Christmas Reflection

Christmas Reflection

On Monday of this week, I received some dreaded news!!! It was my turn to write the Newsletter….UGH, it always seems to come along during the busiest week when everything is crazy, and a million things are going on. Usually, I have an idea of what I am going to write about, which always seems to be me complaining about college graduates or some new regulation that is raising my blood pressure. This week I was at a loss. I know everyone needs a break from my complaining or drone videos of our newest project, so I decided to take a step back. With Christmas coming (or whatever holiday you chose to celebrate this time of year), it is always a good time to step back and reflect. This past May, we celebrated our 20th year in business, and I want to take a moment and reflect on all that I am truly thankful for these past 20+ years. For those that don’t know, I grew up in East Fallowfield outside of Coatesville. I graduated High School in 1988, and after my first year at Drexel, I went into the Yellow Pages and called Hunt Engineering in Malvern and was hired for the Summer as a surveyor. While I enjoyed working there, unfortunately for them, I delivered plans to a firm in Exton called Edward B. Walsh and Associates, Inc. and knew right away I wanted to work there. After significant harassing of Barry Walsh, I convinced him to hire me for Christmas break and luckily was brought back for all of my Drexel Co-ops and ultimately full time! And so, first and foremost, I am very thankful for Barry Walsh, PE, and especially Ted Gacomis, PE, for giving me my first opportunity in this business and for the countless hours of teaching I received from Ted. Every single time I walked into Ted’s office, no matter how busy he was, he stopped what he was doing, sat back, let me lay my plan on his desk and answered my questions, and taught me more and more about engineering, what a great environment to work and learn in! And if that wasn’t enough, I got to work on projects for and alongside Jack Loew, Eli Kahn, Tim Townes, and Craig Hough. I felt like I was a celebrity. Being in my early 20’s and learning from these guys was so great. Now I was learning not only civil engineering but also about site layout, construction costs, value engineering as well as architecture. My first client to have on my own to work with was John Drury, who became my father in law and one of my biggest supporters. Working with him and John E. Good, Esq on projects all over West Chester, I now found myself handling Township meetings myself and learning from one of the smoothest and most savvy attorneys I have ever known, not to mention 2 of the most fun people I have ever worked with. The John and John show as I liked to refer to them taught me so much, and looking back, I was still just a kid. So thankful for the faith they had in me at 24 years old. These eight people shaped a huge part of my early career, and no question started me down a path that led to having my own firm today. The year was 1995 (out of college for two years), and along comes one of my longest and best clients of all time Tom Bentley. When I left engineering to work for Bentley Homes, my experience and learning went into high gear! Tom gave me an amazing opportunity to learn and grow, and I was only 25 years old and learning residential real estate development. Few can say they have been given such amazing opportunities to learn in this business, and for all of this, I am so grateful. Alright, lets fast forward to 1999 when DL Howell was started. There are hundreds of people that I am thankful for getting us through these last 20 years, but I want to especially recognize several in particular.

First, our clients:

Thank you, Tom Bentley, and all of your crew for placing trust in me for so long and teaching so much about residential community design.
Thank you to Eli Kahn for so many years of so many creative, cutting edge projects that you entrusted with us and being a friend for all of these years.
Thank you to all of NV Homes and for giving us the opportunity to be a part of such large impactful communities in Chester County.
Thank you to John Lynch for keeping us on our toes and teaching us that we CAN find another high gear when needed.
Thank you to Mark Bedwell and the Bedwell Companies for always thinking of us and giving us opportunities.

Thank you to all of our clients who so loyally work with us and entrust us with your projects.

Thank you to all of the site contractors who get to implement and interpret our plans, including Lyons and Hohl, Brubacher, Schlouch, Kreider, and B and J Excavating. You all make us look good, and we appreciate not only working together but also you catching our mistakes before pipe goes in the ground or asphalt goes down!!

