[Added 1-21-2016 by Ord. No. 629]
Editor's Note: Former Art. XXXIV, Living History Overlay District, added 9-6-2007 by Ord. No. 561, was repealed 3-3-2011 by Ord. No. 597.
A Riparian Buffer Overlay Zone (RBOZ) shall be and hereby is created in order to protect and preserve the numerous benefits that are provided by riparian buffers, including the following:
Reduction of the amount of nutrients, sediment, organic matter, pesticides, and other harmful substances that reach watercourses through subsurface and surface flow pathways through natural processes including filtration, deposition, absorption, adsorption, plant uptake, and denitrification, and by improving infiltration, sheet flow, and stabilizing concentrated flows;
The consumption of nitrogen and denitrification in surface and groundwater and the trapping of phosphorus-laden sediment and other pollutants resulting from adjacent land uses, which are critical to the protection of water quality;
Provision of shade which moderates stream temperature and protects fish habitats by retaining more dissolved oxygen and encouraging the growth of diatoms, beneficial algae, and aquatic insects;
Provision for stream bank stability that protects fish habitats and controls sediment and erosion (tree roots consolidate the soils of floodplains and stream banks, reducing the potential for severe bank erosion);
Provision of organic matter through leaves which fall into the stream and are trapped on woody debris (fallen trees and limbs) and rocks where they provide food and habitats for small bottom dwelling creatures (such as insects, amphibians, crustaceans and small fish), which are critical to the aquatic food chain;
Conservation of natural features important to land or water resources (e.g., headwater areas, groundwater recharge zones, floodways, floodplains, springs, streams, wetlands, woodlands, and prime wildlife habitats) that exist on developed and undeveloped land;
Improvement and maintenance of the safety, reliability, and adequacy of the water supply for domestic, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and recreational uses along with sustaining diverse populations of aquatic flora and fauna;
Conservation of natural, scenic, and recreation areas within and adjacent to riparian areas for the community's benefit and protection of natural features that provide recreational value, contain natural amenities, or otherwise contribute to the welfare and quality of life of Township residents;
Prevention of erosion and sedimentation and implementation of erosion and sediment control practices as mandated under the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, Act 394, P.L. 1987; and
Integration with floodplain, steep slope, and other requirements that regulate environmentally sensitive areas to minimize hazards to life, property, and riparian features.
When used in this article the following terms shall have the meanings set forth below:
- INTERMITTENT STREAM
- A body of water flowing in a channel or bed composed primarily of substrates associated with flowing water which, during periods of a nondrought year, is below the natural local water table and obtains its flow from both surface runoff and groundwater discharges.
- LAND DISTURBANCE
- Any activity that exposes soil, alters topography, alters the existing structure of a woodland or hedgerow and/or removes vegetation. Alteration includes the cutting or removal of trees, understory shrubs and vines, woody and herbaceous woodland floor species, as well as, the removal of humus or duff from the ground. The term "land disturbance" shall not include the mowing and routine maintenance of existing lawn, native plantings, or any lawn area that may be permitted within the RBOZ after May 24, 2016.
- PERENNIAL STREAM
- Any and all streams identified as perennial in the most recent soil survey of Montgomery County.
- STREAM CHANNEL
- The bed and banks of a watercourse or waters of the commonwealth. For purposes of this article, stream channel shall include perennial and intermittent watercourses and/or stream channels as defined by PA DEP and/or identified on current USGS maps and NRCS soils maps of the Township, but shall not include ephemeral watercourses as defined by PA DEP. The Township or the applicant may obtain a consultant to verify the delineation of a stream channel if, in the opinion of the Township or applicant, the stream channel information contained on the above-referenced mapping is believed to be inaccurate. The study from the consultant shall evaluate the hydrologic conditions during average springtime nondrought conditions. Additional information may include other mapping produced by state or federal agencies and an Army Corps of Engineers Jurisdictional Determination. The Lower Providence Township Board of Supervisors shall make the final decision regarding the delineation of a stream channel based on the submitted information. The Township may reduce or eliminate the riparian buffer zone where the Township concurs that the watercourse classification is not accurate or existing conditions and/or topography of the site do not warrant a full riparian buffer.
The RBOZ is an overlay to the existing zoning districts within the Township. The provisions of the underlying district shall remain in full force, except where the provisions of the RBOZ differ from the provisions of the underlying district, in which case the provision which is more restrictive and less permissive shall apply. The RBOZ will work with the provisions of the underlying district, as well as other natural resource protection standards, to regulate land use and the siting and engineering of all development within the Township to ensure natural resources are preserved and protected.
The RBOZ shall include and cover the following watercourses and other bodies of water:
Schuylkill River and tributaries.
Perkiomen Creek and tributaries.
Skippack Creek and tributaries.
Stony Creek and tributaries.
Indian Creek and tributaries.
Eagleville Run and tributaries.
French Run and tributaries.
Miller Run and tributaries.
Mine Run and tributaries.
Rock Run and tributaries.
Schatz Run and tributaries.
All other perennial and intermittent streams.
Lakes and ponds.
