[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Hamilton 11-4-2005 by Ord. No. 05-033 (Ch. 155 of the 1994 Code of Ordinances). Amendments noted where applicable.]
In recognition of the fact that values afforded by functional stream buffers contribute to the welfare of residents, the following regulations have been enacted to provide reasonable controls governing the conservation, disturbance, restoration and management of existing stream buffers for all perennial and intermittent streams and all lakes, ponds and reservoirs within the Township by establishing a Stream Buffer Conservation Zone (SBCZ). The specific purposes and intent of this chapter are to:
Regulate the land use, siting and engineering of all development in the SBCZ to be consistent with the intent and objectives of this chapter and accepted conservation practices.
Prevent excessive nutrients, sediment and organic matter, as well as biocides and other pollutants, from reaching surface waters by optimizing opportunities for filtration, deposition, absorption, plant uptake, biodegradation and denitrification, which occur when stormwater runoff is conveyed through vegetated buffers as stable, distributed sheet flow prior to reaching receiving waters.
Provide for shading of the aquatic environment so as to moderate temperatures, retain more dissolved oxygen, and support a healthy assemblage of aquatic flora and fauna.
Provide for natural organic matter (fallen leaves and twigs) and large woody debris (fallen trees and limbs) that provide food and habitat for small bottom-dwelling organisms (insects, amphibians, crustaceans, and small fish), which are essential to maintain the food chain.
Increase stream bank stability and maintain natural fluvial geomorphology of the stream system, thereby reducing stream bank erosion and sedimentation and protecting habitat for aquatic organisms.
Conserve the natural features important to land and water resources, e.g., headwater areas, groundwater recharge zones, floodway, floodplain, springs, steams, wetlands, woodlands and prime wildlife habitats.
Work with state laws and other ordinances that regulate environmentally sensitive areas to minimize hazards to life, property and stream features and assist in the implementation of pertinent state laws concerning erosion and sediment control practices.
For the purposes of this chapter, the following definitions shall apply:
- CATEGORY ONE WATERS or C1 WATERS
- Those waters designated in the tables in N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.15, as same may be amended or revised.
- CATEGORY TWO WATERS or C2 WATERS
- Those waters not designated as outstanding national resource waters or Category One at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.15, as same may be amended or revised.
- INTERMITTENT STREAM
- Any surface water drainage channels with definite bed and banks in which there is not a permanent flow of water. Most intermittent streams are shown on Natural Resources Conservation Service county soil surveys. These are portrayed as a dashed line on a USDA Soil Survey Map of the most recent edition, or as state open water identified in a letter of interpretation issued by the NJDEP Land Use Regulation Program, whichever is more inclusive.
- LAKE, POND or RESERVOIR
- Any impoundment, whether naturally occurring or created in whole or in part by the building of structures for the retention of surface water, excluding sedimentation control and stormwater retention/detection basins and ponds designed for treatment of wastewater.
- PERENNIAL STREAM
- A stream that appears as a blue line on USGS topographic quadrangle maps and flows continuously throughout the year in most years.
- THE TOWNSHIP
- Township of Hamilton in Mercer County, New Jersey, or any of its administrative units exercising jurisdiction within the Township boundaries.
The SBCZ is defined as the designated area adjacent to surface water, including lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and intermittent or perennial streams. The SBCZ may or may not contain trees and other vegetation at the time of chapter enactment. The SBCZ shall be measured from each defined edge of an intermittent or perennial stream, or lake, pond or reservoir at bankfull flow or level. The SBCZ will consist of two distinct classifications. These classifications determine the width of the SBCZ, except where steep slopes (in excess of 15%) are located within the designated widths, in which case the SBCZ shall be extended to include the entire distance of this sloped area. The two classes are designated as:
Class 1 stream conservation zones are adjacent to C1 waters and extend 150 feet from the top of each bank at bankfull flow or maximum pool elevation or the center line of intermittent streams or the one-hundred-year floodplain, whichever is greater.
