[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Independence 5-13-2008 by Ord. No. 2008-04. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Whereas, buffers adjacent to stream systems provide numerous environmental protection and resource management benefits, it is the desire of the Township of Independence to protect and maintain the native vegetation in areas adjacent to certain streams that have not received the protections afforded by statewide stream protection regulations by implementing specifications for the establishment, protection and maintenance of vegetated buffers along these stream systems within the Township.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ACTIVE CHANNEL
- The area of the stream channel that is subject to frequent flows (approximately once per 1 1/2 years), and that includes the portion of the channel below where the floodplain flattens.
- BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES (BMPs)
- Conservation practices or management measures which control soil loss and reduce water quality degradation caused by nutrients, animal wastes, toxins, sediment, and runoff.
- A vegetated area, including trees, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation, which exists or is established to protect a stream system, lake or pond. Alteration of this natural area is strictly limited.
This chapter shall apply to all proposed development adjacent to any stream within the Township of Independence that is designated as a Category One stream in accordance with New Jersey regulation and any steam that drains into or is upstream of Category One waters as shown on the USGS Quadrangle Map or in current soil surveys, except for that development which meets waiver or variance criteria as outlined in § 341-8 of this regulation and except for all existing agricultural uses, including but not limited to the application of fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and/or other chemicals, provided that they are not in excess of prescribed industry standards or the recommendations of the Warren County Soil Conservation District or the Natural Resource Conservation Service in accordance with best management practices for agricultural uses. It is anticipated that this applicability (other than for designated Category One streams) is limited to the Pequest River (within the limits of the Township boundaries) and the stream known as Bacon Run.
This chapter shall apply to all timber harvesting activities, except those timber harvesting operations which are implementing a forest management plan which has been deemed to be in compliance with the regulations of this chapter and have received approval from the state forestry agency.
This chapter shall not apply to agricultural operations that are covered by an approved NRCS conservation plan that includes the application of best management practices.
A stream buffer for a stream system shall consist of a protected strip of land extending along both sides of a stream and its adjacent wetlands, floodplains or slopes. The stream buffer width may be adjusted to include contiguous sensitive areas, such as steep slopes or erodible soils, where development or disturbance may adversely affect water quality, wetlands, or other water bodies.
The stream buffer shall begin at the edge of the stream bank of the active channel.
The required width for all stream buffers (i.e., the base width) shall be a minimum of 300 feet. Stream buffer width may be modified if there are steep slopes which are within a close proximity to the stream and drain into the stream system. Stream buffers may be extended to encompass the entire one-hundred-year floodplain and a zone with minimum width of 25 feet beyond the edge of the floodplain. When wetland or critical areas extend beyond the edge of the required buffer width, the buffer may be adjusted so that the buffer consists of the extent of the wetland plus a twenty-five-foot zone extending beyond the wetland edge.
The stream buffer, including wetlands and floodplains, shall be managed to enhance and maximize the unique value of these resources. Management includes specific limitations on alteration of the natural conditions of these resources. The following practices and activities are prohibited within the stream buffer, except with approval by the Planning Board or other agency having jurisdiction:
The following structures, practices, and activities are permitted in the stream buffer, with specific design or maintenance features, subject to the review of the Planning Board.
Roads, bridges, paths, and utilities.
An analysis needs to be conducted to ensure that no economically feasible alternative is available.
The right-of-way should be the minimum width needed to allow for maintenance access and installation.
The angle of the crossing shall be perpendicular to the stream or buffer in order to minimize clearing requirements.
The minimum number of road crossings should be used within each development.
Material dredged or otherwise removed from a BMP shall be stored outside the buffer.
Stream restoration projects, facilities and activities approved by WCADB or NRCS are permitted within the stream buffer.
Water quality monitoring and stream gauging are permitted within the stream buffer, as approved by the Planning Board.
Individual trees which are in danger of falling, causing damage to dwellings or other structures, or causing blockage of the stream within the stream buffer may be removed.
Other timber cutting techniques approved by the agency may be undertaken within the stream buffer under the advice and guidance of the Planning Board, if necessary to preserve the forest from extensive pest infestation, disease infestation, or threat from fire.
All plats prepared for recording and all right-of-way plats shall clearly:
Show the extent of any stream buffer on the subject property by metes and bounds.