Any other body of water identified by resolution of the Lower Providence Township Board of Supervisors as being included within the RBOZ.
The width of the RBOZ shall be and is hereby established as follows:
Zone One. This zone will begin at each edge of a stream channel/waterline/wetland edge (whichever is applicable) and occupy a minimum width of 30 feet measured horizontally on a line perpendicular to the top of the bank/edge of waterline or wetland. Where the land within 30 feet of the defined edge of a stream channel has an upland slope greater than 10%, Zone One shall include the land from the stream channel edge and the upland slope and shall further extend outward 30 feet from the edge or top of such upland slope; and
Zone Two. This zone will begin at the outer edge of Zone One and occupy a minimum width of 60 feet in addition to Zone One, unless modified herein. Where the one-hundred-year floodplain extends greater than 90 feet from the waterway, Zone One shall remain a minimum of 30 feet, and Zone Two shall extend from the outer edge of Zone One to the outer edge of the one-hundred-year floodplain.
The applicant shall be responsible for the following:
Identifying the watercourses and other bodies of water on and abutting the applicant's site, and locating these features accurately on the applicant's plans.
Determining the width of the RBOZ on the site in compliance with this section and identifying this area on any plan that is submitted for subdivision, land development, or other improvements that require plan submissions to and/or permits from the Township. This determination shall be subject to review and approval by the Township.
No structure, land disturbance, or use shall be permitted within the RBOZ unless permitted herein as of right, by zoning permit, or specifically authorized by conditional use as provided herein. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in no event shall any of the following activities or uses be permitted within the RBOZ: any solid or hazardous waste facilities, including but not limited to sanitary landfills, transfer stations or wastewater lagoons; junkyards, commercial or industrial storage facilities, or open storage of vehicles and materials.
The allowance of any activity, structure or other use under this section, whether by right, permit, conditional use, or otherwise, shall not constitute a waiver of the requirements of any other applicable federal, state, or local laws or regulations.
In Zone One, the following uses shall be permitted as of right:
Pruning and removal of trees and other vegetation which are dead, diseased, or in such a condition or physical position as to constitute a danger to the structures or occupants of property or a public right-of-way, or a threat to the well-being of other viable trees and shrubs or the stream channel, provided that any such activities are performed by hand or with the aid only of tools or power equipment which are hand-held and provided the removed vegetation is replaced in accordance with the applicable provisions of this article;
Unpaved hiking, biking, or bridle trails (paved hiking, biking, or bridle trails are only permitted when their location outside of Zone One is not feasible and only upon approval of the Township of Lower Providence);
Fishing areas, provided, however, that the area provided for any such use on a lot shall not exceed 20% of the area of the RBOZ on that lot;
Wildlife sanctuaries, arboretums, woodland, and other natural resource preserves, but excluding buildings;
Selective cutting of trees and/or the clearing of other vegetation when necessary to prepare land for a use permitted by the underlying zoning district and within the RBOZ, provided the removed vegetation is replaced in accordance with the applicable provisions of this article;
Existing customary agricultural uses in accordance with a soil conservation plan approved by Montgomery County Conservation District (new agricultural uses, not existing at the time this article is adopted, shall not be permitted);
Routine maintenance and cleaning of streams and stream channels pursuant to all applicable federal, state, and county laws and regulations; and
Dredging or grading, when incidental to uses permitted within the RBOZ.
The following uses shall only be permitted in Zone One as a conditional use when authorized by the Board of Supervisors of Lower Providence Township, subject to requirements for conditional uses as set forth in this chapter and this article, as well as § 143-80 of this chapter:
Culverts, corridor crossings for recreational trails, railroads, roads, and the facilities of all utilities, including sanitary and storm sewers and electric and cable transmission lines, provided that they cross the stream corridor as directly as practical, comply with all applicable federal, state, county, and Township laws or regulations, and provided that any disturbances are offset by riparian corridor improvements that are approved by the Township.
In Zone Two, the following uses shall be permitted as of right:
The following uses shall only be permitted in Zone Two as a conditional use when authorized by the Board of Supervisors, subject to requirements for conditional uses in this chapter and this article, as well as § 143-80 of this chapter:
Residential accessory structures and uses including the foregoing uses shall be permitted within the Riparian Buffer Zone but not within 30 feet of the edge of any stream channel or waterbody; and
Recreational uses, including, but not limited to, paved trails, sport and ball fields and courts, public and private parklands, camps, campgrounds, picnic areas, golf courses, and playgrounds, provided that no permitted structure has a footprint of greater than 200 square feet and provided these uses are designed in a manner that will not permit concentrated flow of stormwater runoff.
The following uses shall only be permitted in Zone Two as a conditional use when authorized by the governing body of the municipality in which the use will be located, subject to requirements for conditional uses as set forth in this chapter and this article, as well as § 143-80 of this chapter:
In channel dams where approvals and/or permits are received from PA DEP;
Culverts, bridges, roads, and the facilities of all utilities, including sanitary and storm sewers and electric and cable transmission lines, provided that they cross the stream corridor as directly as practical, comply with all applicable federal, state, county, and local laws or regulations, and any disturbances offset by riparian corridor improvements approved by the Township; and
Stormwater management basins in accordance with the Code of Ordinances of Lower Providence Township, provided the applicant demonstrates that no other reasonable alternative location exists and provided these basins are designed in a manner that will not permit concentrated flow of stormwater runoff.
