Can’t touch them!

Can’t touch them!

It seems in this day and age there are so many lines on our plans that they have almost, I say almost, become unreadable. It isn’t just property lines and easements anymore. It is now different pipe sizes, every utility known to man (and woman) (both existing and proposed), seepage beds, steep slopes of varying degrees, different size trees, streams, stream buffers, wetlands and wetland buffers etc.  The list goes on and on. With every project we, as designers, are requested to add more and more information to our plans and our plan legend continues to expand. We are literally starting to run out of ideas to differentiate between lines.

The simple “one dash” or “two dash” line type just doesn’t work anymore. So….in an effort to make our line types different as well as have them “communicate” their purpose we have come up with (and will continue to come up with) new line types over the next year. Our first new line type will be to delineate wetland boundaries, communicating to ALL that you “can’t touch this”(them).

Now, the first 3 people to take a picture of this new line type on one of our plans and email it to me (denny@dlhowell.com) will get a $100 gift certificate to Sullivan’s Steakhouse or Fogo de Chao…your choice. Sorry vegetarians.

Denny L. Howell, II PE

Are Colleges Ruining Our Kids?

Are Colleges Ruining Our Kids?

Want my opinion? THEY SURE AS HELL ARE!!!

I’ll be honest, I started to notice this about 10 years ago and I thought it was me (maybe it actually is). We would interview fresh engineering graduates and a vast majority of the interviews were about as invigorating as watching remote control sailboat races. Potential new hires would show up very well dressed and then….nothing. No questions, not very interested or engaging etc. I would always ask about how their job searching was going and usually got the same answer. “Well, I have been on a bunch of interviews, but haven’t heard anything”. NO KIDDING! They all seemed disappointed, almost as if they had just been sent to the corner. We managed to shortlist some candidates and even hired a few, but they not only didn’t last long, they also never really embraced their new “career”. I was puzzled. I remember my senior year in college and all I wanted to do was get out of Drexel and start making some money. Now, I have had a few colleagues utter to me “young people are lazy, they don’t want to work”. On the surface, it may appear that way, but inside I kept saying to myself that they can’t all just be lazy. I mean, a 4 to 5 year degree is usually undertaken with the hopes of graduating, getting a job and making some good money. And while money isn’t the biggest motivator, to a college student that has lived in a block wall dorm and eaten cafeteria food for 5 years, money is a path to a better life. A new car, maybe an apartment, dining out, entertainment. Hell, in 1993 when I graduated from college, being able to have dinner (and sometimes lunch) at Applebees or Chi Chi’s was awesome. I felt like an executive. Nonetheless, I spent the last 5 years or so just complaining about this to colleagues and frankly anyone who was willing to listen to me. As I aged, I could hear myself and I sounded like a grouchy old man or woman or genderless person or gender bender (yeah, look it up)…nevermind. Now fast forward to the present and I am taking my son on college tours. Each college tour/presentation was catered to a major (in his case civil engineering) and was given by a very enthusiastic upper class “person” that attended that college. I would estimate that about 5 mins LITERALLY was spent on talking about the academic program and about 3 hours and 55 minutes spent on talking about the on-campus ski resort (Michigan Tech University), personal dairy bar (South Dakota State), lazy river beach club (University of Missouri), lobster dinner, err’day (Virginia Tech) or luxury “condo” dorms (virtually freaking everywhere). This, of course, is all in addition to the on-campus Chik-Fil-a, Chipotle, Insomnia Cookies, Indoor Rock Climbing Walls, skydiving club, Wizards and Muggles Club (William and Mary) and Clown Nose Club (NC State) to name just a few. When you are bored, google “The 25 Most Amazing Campus Student Unions”. It is ridiculous. It is no wonder that it seems as though a vast majority of recent graduates don’t want to work. Work and a career are now a step DOWN in lifestyle from college. In fact work sucks compared to college. I can’t say I blame them. Let’s compare. College luxury dorm vs. parents house vs. paying rent. College luxury dorm all the way. Requesting a vacation day to go rock climbing at a facility that costs about 60 bucks vs. walking a block after class with your buds and spending the afternoon on the campus rock climbing wall for “free” then topping it off with a custom smoothie from the on-campus dairy bar. DUH!!! But, we cannot blame this all on the colleges, I mean, they could never afford all of these upgrades if the Federal Government didn’t hand out student loans left and right by just providing a signature to every single high school graduate they could. I guess I am just jealous that one cannot get loans to pay for engineering bills as easily as they can to pay tuition at a college with a lazy river lagoon and on-campus ski resort. But hey, rest assured, if that does happen, it will be free Starbucks and all the rock climbing wall time you can handle here at DL Howell.

