Since April 1st I have been a new edition to the DL Howell Team. I am currently a Drexel student on my first Co-op. For those who are and were Drexel students, you understand the difficulty of working in a professional office for the first time. While it is very challenging and tedious, it is interesting. Every day I end up learning a new AUTOCAD technique, site layout efficiency, grading, pipe sizing, and even some stormwater design. In order to further broaden my horizons (and become more useful), I took and passed my Remote Pilot Exam, allowing me to fly the DL Howell drone. For those who don’t know, the drone has allowed for certain steps of the land development process to be more streamlined and visually appealing. On the technical side, the drone can be used to reduce the time spent in the field without a reduction in the accuracy of the survey. The drone collects a combination of a GPS signal and many pictures (typically a few hundred), and along with some office work, a survey (also called an EX in the world of DL Howell) can be created.
Since I have already bored you enough talking about myself and drone surveying, let’s get to the cool part of the drone. In addition to the accurate birds-eye view photos, panoramic photos can be generated allowing us to show clients pictures of their property making them happy which makes the rest of the team (even Dave Gibbons) happy. Considering the strides that drone technology has made in the past five years, maybe by the time I am out of college every project we tackle will utilize the drone.
So, you’re thinking about switching to a public sewer system rather than your on-lot septic system. That sounds like a great idea. There are some advantages to being able to connect to a public system such as low maintenance and no repairs. However, the process, depending on the location of the existing sewer main, can be rather time-consuming and expensive or quick and painless.
The first step in this process would be to find out if you have the potential to connect to an existing sewer main located near your property. An easy check for this is to call the Township and see if a sewer connection is available. If yes, then you are off to a great start. Next would be to locate the area where the sewer tie in would occur. If there is a sewer main located within proximity to the house in a Township road, it could be a quick process. If not, things can get tricky. Say the existing sewer main ends at a manhole in the road several properties away from yours. The Township could require a sewer main extension from that manhole to your property to make sewer available for the neighboring properties if they are not already connected. The Township will require some sort of plan submission for their review and approval for the Sewer Permit. This could require some survey work on and off your property depending on what the Township wants to see. They will also require you to pay for tie in fees.
Now you notice that this existing sewer main is located in the PennDOT Right-Of-Way. That would require a Utility Highway Occupancy Permit as well as the Township Permit. No problem, PennDOT approves these all the time. But wait, what about this stream you must cross to get to the existing sewer main? This would require a General Permit 5 from DEP (Department of Environmental Protection). They will also require a fee and a separate plan submission, but more importantly, could lengthen the process. A PNDI will need to be submitted to check whether if there are any threatened and endangered species, and special concern species located in the area. If the PNDI comes back clear and there are no issues, then no further action is needed for DEP except for the General Permit 5. If there is a hit on the PNDI, some more time will need to be put into ways to protect whatever hit comes about.
Finally, after receiving all the necessary permits, the installation of your sanitary line can commence. Although this process could possibly take months and months, the end result can be very beneficial for you, your family and your property. Please contact D.L. Howell with any questions on converting from on-lot septic system septic to public sewer.
Requests for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) approvals are on the rise with a higher than average number of requests coming in over the last six to eight months. There doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for the increase in inquiries except for the fact that residential dwelling construction starts and renovations continue to climb.
The LOMA application process is a mechanism used by homeowners and developers to reduce the highly restrictive development regulations associated with 100 year floodplain from an otherwise buildable property. The process starts with the identification of a regulated floodplain on the subject property. This can be done several ways including referencing County GIS data, performing a topographic survey of a particular property or referencing the FEMA Maps directly. The next step involves performing hydraulic modeling of the stream segment in question. If the modeling shows a reduction in the floodplain area (i.e. flood flows exist closer to the main stream than shown on maps and published data), then the areas shown to now be high and dry can be identified on a plan and submitted to FEMA for review and approval. With FEMA’s approval, those areas previously shown as floodplain and once regulated by the Municipal Flood Hazard District Regulations (translation: can’t be built upon) are now buildable.
Besides de-regulating land for development, another reason for preparing and submitting a LOMA application to FEMA is to eliminate the need for flood insurance. About every 5 years FEMA issues an updated set of FEMA Floodplain Maps or as they refer to them, Map Panels. Each Panel covers a specific part of the community showing the extent of the 100 year floodplain and specifies categories of floodplain – for example: Zone A Estimated, Zone AE Studied, Zone X – Not Regulated. The “zone” indicates how the floodplain lines where derived. For instance, areas designated Zone A are “Estimated” by USGS topo maps, historical evidence of flooding and interviews with local residents. Areas designated Zone AE are the result of actual hydraulic modeling. What is important to note here is that if your property is located within an “A” zone, you’ve got a pretty good shot at reducing the impact on your property through the modeling process.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t run from a development opportunity or back-burner your plans for a new pool just because the floodplain map says your property is in a floodplain. Take the time to research what can be done to eliminate the restriction. More often than not, the floodplain issue becomes a non-issue.
After several months of working with West Chester Borough, Providence Church finally received Land Development approval and now construction is ready to begin. The project began to take shape in the late spring of 2018 when the Church made a presentation to the Borough with some conceptual drawings. The Church then approached D.L. Howell to prepare a sketch plan and attend a Planning Commission Meeting. While working with the Borough the plan incorporated changes to the “West End” of town by incorporating improvements to the streetscape with new sidewalk, landscaping and decorative streetlights. As the plan developed, the Church was required to amend their Special Exception approval allowing them to expand the assembly area within their new addition. D. L. Howell finalized the Land Development Plans and worked with the Borough and their Consultants to resolve all review comments. After working through the Planning Commission and Smart Growth Council, approval was granted by Borough Council on May 15th and the project received Final approval.
D.L. Howell worked closely with the project team including; Rob Fenza and Tony Stancato of Providence Church, Don Turner of Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees Attorneys, Paul Sgroi of Bernardon Architecture, and Patrick Stuart of Orsatti & Stuart Landscape Architects, to refine the plans throughout the approval process. The project plans include detailed grading, utilities, erosion control, storm water management, site details, site lighting, landscaping and PADOT Highway Occupancy drawings. D. L. Howell is fortunate to be selected as the Civil Engineer on this project.