Greg Newell recently spoke to local legislators and home builders in West Chester at the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Chester & Delaware Counties Legislative Breakfast. The annual event covers legislative, regulatory, and political updates. Each year, Greg is invited to provide a regulatory update on the state of the land development process and stormwater management.
Greg Newell’s Regulatory Update on Stormwater
In recent years, a lot has changed in the way civil engineers approach stormwater management. Historically, stormwater management was primarily for flood control. Conventional design focused on single, large storm events – rapidly collecting runoff and draining the site to convey that volume to the receiving stream more equipped to manage heavy storm flows. Historically, water quality wasn’t part of the equation.
In recent years, site design has shifted to managing the minor, and very frequent storms, and using best management practices that mimic natural hydrologic patterns for both water-quantity and -quality improvements.
Good News: DEP to Allow General Permit for sites up to 5 acres
Greg shared good news from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). An update is in the works. It will allow those with sites up to 5 acres to use a new General Permit for Small Construction Activities.
What does this mean? It means they will no longer treat a 1-acre site the same as a 50-acre site. The new permit features a more streamlined, and science-based approach to design and development that recognizes the varying degree different sized sites contribute to environmental degradation.
Incentivizing Redevelopment of Smaller Sites for Affordable Housing
This is a positive change for home builders focusing on smaller sites. It should result in potentially faster review times – saving time and money. Ideally, it incentivizes the redevelopment of smaller sites to create more affordable housing.
While this is good news there are some restrictions that limit the reach of this great idea. Site must have:
- Highly restrictive impervious coverage limits – less than 30,000 SF and 12%.
- No stormwater runoff from off-site impervious areas.
- “Clean & clear site” – clean PNDI, no soil contamination; no karst topography, sinkholes or surface depressions. Unfortunately, finding these sites isn’t easy.
Update to Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual
Even more good news, Villanova University is currently rewriting the Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual. They are using data collected from their on-campus living laboratory to update the manual with science-driven design criteria. Nave Newell worked with Villanova on their Lancaster Avenue Housing development. This development includes a complex stormwater management design with green infrastructure, which they are currently monitoring.
Call To Action – Let’s Work Together
Greg wrapped up with a call to action for those in the room. He noted that we’re already seeing evidence of progress with changes to the General Permit, the new Stormwater Manual, and increased discussions on affordable housing. His request, “How do we influence the future? Let’s work together! Get more involved at a municipal level. Keep encouraging redevelopment and more flexible residential zoning.”