Thank you to ALL of the attorneys we work with and for including Brian Nagle, Kristin Camp, Patrick Mckenna, Sigmund Fleck, Ross Unruh, Alyson Zarro, Jon Jordan, Mike Shiring, Debbie Shulski and Lindsey Dunn. A special thank you to John Jaros, Lou Colagreco, and Mark Kaplin.

Thank you to all of my engineering colleagues and Township Engineers we work with. I realize we are usually at each other’s throats all year long, but I still enjoy it.

Thank you to Chris Godshall at Meridian Bank and everyone at Meridian Bank. Please remember this Newsletter when the next recession hits.

Thank you to all of my best broker friends including Chuck Swope, Jim Lees, Jeff Duffy, John Lieberman and, of course, Phil “Mr. Drexel” Earley.

Thank you to Orsatti-Stuart…..Joe and Patrick, you are two of my favorite people to work with.

Thank you to Ed Theurkauf for reading every single newsletter we send out AND commenting on it.

And lastly, thank you to the entire team at DL HOWELL and HOWELL KLINE…. We are only as strong as our team!!!

I think we unintentionally take for granted all of the great people we work with every day. In many ways, they are like family and it sure seems like we spend more time with them then we do our real families, especially when we are out until 11 pm at a Planning Commission Meeting. I often stop and look around at all of the holiday parties this time of year to take in all of these great people and am glad I have this chance to thank as many as I can remember at 11:27 pm on a Thursday night. Have a great Holiday and New Year and see you in 2020.

Denny L. Howell, II PE

NPDES Reissuance – How Does It Affect You?

NPDES Reissuance – How Does It Affect You?

Recently, many of you received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) regarding the reissuance of the PAG-02 NPDES General Permit.  This letter has prompted many phone calls to our office from clients asking- What does this mean?, Do I need to do anything?, Why did I receive this letter?  As of December 8, 2019, the terms and conditions of your NPDES Permit coverage have changed.  Here are the major focus points you need to be aware of:

You received this letter because you currently have coverage under the PAG-02 General NPDES Permit

NPDES Renewals/New Applications

    • still have to submit for a renewal 180 days prior to permit expiration
    • permits will only be renewed until 12/7/2024
    • new permits will only be valid until 12/7/2024
    • there will be new renewal process after that
    • all new permits will be subject to the new guidance
    • if in an Impaired Watershed
        • ABACT BMP’s will need to be implemented if any additional earth disturbance is proposed throughout the life of the project
        • For TMDL streams option for non-discharge alternative OR ABACT
  • Site Inspection Report Form will need to be used when doing site inspections (for Engineers or qualified professionals)
  • Instrument Filing is needed at time of NOT and also at time of Permit Transfer (if applicable)
  • “Modules” will need to be completed and included with NOI submission
  • NOI for General NPDES and a different NOI for Individual NPDES
  • New County and Municipal Land Use notifications forms have been created

If current permittees are unable to comply with the terms of the new 2019 General Permit they are to submit an Individual NPDES Permit application by March 9, 2020.  This is determined based on the Acknowledgement form, which is to be completed and returned to DEP (or completed online) by March 9, 2020.

We encourage you to contact your regional PA DEP office, local Conservation District, or civil engineering firm to help aid in answering specific questions and concerns you may have.

Helpful Links:
NPDES Acknowledgement Form
PAG-02 General Permit Forms
FAQ Document

DLH Gift Ideas!

DLH Gift Ideas!

It’s the wonderful time of year again when the traffic gets heavier and the weather gets colder.  It’s Christmas time!  It’s that time where everyone loves to give presents to make everyone happy and if you have a special someone who is an engineer that you would like to treat, here are a few gift ideas for them.

Novelty Gifts

Who doesn’t love a good novelty gift?  A t-shirt that says “World’s Best Engineer” or a coffee mug that has some sort of equation on it.  You could even a get shot glass with E=mc² for those long days working in the office.