Class 2 stream conservation zones are adjacent to C2 waters and extend 75 feet from the top of each bank at bankfull flow or maximum pool elevation or the center line of intermittent streams or the one-hundred-year floodplain, whichever is greater.
The SBCZ is an overlay to the existing zoning districts.
The provisions of the underlying district shall remain in full force, except where the provisions of the SBCZ differ from the provisions of the underlying district, in which case the provision which is more restrictive and less permissive to a landowner or applicant shall apply.
To the extent permitted by law, these provisions are intended to modify the type of land use, siting of structures and engineering of all proposed development on parcels located within the SBCZ. These provisions apply to land disturbances resulting from or related to any activity or use requiring application for any of the following permits or approvals:
Stream Buffer Conservation Zones shall remain in a natural condition or, if in a disturbed condition, including agricultural activities, at the time of adoption of this chapter, may be restored to a natural condition. There shall be no clearing or cutting of trees and brush, except for removal of dead vegetation and pruning for reasons of public safety or for the replacement of invasive species with indigenous species. There shall be no alteration of watercourses, dumping of trash, soil, dirt, fill, vegetative or other debris, regrading or construction within the SBCZ.
Open space uses that are primarily passive in character shall be permitted to extend into the SBCZ, provided near-stream vegetation is preserved, including:
Wildlife sanctuaries, nature preserves, forest preserves, fishing areas, game farms, fish hatcheries and fishing reserves, operated for the protection and propagation of wildlife, but excluding structures.
Passive areas of public and private parklands, including unpaved hiking, bicycle and bridle trails, provided that said trails have been stabilized with pervious materials.
Stream-bank stabilization or riparian reforestation, which conform to the guidelines of the stream buffer management plan described in § 583-10, or wetlands mitigation projects that have been approved by the Department of Environmental Protection are permitted to extend into the SBCZ.
SBCZ crossing by recreational trails, roads, railroads, sewer and/or water lines, and public utility transmission lines are permitted, provided that any disturbance is offset by buffer improvements in compliance with the stream buffer management plan mitigation plan and any applicable state permits are acquired.
All new major and minor subdivision and site plans shall be designed to provide sufficient areas outside of the SBCZ to accommodate primary structures, any normal accessory uses appurtenant thereto, as well as planned lawn areas. Portions of lots within the SBCZ must be permanently restricted by deed or conservation easement held by the Township to prevent clearing of vegetation within the SBCZ. Any lands proposed for development which include all or a portion of a SBCZ shall, as a condition of any major subdivision or major site plan approval, provide for the vegetation or revegetation of any portions of the SBCZ which are not vegetated at the time of the application or which were disturbed by prior land uses, including for agricultural use. However, the revegetation requirement does not apply to disturbances of the section(s) of a development that, prior to the adoption of this chapter, have been developed in accordance with the terms of an approved development application. Said vegetation plan shall utilize native tree and plant species in accordance with the stream buffer management plan described in § 583-10.
Minimum required front, side and rear setbacks required for building lots which exist as of the date of adoption of this chapter, but have not obtained a building permit, may extend into the SBCZ, provided that a deed restriction and/or conservation easement is applied which prohibits clearing or construction in the SBCZ.
Nonconforming structures and uses of land within the SBCZ are subject to the following requirements:
Existing nonconforming structures or uses may be continued but shall not have the existing building footprint or uses expanded or enlarged.
Discontinued nonconforming uses may be resumed any time within one year from such discontinuance but not thereafter when showing clear indications of abandonment. No change or resumption shall be permitted that is more detrimental to the SBCZ, as measured against the intent and purpose under § 583-1, than the existing or former nonconforming use. This one-year time frame shall not apply to agricultural uses that are following prescribed best management practices for crop rotation. However, resumption of agricultural uses must be strictly confined to the extent of disturbance existing at the time of adoption of this chapter.
