ROXBURY, NJ - Bucking a trend, Roxbury is not forcing stricter stormwater control practices on property owners doing minor outdoor projects, such as building patios.

The matter was discussed Feb. 23 by the Roxbury Mayor and Council.

Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd and township engineer Mike Kobylarz asked the elected officials if they wanted to “lower the threshold” of minor projects that require the installation of stormwater management systems such as dry-wells.

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Currently, the township requires these systems to be built when outdoor projects create 5,000 square feet or more of new impervious surface or disturb more than 10,000 square feet of land.

Shepherd and Kobylarz said the state doesn’t regulate minor projects. “It’s really up to local municipalities,” Shepherd said. “Towns throughout New Jersey are doing a lot of different things depending on their own personal circumstances.”

Kobylarz addressed the matter in a Feb. 16 memo. “In order to promote greater stormwater recharge (into the ground), municipalities are trending toward smaller areas of new impervious coverage and land disturbance,” he wrote. “The Watershed Institute Model even suggests regulating areas as small as 250 square feet.”

Kobylarz suggested that, if the council wanted to join that trend, it could change the ordinance so that stormwater control systems would be required for projects that create 2,500 square feet of new impervious surface or those that involve 5,000 feet of land disturbance.

Even if the township did that - essentially halving the current square-footages - there would be few projects that would be impacted, he said. Kobylarz reviewed 23 in-ground pool permits issued in Roxbury last year and found none that included “impervious areas from the pool surrounds” that came close to 2,500 square feet.

He said five indoor pool surrounds were between 250 square feet and 600 square feet, nine were between 700 square feet and 900 square feet and nine were between 1,000 square feet and 1,800 square feet.

The harmful algal bloom (HAB) crisis that essentially shut-down Lake Hopatcong in 2019 engendered a lot of discussion about more stringent stormwater runoff controls. Experts said fertilizers and other nutrients washing into the lake during storms likely fed the HABs.

Nevertheless, after discussing the matter during their meeting, Roxbury officials backed away from changing the regulations.

“In no way do I want to make it harder on residents doing minor construction around their homes,” said Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee. However, he said he wanted to keep the matter open for further discussion.

Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo agreed. “We don't want to be making people who want to put in a pool or some other minor projects have it any more difficult than it already is … We already make it pretty difficult for them,” he said. “But, that said, obviously water quality is hugely important.”

Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall joined his colleagues in telling Shepherd and Kobylarz to continue with the status quo.

“If something isn't broken, why try to fix it?” he asked. “I'm not sure what we're trying to accomplish … If somebody can convince me or the other council members that there's a really good, solid reason for making changes, let's bring it up and discuss it. But right … let's just leave it at that.”

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