Desk Decor

Anything personalized for the desk is always a good idea.  A nice name plate stand with a pencil holder attached or a vintage looking lamp.  You could even get a little creative and get a replica bobblehead made for that person.

Wall Art

There are many different ideas regarding what can be hung up on the wall.  To start, you can look at getting some sort of clock for the office.  It can be someone’s favorite sports team themed or just a plain old white and black clock.  Another idea is to get a motivational quote framed from one of the great engineers.  One out of the box ideas would be to find an original plan from where your engineer grew up at and get it framed for them.

Grilling Gear

Let’s be honest, almost everyone loves to grill and why not get them an engineered themed grill set.  Along with that you can get a cooking apron that says, “Trust me, I’m an engineer”.  There are all sorts of things out there like engineering cutting boards or burger molds for shaping the meat into bolts and such.

So, while you’re spreading holiday cheer to everyone, don’t forget to spoil your favorite engineer with one of these gifts!  Happy Holidays from everyone here at DL Howell & Associates!

Fist Bumps, Not Handshakes

Fist Bumps, Not Handshakes

I know you were all looking forward to another newsletter with an update on a project that you have already read about three times or maybe you were looking forward to reading about the infamous leaking locks on the Panama Canal (D.L. Howell Blog, J. Brewer, August 2015), or how about another newsletter about drones! For this week’s newsletter, I am going to go with something a little different and hopefully useful to all of our fellow professionals working in an office environment. 

It’s that time of year again when there is that one person in the office that we will call ‘Patient Zero’ or ‘RBV.’ He comes into the office and is obviously sick, well, obvious to everyone but himself. To him, it’s ‘just allergies’ or a ‘tickle in my throat,’ but to the rest of us, it’s a contagious common cold. 

I am not a doctor, but with a little research or Googling, I offer you the following tips to help prevent you from getting sick or spreading your ‘allergies’ to the rest of us: 

Person cleaning hand with anti-bacterial hand disinfectant sanitizer dispenser in public mall in Japan

  • Don’t try and be a hero and come to work when you ‘feel like you got hit by a truck.’ Do us all a favor and stay home, rest, and recover. 
  • If you still want to be a hero and try to impress with your dedication to the job. Go into your office and put yourself into isolation. And don’t come out at lunchtime and ask if anyone wants to go to lunch. 
  • Hand Sanitizer and lots of it! Here at D.L. Howell, we have hand sanitizer in every room you go in. Some of us use more than others, and some like to bathe in it. 
  • Fist bumps instead of handshakes (or hugs).  
  • Cover your mouth with your inner arm, not your hands. This will ensure sanitary fist bumps. 
  • Wipe down your work area. It’s incredible what you wipe off your mouse, keyboard, and phone. 

Hopefully, we can all follow these steps and keep everyone healthy and working hard through the cold and flu season. And don’t worry next week we will provide you with an ‘engineering’ newsletter that you have all come to enjoy! 

DLH Carves Out Team to Handle Growing Demand for Homeowners Association Consultation

DLH Carves Out Team to Handle Growing Demand for Homeowners Association Consultation

With the demand for complex consulting related to Homeowners Associations on the rise, DLH has made efforts to ensure that a small team of HOA savvy engineers within their already experienced technical staff are available to address the most complicated of Homeowners Association concerns.  

Homeowners Associations, commonly referred to as HOAs, first came on the scene in the mid 1800’s but didn’t gain popularity until the 1960’s when the post-World War II housing boom resulted in the construction of major subdivisions outside city limits. While HOAs were initially used to limit the type of person who could buy in a particular development, in 1963 the number of legitimate HOA’s spiked when the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) offered home mortgage insurance only to homes within subdivisions that had a viable HOA. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 eliminated HOA based racial discrimination and in the 1970’s the Homeowners Association became more about the maintenance of common spaces within residential subdivisions and land developments. It didn’t take long for local municipalities to realize they could more easily make their budgetary “Ends Meet” by eliminating the need to assign taxpayer dollars to amenity maintenance services now provided by the HOA. 