Label the stream buffer.
Provide a note to reference any stream buffer stating: "There shall be no clearing, grading, construction or disturbance of vegetation except as permitted by the Planning Board."
Provide a note to reference any protective covenants governing all stream buffers areas stating: "Any stream buffer shown hereon is subject to protective covenants which may be found in the land records and which restrict disturbance and use of these areas."
All forest buffer areas shall be maintained through a declaration of protective covenant, which is required to be submitted for approval by the Planning Board. The covenant shall be recorded in the land records and shall run with the land and continue in perpetuity.
All lease agreements must contain a notation regarding the presence and location of protective covenants for forest buffer areas and which shall contain information on the management and maintenance requirements for the stream buffer for the new property owner.
An offer of dedication of a stream buffer area to the Township shall not be interpreted to mean that this automatically conveys to the general public the right of access to this area.
The Township shall have the right but not the obligation to inspect the buffer annually and immediately following severe storms for evidence of sediment deposition, erosion, or concentrated flow channels and corrective actions taken to ensure the integrity and functions of the stream buffer.
Stream buffer areas may be allowed to grow into their vegetative target state naturally, but methods to enhance the successional process such as active reforestation may be used when deemed necessary by NRCS or an approved farm conservation plan to ensure the preservation and propagation of the buffer area. Stream buffer areas may also be enhanced through reforestation or other growth techniques as a form of mitigation for achieving buffer preservation requirements.
The Township of Independence, or its authorized designee, is authorized and empowered to enforce the requirements of this chapter in accordance with the procedures of this section.
If, upon inspection or investigation, the inspector is of the opinion that any person has violated any provision of this chapter, he/she shall, with reasonable promptness, issue a correction notice to the person. Each such notice shall be in writing and shall describe the nature of the violation, including a reference to the provision within this chapter which has been violated. In addition, the notice shall set a reasonable time for the abatement and correction of the violation.
If it is determined that the violation or violations continue after the time fixed for abatement and correction has expired, the inspector shall issue a citation to the person who is in violation.
Any person who violates any provision of this chapter may be liable for any cost or expenses incurred as a result thereof by the agency.
Penalties which may be assessed for those deemed to be in violation may include:
A civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 for each violation, with each day's continuance considered a separate violation.
A criminal penalty in the form of a fine of not more than $1,000 for each violation or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both. Every day that such violations shall continue will be considered a separate offense.
In addition to any other sanctions listed in this chapter, a person who fails to comply with the provisions of this chapter shall be liable to the agency in a civil action for damages in an amount equal to twice the cost of restoring the buffer. Damages that are recovered in accordance with this action shall be used for the restoration of buffer systems or for the administration of programs for the protection and restoration of water quality, streams, wetlands, and floodplains.
This chapter shall take effect upon publication and shall apply to all proposed development, except for that development which prior to the effective date of this chapter:
The Planning Board may grant a variance or waiver for the following:
Those projects or activities where it can be demonstrated that strict compliance with this chapter would result in practical difficulty or undue financial hardship.
Those projects or activities serving a public need where no feasible alternative is available.
The repair and maintenance of public improvements where avoidance and minimization of adverse impacts to nontidal wetlands and associated aquatic ecosystems have been addressed.
For those developments which have had buffers applied in conformance with previously issued requirements.
The buffer width may be relaxed and the buffer permitted to become narrower at some points as long as the average width of the buffer meets the minimum requirement. This averaging of the buffer may be used to allow for the presence of an existing structure or to recover a lost lot, as long as no new structures are built within the one-hundred-year floodplain.
The applicant shall submit a written request for a variance to the Planning Board of the agency. The application shall include specific reasons justifying the variance and any other information necessary to evaluate the proposed variance request. The Planning Board may require an alternatives analysis that clearly demonstrates that no other feasible alternatives exist and that minimal impact will occur as a result of the project or development.
In granting a request for a variance, the Planning Board may require site design, landscape planting, fencing, the placement of signs, and the establishment of water quality best management practices in order to reduce adverse impacts on water quality, streams, wetlands, and floodplains.
Where the standards and management requirements of this chapter are in conflict with other laws, regulations, and policies regarding streams, steep slopes, erodible soils, wetlands, floodplains, timber harvesting, land disturbance activities or other environmental protective measures, the more restrictive shall apply.