This is the sound of a land development project being burned by a section of the ordinance that lacks common sense or could use some remediation. If you’ve worked in this industry long enough you have experienced one of these first-hand. I think it’s time to analyze some of the currently adopted ordinance regulations and shed light on the absurd, unrealistic and/or out-dated text of the Zoning Code.
Every time I come across one of these nuisance regulations I think to myself, “Why is this in here and who comes up with this stuff?”. It’s possible that they made sense at one point in time but advances in technology and/or construction techniques have made them irrelevant and unnecessary, or maybe they were devised out of spite. Who knows; but either way, they can be really annoying and ruin the developmental potential of a parcel, and even worse, take away from developmental creativity.
The first item I would like to examine is steep slopes. This is a subject that I’ve written about before and is probably the one that bothers me most. “Generally speaking”, steep slopes are defined as areas that exceed 15% grade. They are usually broken down into two categories, precautionary & prohibited, and in most municipalities, they come with a lot of restrictions. How each municipality defines steep slopes is what’s so problematic.
What qualifies as a steep slope? In some ordinances, to qualify as a steep slope, the area in question must exist over at least 3 consecutive two-foot contours (or 6 vertical feet), or they need to cover an area of at least 500 square feet, and/or extend at least 50 feet horizontally. Other ordinances will make exclusions for man-made slopes. Meanwhile, other municipalities consider “any” area that can be calculated as steep slopes to be governed and restricted no matter how small and even if man-made.
The frustrating part about using “any” area of steep slopes, no matter how isolated or small an area, is that these areas are usually anomalies in the TIN generation. “What is TIN generation?” you ask. The person writing that code should have asked that question. Historically, surveyors would go out to a site and shoot in 50’ foot gridded pattern and along certain break lines in the terrain. They would then interpolate the contours based on the triangulation of these points. That’s one ground shot/250 sq.ft. of an area. This means that an area of steep slopes, 500 sq.ft. in size (+-), may be depicted due to the lack of ground data when it doesn’t even exist. Same goes for an isolated area of non-slopes in a sea of steep slopes.
If steep slopes truly are unanimously thought of as a valued and protected environmental resource in Chester County, all the municipalities should consider creating and adopting one standardized definition and regulation for steep slopes.
Urban stormwater runoff pollution is a problem that has no boundaries, however, neither does the solution.
WHY IS STORMWATER A PROBLEM?
Recently, DEP labeled approximately 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania impaired for water supply, aquatic life, recreation, or fish consumption. Stormwater runoff pollution is one of the biggest reasons for this impairment.
Over the past years, streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and roofs have been a steadily increasing part of communities as the landscape has become more developed. As a result, rain that would otherwise soak into the ground instead rushes over these nonporous surfaces and into storm drains, which send it directly into rivers and streams.
Stormwater carries an enormous amount of pollution, including sediment, car oil, lawn fertilizers, and pesticides. As you might expect, this has many negative impacts on streams and rivers.
THREE WAYS YOU CAN BE STORMWATER SMART
Here are actions you can take to reduce stormwater runoff pollution at your residence and in your community.
- SET UP A RAIN BARREL AT YOUR RESIDENCE
You can capture rainwater off your roof with a rain barrel, and then use the water in your garden or let it infiltrate slowly into the ground. There are various options, from very simple to more involved.
- THINK ABOUT LAWN CARE A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY
Don’t overwater your lawn. Consider using a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler. Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. Use organic mulch or safer pest control methods whenever possible. Compost or mulch yard waste. Don’t leave it in the street or sweep it into storm drains.
- GET INVOLVED
Volunteer, professional organizations, and businesses throughout Pennsylvania are taking action to reduce stormwater pollution. They offer classes on how to set up rain gardens and rain barrels at home. They hold events to plant rain gardens in city neighborhoods or vegetation on streambanks or to pick up trash. They work to find funding solutions for municipalities’ stormwater efforts. And the list goes on.
