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Residents Grill Developer's Expert About Flooding

Retention and detention systems, elevations, and the impact of impervious surface area on flooding with the proposed development of the United Water property.

In addition to questioning the developer's expert on affordable housing, Thursday's special meeting of the zoning board also gave residents the opportunity to question the developer's engineering expert, Michael Dipple.

Dipple, an engineer and principal of L2A Land Design in Englewood, had previously testified about the water detention and infiltration systems that will be installed as part of the proposed development of the United Water property.

On the forefront of the mind of every resident in attendance was the impact that the impervious surface area of the proposed development would have on flooding. .

Although Dipple said that he considered flooding to be a "minor" constraint, he testified that infiltration systems will be installed above and beneath the property to carry the water away from the property. Dipple also said that the backflow preventer will alleviate any water from pooling on the property. However, residents contested that the backflow would only force more water into the river.

New Milford resident John DeSantis said, "If we have a flood, there’s 13 acres of water going downstream," adding that it will further flood streets that are continually being flooded. 

When asked by Marc Leibman, attorney retained by Councilman Austin Ashley to represent him against this proposed development, about the elevation of the area where the supermarket is proposed Dipple testified that the area will be elevated by adding fill (soil).

DeSantis, pressed Dipple on the elevations of the proposed development citing previous flooding along the property. Dipple responded that elevation 14 is the regulatory flood elevation for New Jersey, and said that the elevation of Madison Ave. is 15, elevation for the proposed supermarket floor is 16, the parking lot in front of the proposed supermarket is elevation 15 and the area near River Road is elevation 23.

DeSantis said that he believed Hurricane Floyd reached elevation 18, which the map showed to be almost the entire property. 

Karl Schaffenberger, Chairman of the Zoning Board who recused himself from the hearings, said that at the southern end of the property the elevation is approximately seven. Schaffenberg told Dipple that the flood waters were in the high school cafeteria after Hurricane Irene. 

Dipple reported that there will be two detention system basins installed on the property to the south. Detention systems are designed to hold stormwater runoff before allowing it to be discharged as controlled outflow. They are utilized on a site to reduce the quantity of stormwater runoff leaving a site by temporarily storing the runoff that exceeds a site’s allowable discharge rate, and releasing it slowly over time.

In conjunction with the detention systems, Dipple said there will also be infiltration systems. Infiltration systems allow stormwater to freely permeate into the porous surface of a collecting basin and into the ground below. According to Dipple, if the infiltration systems on the site work there will be no runoff on the site.


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Dipple informed the board during his  that the developer plans to utilize berms around the property to reduce the rate of surface runoff--rainwater that flows through areas with impervious surfaces, taking along with it gasoline, debris, and other potentially harmful chemicals. Berms are flood protection barriers that serve to direct water to areas that are not susceptible to erosion, thereby reducing the adverse effects of running water on exposed topsoil. 

Both Leibman and SOD member, Anna Leone, asked Dipple if he was aware of any updates to the 1980 DEP map that he used when making his calculations. Dipple said that he was unaware of any updates and complied with all of the regulations that were in place when he submitted his engineering plans to the developer. 

"If the state requires me to use that [revised] map I will, but now I'm complying with regulations," Dipple said. 

Andy DelVecchio, attorney for the developer, Hekemian, objected to the question saying that even if flood maps were updated, this project might be "grandfathered" in.

When questioned, Dipple admitted that he had not been to the proposed site. 

Due to the late hour, the board called to adjourn the meeting until June 12. 

DelVecchio said that although Dipple would return for further public questioning, due to potential scheduling conflicts he did not know the date of Dipple's return.

Further testimony will continue on Tuesday, June 12 beginning at 7:30pm. There will also be another special meeting of the Zoning Board devoted entirely to the continued hearing on the proposed development of the United Water property on June 21 beginning at 7pm. 

