history behind the notion of ‘steep slopes’ as a determinant to development / Is this a general legal, technical, environmental or land use term.

i. Concerns with developing on steep slopes include increased erosion, slumping, destroying plant life, increasing runoff, decreasing groundwater recharge and increased use of road salt on streets built on slopes.

ii. Defined in 245-20(C)(3) by stating that the “building envelope shall be free of . . . (c) Slopes in excess of 15%.”

iii. Several Mountain Lakes ordinances that restrict development on steep slopes, including requiring that building envelopes be free of steep slopes.

iv. No current understanding of what building envelope considered for King of Kings parcel.

c. Relative to any discussion of water as an issue, there is no water in the Mountain Lakes system available for new project development. Not only does the Borough not have the capacity to commit but the DEP gets involved in these approvals and they would not approve a project such as this. It is a non-starter. In order for a project to move forward, water would have to be sourced from a different system, such as Parsippany or Boonton.

i. Not a question per se, but leads to following questions:

1. How much water can project support/need?

2. Where will it come from?

3. What are the details around contract if water comes from other towns?

4. How will sewer system and street drainage system be dealt with, and who will pay?

5. Other Questions That Council Should Consider In Addition To Above Issues:

a. Environmental impact study needed? Under current knowledge, likely yes to understand environmental constraints.

b. COAH environmental issues. How do the environmental issues impact our COAH obligations? Suggest consulting with COAH legal specialist?