Below are just a few examples of organizations in Pennsylvania to reach out to. There are so many there’s surely one near you. If not, start one!
Urban Stormwater runoff pollution can be greatly reduced through the efforts of community members. Take the required steps to become informed. For questions, answers, and solutions to stormwater management of all capacities, please contact D.L. Howell & Associates, Inc. at (610) 918-9002 or visit our website at www.dlhowell.com.
On May 4th a group of volunteers from D.L. Howell and Howell Kline were privileged to offer assistance at the 2018 Chester County Envirothon.
“The Chester County Envirothon is a component of the Pennsylvania Envirothon Program which helps students understand the natural environment and their role in it. The Envirothon provides a means for students to demonstrate what they know about the environment. – 2018 Envirothon Handbook”
This program, sponsored by The Chester County Conservation District along with Chester County Facilities and Parks as well as many local companies, provides an opportunity for students in grades 3-12 from public, private and parochial schools to meet at Hibernia Park for a day of fun outdoor competition.
D.L. Howell & Howell Kline would like to congratulate the 2018 Chester County Envirothon Champions!
Seniors – Grades 9-12
First Place – West Fallowfield Christian Academy
Second Place – Downingtown East
Third Place – Great Valley A
Middle School – Grades 6-8
First Place – Hopewell B
Second Place – West Fallowfield Christian School A
Third Place – Penns Grove B
It seems all I do is complain these days when it comes to hiring. Well, some call it complaining, I call it…..” raising awareness ”. I think having a kid in college, unfortunately, has opened my eyes to things I didn’t dream of or have nightmares about actually. The good news is, at least in my mind, I believe all of this “raising awareness” may be helping some. Over the last several years I have found that interacting with college graduates has become increasingly challenging. Sure, I can get past (see my old Newsletter – Is College ruining our kids?) undoing most of the 4-year habits of enjoying on-campus Starbucks and rock climbing walls but we have now stumbled into scarier territory. “I have to be at work at what time?” Exactly. Somewhere in the last 10 years the idea of starting work at 8 am has been lost. For that matter, the concept of working until 5 pm has been lost. Seems harder and harder to truly have a full day of work logged. You bounce between the “7:59 am stumble in” and the “4:55 pm get the hell out of here dash”. The 7:59 am walk in, sit down, get coffee, go to the bathroom, talk about how the Sixers tanked last night now it is 8:30 am doesn’t work.
But hey, I get it. When you spend 4 or 5 or 6 years sleeping until noon, walking to class in your pajamas with greasy hair and eating a burrito on your way back to your “apartment” for an afternoon nap it can be difficult to get up at 6 am, shower, dress and get to work on time. But guess what…that is the real world. So….I think that ALL colleges should start classes at 7:30 am ( go on and hate on me) 5 days a week and your last class should start at 4 pm and be over at 5:30 pm. Afterward, go grab some dinner and start doing homework. Rinse and repeat. Most people who know me know I am big into routines. Not dance routines, but doing the same thing over and over routines. There have been books written on routines! Morning routines, work out routines, breakfast routines, you name it. And yet, college, which is supposed to be “preparing you for life” is as un-routine as you can get.
From one not so old man’s perspective, college is a freewheeling hippy jam fest. Newsflash to the academic world….the experiment is failing. Now I know you have labored to create these “real world” classes like having the engineering students design a Tetris game on the outside of the PECO building in Philadelphia or build a popsicle stick bridge and break it but come on, really? Sure, it is fun, but do we really need more fun? Give you a hint…NO! What we need are productive members of society. Sorry if those three words in that specific order offended anybody, but that is what we need.
And so..to recap. Classes start at 7:30 am, Monday through Friday. Classes end at 5:30 pm Monday through Friday. In between you do your wash, eat, study and “prepare for real life”. And before you say there aren’t enough classrooms for this, I would guess we could easily convert some Starbucks, Chik Fil A’s, and Chipoltle’s into classrooms. Heck, it would probably be a pretty routine job!