Ulises May 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Ms. Leone also asked the Zoning Board's attorney if Rich Henning's comments from last year's Mayor and Council meeting can be introduced. At that meeting Mr. Henning's, who's VP of Communication for United Water, stated that overdevelopment was the reason why New Milford floods so often now. United Water is now selling this property, which is clearly in the town's flood plain, according to the boro's flood map, to developers. The board's attorney did not have an answer to Ms. Leone's request and the meeting ended on that note (to be continued)...
John DeSantis May 22, 2012 at 01:38 PM
What a back flow preventer actually does is prevent an overflowing river from flowing into the development through the drainage pipes that exit the water detention an infiltration systems. It protects the development from river flooding and instead forces the water down stream to the folks on Colimbia and Harvard streets. When questioned about this fact, Mr. Dipple's response was that compared to the amount of water flowing in the river during a flood, the amount of water displaced by the development was a drop in the bucket. That is where my questioning ended. Oh, how I wish that I was a little sharper or quicker on my feet when it comes to this type of debate. What Mr. Dipple said is true, the water runoff and displacement of any one single development along the river is a drop in the bucket. But, when one development, after another development, and so on are constructed the drops begin to accumulate. Eventually the bucket becomes full and overflows. That is current state of most of the rivers in NJ. That truth is undeniable. I regret that I wasn't thinking clear enough to respond to Mr. Dipple and question him further.
Tony May 22, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Why it's not readily apparent to all parties (Hekemian, the Town Council, and SOD) that this decision will always be at an impasse is beyond me. Here's what each stakeholder essentially wants: The town wants existing taxpayers happy, to fulfill COAH obligations (which honestly, the state should waive it for towns like New Milford with large complexes like Brookchester), and possible new tax revenues. Hekemian, of course, wants to make money on this venture. SOD wants a guarantee that new and existing flooding won't be directly caused by this development/over development. Can you really blame any of these parties? Of course not. So, the obvious problem lies with determining how they can all coexist. And if they can't THEN FORGET IT. Whenever such determinations are made difficult it's a pure sign of special interests or corruption. Period. On a side observation, it really doesn't look good that Mr. Dibble had not been to the proposed site. Actions certainly speak louder than words.
miriam pickett May 22, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Tony, I'm not sure I understand your comment. Are you saying that SOD's position is equally harmful to New Milford? SOD is not a stakeholder. SOD are the residents of New Milford who are opposed to development of this property for a variety of reasons, not simply the flooding, but also quality of life issues. The impasse can be broken if the The Board of Adjustment does the right thing and votes to deny the many zoning variances necessary for this project to go forward. I don't think that SOD can be accused for corruption or being a special interest.
Tony May 22, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Can't imagine it being any clearer, but here it goes. Everyone is a stakeholder with an interest in what happens (one way or another) to the United Water property. I even acknowledge the fact that SOD does have other vested interests than just the flooding, read: SOD wants a guarantee that new and existing flooding won't be directly caused by this ***development/over development***.
Tony May 22, 2012 at 03:27 PM
All the corruption comment says is that whenever it's made difficult (by any party, not necessarily SOD), it's corruption or special interest.
Ulises May 22, 2012 at 04:05 PM
For the record, New Milford is in compliance with all affordable housing requirements. It's United Water's developer/buyer that has paid someone to go on record and state that it is in his opinion that we need an additional 40 more affordable units. In addition, the expert is on record stating we are not in any violation with any COAH requirements. Their testimony is flawed...
Lori Barton May 22, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Tony, if the town wants existing taxpayers happy, then they should agree with SOD. The new ratables generated by this development will be offset by the costs to the community. Interpretation: this development will INCREASE taxes. SOD is against this development due to flooding, tax issues, environmental concerns, traffic issues, overcrowded schools, and the list goes on. The only ones benefitting from this development are the developer and Inserra.
Tony May 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Really good to know. It's pathetic when comparing our town to others when thinking of how much affordable housing already exists. Good to know we're somewhat grandfathered in. But bad to know their testimony is erroneous and misleading.
Tony May 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Very true. SOD has many points. No one is arguing that. My only point is that as pertaining to this particular development project (and fully aware that it's linked to all the other items you mentioned) that there are vested interests form all the angles. What I don't understand is why the town can't just consider all these angles and make a determination that there is no outcome that would satisfy all the parties and SCRAP THE IDEA. Where is that line? When is that determination made? Why does this have to carry on? Like I said, seems to me that all the parties are at an impasse. Since that's the case, why is it kept alive by the town? Just to keep a good reality show storyline alive?
