2008-06-11 / Front Page

Board has concerns about water runoff

Wildflower's potential impact on nearby properties discussed
BY REBECCA MORTON Staff Writer

MARLBORO - The storm-water management plan for the proposed Wildflower at Marlboro community was under scrutiny when the Planning Board continued hearing testimony about the application on May 21.

Wildflower is an application filed by Orleans Home Builders, which is expected to contain 168 detached homes that will be age-restricted, along with two three-story buildings that will contain a total of 50 apartments that will be rented to people whose income meets regional guidelines established by the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

Planning Board Chairman Larry Josephs said an additional 65 affordable housing units associated with this project will be transferred out of Marlboro under a regional contribution agreement. The developer will pay to transfer those units to another municipality.

Attorney Kenneth Pape, representing Orleans Home Builders, began presenting the application forWildflower atMarlboro during the board's meeting on May 7.

He said the proposal for Wildflower at Marlboro is the application that resulted from a legal settlement between the township and the owners of the 75-acre parcel known as the Bluh and Batelli property. He said Orleans, which is the contract purchaser of the property, must provide the affordable rental family apartments under the terms of the settlement.

The property has frontage on Church Lane, Tennent Road and Route 79 in the Morganville section of the community. The parcel is in the vicinity of the Marlboro Little League complex.

The project will be built on two pieces of property: a 21-acre parcel that will contain 50 age-restricted homes and the two buildings with the affordable housing units, and a 54-acre parcel that will contain 118 age-restricted homes, a clubhouse, pool and other amenities. The Henry Hudson Trail divides the two parcels and there is no road planned to connect them.

On May 21, Gary Vecchio, a professional engineer and designer of the project, offered testimony on the storm water system that is planned for the development. Maps of the site's current drainage were used to determine where the detention ponds should be placed.

Vecchio said the storm-water detention ponds conform to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations. The plan also includes the installation of 149 drywells to collect water runoff from roofs, Vecchio said.

Describing how the water basins will function, Vecchio said there are a series of catch basins and storm drain pipes which will enter into the storm-water ponds. There will also be a control structure within the ponds to control the rates of runoff.

The ponds will be permanent features and are designed to exceed best management practices, which require a depth of 3 feet of water, where the design calls for 5 feet, Vecchio said. He explained that if left at 3 feet, any decrease in water levels during the summer months could lead to the growth of algae.

Planning Board members were concerned about the 21-acre parcel of the Wildflower community, which would be isolated with one entrance off Tennent Road. Questions were posed asking if water runoff from the long entranceway would end up on Tennent Road.

Vecchio said the area's topography would lead to runoff entering the nearby detention pond and said runoff into Tennent Road would be minimal.

Mayor Jonathan Hornik, who sits on the Planning Board, said he was concerned for residents who live near the site of the proposed project if the proposed storm water system eventually fails.

Pape said the applicant's plan will be reviewed by three government agencies. If problems with flooding did occur, Pape said, there will be performance andmaintenance bonds to ensure that any errors are remedied.

When asked to offer his view, township engineer Ernest Peters spoke about the existing drainage conditions in the area, which he said tends to flood.

Peters also spoke about the proposed drywells which, he said, "met the letter of the law. I'mnot quite sure itmeets the technical law."

He said that in his opinion, having such a large number of drywells in an adult community would prove to be a nightmare because the homeowners will not want to maintain them. He posed the question of how the homeowners association would care for the wells. Peters said he believes there are alternatives to the use of drywells.

Questions were also asked in regard to calculations used in the event of large storms known as two-year, 20-year and 100-year storms.

Planning Board Vice Chairman Gerald Bergh asked how long in the instance of one of these storms it would take for the ponds to return to 5 feet of water.

Vecchio estimated the ponds would return to that depth over the course of several hours and explained that an intricate structure would be placed in the pond's hole, which maintains the level of 5 feet, for the release of the water.

Bergh asked where the water would go if the ponds overflow.

Vecchio said the system has many precautions built in, but should they fail the water would exit into a spillway.

"Where does the water go if it uses the spillway? Does it go onto private property other than your development?" Bergh asked, receiving an affirmative answer from Vecchio.

"Does it go on homeowner properties?" Bergh asked.

The applicant's engineer said each spillway is different and would go to different areas.

Josephs noted that the spillways could impact neighboring lots, Tennent Road and the Henry Hudson Trail.

Bergh said he believes the applicant will have to show that the spillways will not inundate the nearby properties.

Josephs told Vecchio that part of the problem with relying on the calculations for these types of storms is that the entire weather pattern is changing.

"In just the last 10 days there were (storms that) would have been considered abnormal 10 years ago," Josephs said, adding that these instances are occurring more often.

"We have a responsibility to the neighbors and the residents of Marlboro not to allow that water to inundate their properties, flood their basements or run off, as you just said, down Sunflower (Road) into Tennent Road, which is a major throughway for both the county and the township," Josephs told the applicants' representatives.

The board's chairman went on to say that as it stood that evening the plan was not foolproof, and even though no plan could be completely foolproof, the applicant would need to further work with the township's professionals to find a better plan for spillways.

Councilman Frank LaRocca, who sits on the board, also addressed the catastrophic event theory of the spillways releasing water down the only entranceway into the 21-acre portion of the development.

"The entrance and exit to 100 seniors and low-income people are going to be cut off in emergencies," LaRocca pointed out.

Josephs told the applicant's professionals that the board members understand what a catastrophic event entails and realizes that the water would have to go somewhere.

"In looking at the site plan, and I'm not an engineer, it appears that in all cases of a catastrophic event the water is directed off (Wildflower's) property instead of directed on (Wildflower's) property. I think that's kind of where we have some issues," Josephs said.

There are a finite number of tools the applicant is allowed to use by the state, none of which is perfect, Pape said. He said the applicant's engineer will work with Peters to address this issue.

At a previous hearing on the application, concerns were expressed because the original plans for Wildflower showed no circulation around the back of the two apartment buildings, limiting emergency access.

David Horner, the applicant's traffic engineer, told the board the primary change made was the addition of an 18- foot pathway providing access around the apartment buildings. There is room for an emergency vehicle to situate itself in the front of the building as well, Horner said. The path would be a gravel base with sod over top, Horner said, which it was explained is a typical emergency path.

Josephs requested turning radius tests to be conducted to ensure that large emergency vehicles would be able to turn in a parking lot that was filled to capacity.

Pape said that would be looked at and said that options would be discussed to delineate the access road for residents of the apartments.

Testimony on the Wildflower at Marlboro application is scheduled to resume at a special meeting of the Planning Board that has been scheduled for June 16.

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