An administrative waiver of the requirements in this chapter may be granted by the administrative officer of the Township's Department of Community Planning and Compliance where the consequent impact upon the SBCZ is determined to be minimal. An administrative waiver may only be granted where it has been affirmatively demonstrated that the proposed activity will not be materially detrimental or injurious to other property or improvements in the area and will not endanger public safety.
As a condition of the granting of an administrative waiver, depending on the nature of the proposed action by the applicant, the applicant may be required by the administrative officer to contribute to or participate in the rehabilitation of an environmentally degraded stream corridor within or adjacent to the subject site, at least equivalent in size to the permitted SBCZ reduction and, if available, within the same watershed. Rehabilitation may include reforestation, stream-bank stabilization and/or removal of debris, in accordance with a stream buffer management plan, or any other action/enhancement/improvement which benefits the public welfare.
When a landowner or applicant disputes the boundaries of the Stream Buffer Conservation Zone or the defined bankfull flow or level, the landowner or applicant shall submit evidence to the Township Engineer that describes the SBCZ, presents the landowner's or applicant's proposed SBCZ and presents all justification for the proposed boundary change.
Within 45 days of a complete submission of Subsection A above, the Township Engineer or appointed representative shall evaluate all material submitted and shall make a written determination, a copy of which shall be submitted to the Director of Community Planning and Compliance and the landowner or applicant. Failure to act within the forty-five-day period shall not be interpreted to be an approval of the proposed boundary change.
Any party aggrieved by any such determination or other decision or determination under this section may appeal to the administrative officer under the provisions of this chapter. The party contesting the location of the SBCZ boundary shall have the burden of proof in case of any such appeal.
Lands within or adjacent to an identified SBCZ will be inspected by the municipal representative when:
Subdivision or land development plan is submitted.
A building permit is requested.
A change or resumption of nonconforming use is proposed.
The SBCZ may also be inspected periodically by a representative from the Township if excessive or potentially problematic erosion is present, other problems are discovered, or at any time when the presence of an unauthorized activity or structure is brought to the attention of Township officials or when the downstream surface waters are indicating reduction in quality.
Conflicts. All other ordinances, parts of ordinances or other local requirements that are inconsistent or in conflict with this chapter are hereby repealed to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict, and the provisions of this chapter apply.
Within any SBCZ, no construction, development, use, activity or encroachment shall be permitted unless the effects of such development are accompanied by preparation, approval and implementation of a stream buffer management plan.
The landowner, applicant or developer shall submit to the administrative officer or an appointed representative a stream buffer management plan prepared by an environmental professional, professional engineer or other qualified professional, which fully evaluates the effects of any proposed uses on the SBCZ. The stream buffer management plan shall identify the existing conditions, including:
Field delineated streams, wetlands and the one-hundred-year floodplain;
Existing subdrainage areas of site;
Slopes in each subdrainage area segmented into sections of slopes less than or equal to 10%; 11% to 19%; and 20% to 25%;
All proposed activities; and
A mitigation plan that demonstrates how the loss of value afforded by the existing buffer will be compensated for.
The plan shall be reviewed by the Township Engineer in consultation with the Environmental Commission as part of the subdivision and land development process.
The stream buffer management plan should include management provisions in narrative and/or graphic form, specifying:
The manner in which the SBCZ will be owned and by whom it will be managed and maintained.
The conservation and/or land management techniques and practices that will be used to conserve and protect the SBCZ, as applicable.
The professional and personnel resources that are expected to be necessary in order to maintain and manage the SBCZ.
A revegetation plan, if applicable, that includes three layers of vegetation, including herbaceous plants that serve as ground cover, understory shrubs, and trees that form an overhead canopy. Vegetation selected must be native and consistent with the soil, slope and moisture conditions of the site. The revegetation plan shall be prepared by a qualified professional, such as a landscape architect or engineer, and shall be subject to the approval of the municipal Engineer, in consultation with the Environmental Commission.
A stream buffer management plan is not required where the SBCZ is not being disturbed and conservation easement/deed restrictions applied to ensure there will be no future clearing or disturbance of the SBCZ.