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Stormwater regulations and ordinances exist to control rainwater following development and redevelopment. The idea is that without development, the water is naturally absorbed into the ground where it recharges our aquifers.
But development creates paved surfaces which block absorption. These surfaces are called “impervious” surfaces. Uncontrolled stormwater leads to localized flooding, which has become a large and costly issue here in New Jersey and all over the world for that matter.
The State has its own stormwater rules that apply statewide to new development proposals. Some municipalities, especially those that are largely built out, want even stronger local control. Thus the question has arisen – can local municipal ordinances be even more protective than those adopted at the state level?
In once recent lawsuit involving Haddonfield NJ* a State appeals court rejected a local more protective ordinance. However that decision was very fact sensitive and the question still remains open.
In response to the Haddonfield decision, the State DCA had proposed a regulation in November 2021 that would have blocked attempts by municipalities to adopt more protective stormwater control. There was much out-cry and those regulations were not proposed at that time. We are told, however, that they may be proposed shortly again. Perhaps as early as next month.
Haddonfield was not the only municipality that has tried to protect its residents from flooding risks associated with uncontrolled stormwater. Many other NJ municipalities have followed suit.
And thus a show down of sorts may be in the works. Environmental organizations and other groups have pushed for local control, a common theme here in New Jersey which is regarded as a “home rule “ state. But developer organizations and others have continued to urge that the State block these local attempts.
At the end of the day, money is a factor here. Some fear that enhanced protection will increase development cost. But to counter that, we all must look at the impact that recent flooding events have had on all of us. And we must realize that this problem will become worse, not better, over time. Many hope that the Governor will step in and block the DCA from taking any action to curtain these local efforts. For now, we need to stay tuned.
For transparency I note that Lieberman Blecher and Sinkevich was involved in the Haddonfield case.
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