Ulises May 22, 2012 at 05:25 PM
To find out more about SOD, click on the PDF file above.
Emily Rostkowski May 22, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Ulises- from my understanding of Dr. Kinsey's testimony the 40 COAH units will only fulfill the COAH regulation for the amount of commercial and residential square footage added by the development. The 40 COAH units are necessary if they build.. they aren't gifting or giving anything to help fulfill a current need. They are simply required based on Dr. Kinsey's analysis and calculations that 40 units will be needed to set aside based on the amount of building they plan.
Lori Barton May 22, 2012 at 11:24 PM
The parties are not at an impasse. The developer is trying to ram his plans down our throats. The only reason affordable housing was included was to try to force the "D" variance to be approved, not because he truly values affordable housing. The zoning board has no choice but to hear the entire application before rendering a decision. And it is clear that if they turn down this application, the developer will pursue this in the courts. I only hope that the mayor and council will not sabotage this community by changing the zoning.
Tony May 23, 2012 at 12:23 AM
The parties *should* be at an impasse. im·passe noun - a position or situation from which there is no escape; deadlock. If the mayor and council (and the people) can't get a guarantee from the developer that the development won't, at the very least, cause new or increased flooding (read: I know there's more to it for SOD), they simply cannot change the zoning. If they do, they're selling some of their own residents up the river - PUN INTENDED.
Jeffrey DelVecchio May 23, 2012 at 03:01 AM
My guess is, the Mayor and Council will stay out of this as much as possible.
Ulises May 23, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Mr. DelVecchio, The M & C are very much involved. Last Monday they appropriatedp up to $5K to create a new master plan, which will probably change the current residential zoning of this property to commercial. Councilman Ashley has to recuse himself every time there's a vote on this property because he supports no development. Shouldn't Berner follow suit for the following comments;   "Ultimately, Berner said, the study could lead to a rezoning of the property that might allow for a revised version of Hekemian's plans, one that would promote the borough's interests as well as the developer's. "It will be a compromise," Berner said. "Life is a compromise."   My interpretation of his comment is that he's hoping to compromise with the developer's interest. In my opinion, there's a conflict of interest here, no different than Councilman Ashley, but worse because he's in favor of developing our flood plain (according to the boro flood plain map this property is in a flood zone; http://www.newmilfordboro.com/attachments/058_NM%20EXT%208.5x11(flood%20plain).pdf ) and he's publicly going on the record siding with the developer's interest. And, for the record, no one acknowledges the boro's flood map that clearly puts this property in the 100 year flood plain.   Here's the rest of the article: http://www.northjersey.com/topstories/newmilford/151660065_New_Milford__mulls_rezoning__River_Road_site.html?c=y&page=2
John DeSantis May 23, 2012 at 10:02 AM
The very idea that members of the council or various boards should be prohibited from having and expressing opinions or have to recuse themselves if they do is absolutely idiotic. How else would the people know where their public officials stand on the critical issues that concern the community. Austin Ashley should refuse to recuse himself and boldly state his opinions and positions on all the issues that concern our town, as should all of our elected and appointed officials.
Ulises May 23, 2012 at 11:42 AM
John, those are the rules. And my point is Berner is on the Planning Board and he can't comment when regular folks ask him for his opinion, yet for the paper he's going on the record commenting in the developer's favor. He's breaking the rules and I hope more people question this (I sent an email last week to the M & C to ask their attorney if he's broken the rules or not).
Donna Colucci May 23, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I think it's all about the interpretation.
Ulises May 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Ms. Colucci, he's clearly for development. You don't interpret that from his comments?
Donna Colucci May 23, 2012 at 01:35 PM
"Ultimately, Berner said, the study could lead to a rezoning of the property that might allow for a revised version of Hekemian's plans, one that would promote the borough's interests as well as the developer's. "It will be a compromise," Berner said. "Life is a compromise." What I interpret is that he is basically explaining that this "could" and it will consist of "compromise"....I see that as an explanation
Ulises May 23, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Yes, a comprise to develop on our 100 year flood plain. That's the explanation I'm referring to.
annonymous May 23, 2012 at 10:52 PM
There was a very important point that was brought up at the last meeting that I don't see anyone talking about. That is that, at best, only 1% of the towns in NJ actually meet the COAH requirements that Hekemian is referring to. Maybe the requirements are not fair and that is why they are currently suspended. Based on that, the entire arguement for "inherently beneficial" should not be considered.


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