Riparian Buffers – What the Heck is going on?

Riparian Buffers – What the Heck is going on?

Alright, enough is enough.  Has anyone tried to decipher buffers lately? Seems simple enough at first right? There are wetland buffers and there are stream buffers. One is X the other is Y right? WRONG, you have to first determine if these buffers are in the Township ordinances or the County Stormwater Model Ordinances or if they are a Department of Environmental Protection Buffers or perhaps even County Conservation District Requirements. ( would be great if they were all the same but that is for another day) So, what is the big deal you say? All you have to do is just look in the ordinances and get the buffer dimensions right? WRONG again! You also need to check the watershed classification. Ah, ok, there is an app for that I think. So, you have these buffers and you have reviewed the ordinances and you think you have determined which buffers have jurisdiction over your project (pssst – they ALL do) and you have determined your watershed classification and NOW you know your buffers right? WRONG yet again because in the time you spent looking all this up one of your colleagues has walked in with the latest project and informed you that there is a “new” buffer “interpretation” now being taken. WHAT?!?!?! Come on! So for those of you who THOUGHT you knew buffers, just keep reading. Last week, wetland buffers were (and this is how I understand it and could be wrong) 0 feet by law, 35 feet if you want a permit and 50 feet if you really want a permit. Stream buffers were 50 feet for most watersheds and 150 feet for High Quality and Exceptional Value classified watersheds. No problem, we have designed our projects accordingly. But now we are learning that things may be different yet again and this is going to have a major effect on previously approved projects that have NPDES permits that have either expired or are up for renewal so listen carefully. WETLAND buffers are now 100 feet for High Quality and Exceptional Value Watersheds ONLY IF you are disturbing earth within 150 feet of a stream. If you are not disturbing earth within 150 feet of a stream within a High Quality and Exceptional Value Watershed, then the buffer can be zero (0) feet or whatever the Municipality’s ordinance says it is. Confusing, right? This will have an enormous effect on nearly EVERY project previously approved that contained wetlands. Oh, almost forgot, I THINK stream buffers have remained the same, I think. Confused yet? If so, call D.L. Howell and we would be happy to confuse you more!

AREA SHOWING EXISTING WETLAND AREA

AREA SHOWING 100FT BUFFER

MAN WHO STAND ON TOILET IS HIGH ON POT

MAN WHO STAND ON TOILET IS HIGH ON POT

I get asked this question nearly every day. “Hey Den, how are you doing? You guys busy? ” I always give my stock answer ” yeh, we are hanging in there, things seem to be moving along”. I have answered this question about the same for the last 17.8333 years in business. But the follow up question is the one that has recently changed. “What are you busy with, mostly residential? commercial? ” No, I am busy with Pot! WHAT? Actually, I am not that busy with pot, but it is coming. Although Governor Wolf is cool (not Fonzie cool, but temperature cool) to the idea of legalized marijuana, he did sign a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state nearly a year ago. We are already seeing municipalities scramble to change zoning ordinances to allow for the growing and processing of medical marijuana facilities. As well they should, so as not to be caught up in a “fair share” type challenge to their ordinances. Last week Aston Township voted unanimously to change their zoning ordinance to allow medical marijuana facilities in their limited industrial districts. To some residents surprise, many voiced support for a medical marijuana facility while critics fear allowing these facilities will simply lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Over the years we have watched municipalities scramble to re-write ordinances to convert Wawa convenience stores to allow gas, allow lighted bill board signs and none of us will ever forget the fun that was had with the cell towers. I was at a township, that shall remain nameless, until 2:30 am once listening to unhappy residents about a cell tower so I can only imagine how much fun pot stores will be. If they do actually happen though I have the perfect landscape architect to team up with, who also shall remain nameless! Anyway, by the time recreational marijuana is legalized in PA I will be too old for 2:30 am meetings, they will be something my son can enjoy!