Enter the Clean Water Act of 1977. With the ratification of the Clean Water Act, all new residential developments were required to provide adequate stormwater runoff control by reducing the post development runoff rate to the pre-development runoff rate. And so the detention basin was born! As we know, basins tend to take up a fair amount of real estate and that (coupled with the fact that those same basins serve multiple dwellings) led municipalities to require that the maintenance associated with the detention basins and other non-dedicated “common” site amenities be controlled by a single entity as opposed to a private lot owner. 

Why is any of this important you ask? It is important because during the construction phase of a residential development, the developer sets up the HOA and acts as the majority member, i.e. he owns the most number of lots and controls the most number of votes. Once enough homeowners exist to elect an HOA Board of Directors, the power transitions from the developer to the homeowners. There are laws that govern how and when this occurs which are beyond the scope of this newsletter. The main point here is that HOAs need to understand that at the time of “transition” from a developer controlled HOA to homeowner controlled HOA, there are several areas of responsibility that get lost in the shuffle. Those responsibilities, if not clearly defined and addressed, can result in massive negative financial impacts to the HOA.

Stormwater facility operations and maintenance after initial transition and the evaluation of functioning NPDES sanctioned stormwater facilities at final transition are two of the main pitfalls missed by HOA once transition occurs. In short, the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions governing how an HOA operates should clearly define who is responsible for the post construction stormwater management operations and maintenance of all stormwater facilities and when in the transition process that entity becomes responsible. Things start to fall apart when neither the developer nor the HOA take responsibility for maintenance of these facilities because each thought it was the other’s responsibility. This is a common occurrence when the HOA takes majority control of the HOA Board. The disregard for required maintenance of stormwater facilities in the latter stages of construction leads to the second pitfall which is ensuring all of the stormwater facilities actually operate as the approved development plans intend PRIOR to final transition (all things developer get handed over to HOA), release of municipal escrow funds and….most importantly, Termination of the developer’s NPDES Permit. In the end, if the termination of the NPDES Permit occurs prior to all stormwater systems functioning as designed, the HOA can find themselves on the hook for the cost to make repairs. That can mean big $$$ in construction costs or fines for not terminating the NPDES Permit in a timely fashion. 

DLH routinely works with Developers and Homeowners Associations to make sure each knows their role and responsibilities during all stages of this very complicated process. Look to DLH to help you with the following:

  • Civil Engineering Consultation Services for Developers and HOAs to clearly define roles and responsibilities
  • Work with Developers to guide them on site improvements may or may not be required to get a site to “Transition Ready”
  • Perform inspection of stormwater facilities, Best Management Practices and site infrastructure to ensure the HOA is inheriting a sound development site that meets all regulatory agency requirements
  • Act as a liaison between the HOA and the regulatory agencies including the Municipality – we speak their language! 
  • Develop post transition regulations on how HOAs and associated Architectural Review Boards govern the installation of impervious surface and stormwater facilities that may fall outside Municipal review authority
  • Attend HOA Board meetings to help educate residents on why certain expenditures or capital improvements are necessary
  • Provide professional engineering services to address site improvements deficiencies that arise after transition has occurred 

New Jersey Civil Engineering and Land Surveying

New Jersey Civil Engineering and Land Surveying

Civil Engineering and Land Surveying in New JerseyWe are excited to announce that D.L.Howell and Associates and Howell Kline Surveying has expanded into New Jersey!

We are providing the following Civil Engineering and Land Surveying services:

Civil Engineering

Subdivision and Land Development Design & Approval
Erosion and Sedimentation Control Design
FEMA Map Studies and Revisions
Floodplain Analysis
Building Permit Plans
Pool Permit Plans

Land Surveying

Boundary & Lot Surveys
Topographic Surveys
ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys
Title Research
FEMA Floodplain Elevation Certifications
Construction Stake-Out
Legal Descriptions

Please contact us at (609) 301-5481