State mandate on stormwater will likely affect most building projects here

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Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era

Updated Jun 10, 2013 18:00

Lancaster

 

  

 

By AD CRABLE   Staff Writer        acrable@lnpnews.com

 

Adding a swimming pool, screened porch, extra bedroom or new deck?
You  may have to throw in a rain garden to do so.
Considering a new storage  shed?
You may have to add the costs of tacking on gutters or a rain  barrel before plopping it down in a corner of your property.
Thinking  about widening your driveway, building a garage or erecting a carport to shelter  the RV?
Soon, you will be required to document — and pay for —\!q ways to  offset that impervious surface you are adding to the landscape, no matter how  slight.
A new state mandate requires all municipalities in Lancaster  County to have tougher stormwater management ordinances in place no later than  Nov. 21.
The mandate stems from federal initiatives to clean up the  Chesapeake Bay, to which the Susquehanna River provides almost half its fresh  water.
Runoff of soil, fertilizers and nutrients after storms is a  considerable source of pollution from urban and suburban areas, not just from  agricultural fields, officials say.
Unlike before, any earth disturbance  — whether a home-improvement project in a yard or a new housing development —  will require measures to prevent more runoff.
The state Department of  Environmental Protection “has taken the position that there is no exemption for  small projects,” said Josele Cleary, a Lancaster attorney who represented  Lancaster County and 31 municipalities in a recent appeal of DEP’s  mandate.
After negotiations, the appeal was withdrawn.
“If you are  an existing homeowner in any kind of area and want to add an impervious surface,  like a swimming pool or new garage, you’re going to have to do something for  stormwater,” Cleary advised.
Working with local consulting engineers,  municipal solicitors and other stakeholders, the Lancaster County Planning  Commission has drawn up a model stormwater ordinance approved by DEP. All  municipalities have to adopt the ordinance, or tweak their existing stormwater  ordinances, by the Nov. 21 deadline.
One thing is clear: The state does  not want to allow more hard surfaces in the county without a corresponding  increase in measures to allow rainwater to be absorbed underground, rather than  flushed into local streams.
“People have added wider driveways and  storage sheds and carports for boats, and shelters for RV’s. It’s all added up,  and all of a sudden we start seeing the Conestoga flooding in small rain  events,” explained Ed Fisher, whose Light-Heigel & Associates provides  engineering services for five local townships and a borough.
“That’s  added to the volume, and volume is really what’s causing the issue with erosion  and flooding,” Fisher said. “Now, we’re going to see a lot more of that water  on-site.”
Say, for example, someone wants to add a storage shed on his  property. No longer can you just have it delivered and lowered in  place.
To offset the impervious space you would be adding, you may have  to add gutters, a rain barrel or lay down a porous stone base wider than the  footprint of the structure.
“A recent calculation by a municipal engineer  and borough manager and I concluded it will probably cost more for the  stormwater than to buy any shed,” a borough solicitor wrote in an email to the  newspaper.
“I do see, with the smaller projects, people delaying or not  doing it if they realize they’re not going to meet the requirements on their  budget,” observed Bob Lynn of Hanover Engineering, engineering consultants for  15 municipalities in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
Since even small  home projects that take away drainable ground will now be affected, local  officials are scrambling to make the process less costly and convoluted, so that  a homeowner won’t have to hire an engineer to add a screened porch.
Most  municipalities are expected to build in a “small projects application” involving  projects up to 1,000 square feet.
Applicants could submit their own  sketches of the project and do their own calculations of runoff and submit their  own proposed method to control that runoff.
Some townships already are  working on drawing up sample sketches and calculations that would be handed out  with applications to help residents.
Still, there will be more costs and  more conservation measures required under the new stormwater requirements  countywide.
“Will it cost more? Most assuredly it will,” said Lester  Houck, a Salisbury Township supervisor and secretary-treasurer of the Lancaster  County Association of Township Supervisors.
“It’s going to require people  to do more that they didn’t have to do before.
“I just had a call from  the group that handles Amish schools. They’re getting together for a common plan  that they can do.”
All taxpayers will be affected, Houck suggested,  because municipalities will have to pay consulting engineers or staff more to  handle paperwork and review projects.
For farmers, larger agricultural  projects that encompassed an acre or more already were subject to stormwater  controls.
But now, even smaller projects, such as erecting an implement  shed, will have to comply, officials said.
Stormwater measures, such as  artificial wetlands, underground detention facilities and cisterns will become  standard for new housing developments. That will likely add to costs of  homes.
Officials foresee problems when people buy homes and rip out rain  gardens or vegetation specifically planted to arrest stormwater  runoff.
“There’s got to be a lot of public education,” said  Cleary.

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Author: Bobby Kenyon
Bobby Kenyon is the Creative Solutions Guru for C.E. Pontz Sons who has over a decade plus experience in the Landscape & Water Garden industry . He enjoys long walks on the beach and grocery shopping but has a strong dislike for regular cake and non brand name paper towels

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