Within the RBOZ, conditional uses are permitted provided the landowner or applicant shows:
That there is insufficient room outside the RBOZ to accommodate the particular use or accessory use; and
That there is no other feasible alternative to establishment of the use in the RBOZ; and
That if the proposed use is an expansion or replacement of an existing use, that the expansion or replacement occur in the same footprint of the exiting use, unless an increase in size is authorized by the Board of Supervisors during the Conditional Use hearing; and
That if the proposed use is a replacement or relocation of an existing use located within or outside the Township boundaries, the applicant shall prove: that reusing or replacing the existing use in its current location is not environmentally nor economically feasible; and that the relocation of the existing use will have less impact on the existing environmental and historic resources of the proposed location in the RBOZ than reusing or replacing this use at its existing location; and
That any relocation of an existing use located within or outside of the Township have less impact on Township residents than replacement of that use in the existing location; and
That no heritage trees, as defined in § 123-144 of the Lower Providence Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SLDO) shall be removed unless approved by the Board of Supervisors during the conditional use hearing and only upon compliance with § 123-146 of the SLDO.
That when the applicant is proposing a corridor crossing, the application shall incorporate, as required, the following design standards.
The width of the right-of-way should not be greater than the minimum right-of-way width required by Chapter 123 of the Code of Ordinances (SLDO).
Crossings should be designed to cross the riparian corridor at direct right angles to the greatest extent possible, in order to minimize disturbance of the corridor.
Corridor crossings should be separated by a minimum of 1,000 feet of buffer length.
Bridges shall be used in place of culverts when crossings would require a seventy-two-inch or greater diameter pipe. When culverts are installed they should consist of slab, arch, or box culverts and not corrugated metal pipe. Culverts should also be designed to retain the natural channel bottom to ensure the passage of water during low flow or dry weather periods.
The requirements of this section shall apply to all those uses in the RBOZ, whether permitted by right or by conditional use, and in cases where a subdivision or land development is proposed. Native vegetation approved by the Township must be used in replanting efforts. Three layers of vegetation are required when replanting the riparian corridor. These three layers include herbaceous plants that serve as ground cover, understory shrubs, and trees that form an overhead canopy. The revegetation plan shall be prepared by a qualified licensed professional, such as a landscape architect or engineer; shall comply with the following minimum requirements; and shall be subject to the approval of the Township Engineer:
Ground cover. Ground cover consisting of a native seed mix extending a minimum of 30 feet in width from the edge of the stream bank or waterline, whichever is wider, must be provided along the portion(s) of the RBOZ where little or no riparian vegetation exists or where such vegetation has been removed. Appropriate ground cover includes native herbs and forbs, exclusive of noxious weeds as defined by the Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture. This thirty-foot-wide planted area shall be designated on the plan as a "no mow zone" and shall be left as natural cover except in accordance with the maintenance instructions stated on a Township-approved maintenance plan; and
Trees and shrubs. These planting layers include trees that form an overhead canopy and understory shrubs. Trees and shrubs must be provided along the portion(s) of the RBOZ where little or no such riparian vegetation exists or where this type of vegetation has been removed. Overstory trees are deciduous or evergreen trees that include oak, hickory, maple gum, beech, sycamore, hemlock, pine and fir. Evergreen and deciduous shrubs should consist of elderberry, viburnum, azalea, rhododendron, holly, laurel and alders. These plants shall be planted in an informal manner throughout Zone One and Zone Two of the RBOZ. These plants shall be provided at a rate of at least one overstory tree and three shrubs for every 20 linear feet of waterway/shoreline. The replacement of removed trees shall comply with the tree replacement provisions set forth in Article XXIII, Natural Resources Protection, of Chapter 123 of the Code of Ordinances.
Uses permitted in the RBOZ involving structural encroachments into the RBOZ, such as corridor crossings, stormwater basins, buildings, and paved trails, shall be mitigated by increasing the width of the RBOZ as replacement for the area lost due to the encroachment. The amount of this mitigation land to be added to the RBOZ shall be equal to two times the area of the encroachment and any appurtenant improvements located within the RBOZ. This mitigation land shall be added to the width of the RBOZ in the areas closest to the encroachment to best mitigate the negative impacts of the encroachment and shall have a minimum dimension of five feet deep and 10 feet long. This mitigation land must be located upon the property of the applicant/developer, and property owned/controlled by third parties cannot be used to meet this mitigation requirement. The placement and dimensions of this mitigation land shall be reviewed and approved by the Township to ensure that it is located and designed to best alleviate any negative effects of the encroachment.
Ephemeral watercourses shall be protected from disturbance by the establishment of a thirty-foot-wide drainage easement centered along the watercourse in a form acceptable to the Township of Lower Providence.