Stormwater is exactly that; water from rain, snow, melting snow, etc. that flows over lawns and impervious surfaces is stormwater runoff. This water is untreated, and in most cases carries hundreds of pollutants into our local water bodies because it flows over treated lawns, pet waste, oil laden roadways and so many other pollution sources. An Impervious Cover Assessment was prepared for Verona in 2016, which provides a backdrop to some of the challenges that Verona faces with stormwater management and some possible pathways forward to reduce stormwater runoff.
All Municipalities in the State of NJ must pass and comply with the NJ’s State Stormwater Rules according to NJAC 7:8.
Stormwater Management Rules function to protect against flooding from major developments, set calculations and natural design standards for drainage areas as well as offer a number of methods to minimalize the effects of stormwater and the pollutants that are carried in them. Each municipality may make their own Ordinance more strict, but no less strict than the State’s Ordinance.
In an attempt to combat the excessive flooding that we’ve been experiencing due to heightened storm activity, the NJDEP has recently updated the existing State Code. As of March 2021, these new Stormwater Rules were adopted by Verona with some further modifications so that the rules apply to all types of development, both large and small, and both commercial and residential.
Verona’s new Stormwater Ordinance may be found at here: Verona Stormwater Ordinance
You can help reduce stormwater pollution by following some of the following tips:
- Purchase nonhazardous, biodegradable and phosphorous-free household and car cleaning products
- Do not overwater your lawn and only water during cooler times of the day.
- Identify pests and use integrated pest management (IPM) methods to minimize chemical use in your garden.
- Applying fertilizer can lead to nitrate or phosphorus contamination of our water resources. Do not apply nutrients that your soil doesn’t need; instead, test your soil first. Avoid buying fertilizers containing phosphates because those chock waterways with pollution.
- Use pesticides only if you have a pest, and in that case choose natural products such as milky spore and nematodes.
- Reduce the need for fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides by planting more ground covers and less grass. Install a simple raingarden on your own property.
- Planting drought-resistant native plants requires less fertilizer and less water, reducing the amount of polluted runoff.
- Pick up after your pet. Animal waste contains bacteria harmful to our health.
- Never discard oil, gas, antifreeze or other unwanted chemicals into the street, sewer or the storm drain. Bring them to the County or Town’s Hazardous Waste Collection facility instead.
- NEVER flush unused medication. Dispose of unwanted or unused medication at the Verona Police Department’s depository.
- Sweep up your driveway, curbside and sidewalk dirt and debris and discard in the trash or leaf bags.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle materials whenever possible to create less waste.
- Ask your local representatives to enact ordinances to regulate the outdoor application of fertilizer so as to reduce the overall amount of pollutants -such as phosphorus and nitrogen- entering waterways.
Wetlands can be found throughout Verona, on both public and private properties. Wetlands are defined as an area that is inundated or saturated by surface water or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions, commonly known as hydrophytic.
The NJDEP regulates wetlands depending upon the environmental value of they may offer. In most cases, a typical freshwater wetland would require a 50-foot transition area or buffer. But in cases where there is an endangered species, or Trout bearing waters, they may require a 150-foot buffer. This means that no disturbance by development may occur within that buffer without special permits from the DEP. The VEC is very cognizant of the existence of these wetlands as they run throughout the Peckman Trail, Grove Park and though properties near the Eagle Rock Reservation down through the Brookdale section of town eventuating into the Verona Lake. In 2012 Verona was said to have only 20 acres of wetlands.
Due to a number of factors including increased impervious surfaces, development, deforestation, erosion, and increased storm frequency, there has been a noticeable increase in our wetlands over the past 7 years.
NJDEP wetlands rules may be found here: N.J.A.C 7:7A Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules
Maximum Improved Lot Coverage
Verona’s Zoning code sets parameters for both impervious and improved lot coverage on all properties in the township. Total Improved Lot Coverage is the total percentage of property covered by structures, sidewalks, pavement, driveways decking, patios or pools. These standards are important to uphold to protect against flooding and water ponding that has become dangerously common over the past 10 years. Most residential properties may not exceed between 35-40% total improved lot coverage whereas in Commercial zones, coverage allowances are found to be between 80-100%. Restricting the impervious coverage on properties also helps to maintain Verona’s charm and character. Verona’s Zoning Ordinance includes many other regulations and may be found here: Verona Zoning Ordinance and Map, Chapter 150.
Verona’s Steep Slope Ordinance was finally adopted in April of 2016. This important ordinance, like all other environmentally critical laws, serves to protect lands, in this case, that are most vulnerable to erosion, excessive stormwater runoff and to maintain and protect the natural topography of steeply sloped lands. Most single family homes are exempt from this ordinance because of the nature of development on those properties and because of the strict coverage allowance on single family properties. However, new planned development and development on undeveloped tracts of land where slopes and contours are deemed steep have strict regulations regarding the percentage of property that may be developed. We applaud the Verona Planning Board for working with the VEC to draft this Ordinance, and the Town Council for passing it! The Code may be found here: Ordinance #3-16 An Ordinance to Regulate Steep Slopes in the Township of Verona, and here in our Zoning Code.
On October 21, 2019 Verona adopted a new tree ordinance that protects commercial and residential, developed and undeveloped lots throughout the Township. Verona’s flooding problem has been exacerbated by the unregulated removal of trees from hundreds of properties over the past few years. The Commission is supportive of this sensible, wide-reaching tree Ordinance that regulates the removal of trees on private properties: Tree Ordinance 2019-34, and here in our Code.
All trees on the public properties of the township are under the guardianship of the Verona Shade Tree Commission. You can find information on the Verona Shade Tree Commission here: https://www.veronanj.org/shadetree You may also request that a public tree be pruned or examined by filling out this form: https://www.veronanj.org/treemaintenance
Although it’s not a formal ordinance and isn’t one that applies to most development reviews, the Verona Town Council passed a resolution on November 23, 2021 that restricts idling by gasoline and diesel fuel vehicles. Much of the idling in Verona can be viewed outside of school buildings where parents await recess. Unfortunately, statistics have shown that up to 25% of school aged children have asthmatic conditions, lending to the number one cause of absenteeism. Exhaust from idling can cause asthma and other respiratory problems and allergies, especially in children who breathe at a faster rate than adults.
See the resolution here.