Borough okays stormwater regs

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:58

    MILFORD - Arguments came to a head Monday as borough officials okayed a pared down version of new measures to deal with stormwater. Upon final approval, all builders of new homes and commercial construction, roads and driveways in the borough will be require to file stormwater and erosion control plans before permits are issued. Officials say that with precious little undeveloped land remaining in the borough, the addition of each new roof and paved driveway subtracts from the open land available to absorb rainfall...and the water has to go somewhere. The issue was crystallized last summer when neighbors complained that a property owner on Seventh Street/Foster Hill Road planned to develop a steeply sloped lot and clear the trees that protected downslope residents in an already flood-prone neighborhood. One resident then complained of spending $18,000 to privately deal with existing flooding, when the borough refused. There was talk of legal action if the borough did not find a way to fix the problem. The response was two new draft ordinances to regulate clearcutting and provide that new construction would have to come with stormwater planning. But the clearcutting regulations were so complicated that even the borough’s engineer admitted he didn’t understand them. The stormwater regulations would have demanded extensive planning measures for almost every improvement, right down to a new deck or lawn shed. That might have flown in a mountainside community, but most of Milford is flat, opponents argued, and all would have to adhere to the regulations. The borough council and the planning commission sat down with Solicitor John Klemyer and Engineer Fred Schoenagel on Monday evening to try to sort it out. Councilman Robert Fean said he understood the problem and sympathized, but thought it “ridiculous to force a property owner to come in with an erosion plan for a 10’ by 10’ shed.” Planning commission member David Raarup thought enforcement would be difficult. “Where does it end. Is it really an issue if someone extends a house on their own property?” The controversial clearcutting measure was soon dropped. “The issue probably is not clearcutting, it’s basic soil disturbance,” Klemyer said as he suggested that erosion control and stormwater measures are key. “You have to have erosion controls if you disturb one square foot,” he argued. He bristled at what he said was the “inaccurate mindset among some that Milford is already overregulated.” Carol Ann Sklar, chair of the planning commission, agreed that stormwater regulation was fairer, noting that the clearcutting measure would require “a talmudic scholar” to interpret. Klemyer said that control measures have to be borough-wide or be challenged as discriminatory. But attorney John “Duke” Schneider, who represents neighbors complaining about the slope development, said other communities have ordinances regulating ridge line development. “Every ordinance is discriminatory,” he argued. Klemyer finally posed the question, “Do we have a stormwater problem bad enough to control all new construction?” “In my opinion, no,” Fean responded. “The (steep) Chippy Cole and Foster Hill roads are 90 percent of the problem,” said Councilman Allen Gatzke. With no apparent consensus, the meeting recessed briefly with the Planning Commission addressing other business and Klemyer and Schoenagel caucusing off to one side. Klemyer suggested the eventual solution after the recess and the council unanimously directed him to prepare a new draft to reflect the changes. In a related measure, the council also directed that a letter be sent to Milford Township suggesting that the township’s planned installation of new and larger 18’ culvert pipes on the upslope of Foster Hill Road will overwhelm the rip-rapped ditches below in the borough and that the township should be involved in improving the borough’s ability to handle the increased volume of water.