Verona is a valley between two hilltops and the storms that have hit us in recent years have sent cascades of water down into our valley, flooding homes and businesses, polluting the Peckman, overwhelming our storm drains and damaging our sewer plant. On Wednesday, February 17, the Town Council discussed a plan to limit the damage that stormwater has been doing in Verona.
The impetus for the discussion is a change to state stormwater rules that comes into effect on March 2. New Jersey municipalities, must now implement changes to their rules to reflect the state law, which will affect smaller developments than in the past and require property owners to handle the rain or snow that falls on their property right there and not dump it off on a sewer system. Municipalities can implement the state rules as is, or they can make them stricter. Verona’s ordinance, which will be introduced at the Monday, February 22 meeting, will be stricter, but it will likely not be difficult or costly for homeowners to implement when they remodel.
If approved, Verona’s rules will kick in when you add 400 square feet or more of impervious cover to your property, which is what would happen if you made a 20′ x 20′ addition to your home. Impervious cover is anything that does not allow water to filter into the ground, and if rain or snow can’t do that it could flood in your basement–or your neighbor’s.
If you expand, Verona would ask you to use what is called “green infrastructure” to keep the precipitation where it falls. The leading idea is a rain garden, an area slightly lower than the rest of your yard that is filled with plants that like lots of water, but you could also put in a dry well or cistern under the surface of your yard. (In the meeting video below, you will hear a discussion of “structural BMPs,” which are best management practices to keep stormwater from getting into a storm drain.)
“When you think about your projects, think about where the water is going to go,” says Sean DiBartolo, a member of the Verona Environmental Commission (VEC) who helped to draft the new rules over the past year. “You can work with [Verona engineering manager] Mike DeCarlo to come up with a plan.” DeCarlo told the Town Council at the meeting that there will be free seminars for contractors to get them up to speed on green infrastructure options and that the makers of structural systems often do installation plans for free.
While there is not a lot of developable open space left in Verona, the new ordinance would have separate rules for major developments, projects that disturb a half acre or more, or that add 5,000 square feet of impervious cover. The revised Verona ordinance would not likely be applicable to the work proposed for the Spectrum360 property at Bloomfield and Sunset avenues because it has been designated an area of redevelopment. The builder that will be doing the affordable housing development on the former Cameco factory site anticipated the new state law and included retention basins in its plans for the site.
VEC Chairperson Jessica Pearson, who worked with DiBartolo on the stormwater changes, says that they will be beneficial. “New stormwater rules are long overdue because the flood zone in Verona is spreading,” she said. “This will help to protect your property.”
You can watch the initial discussion of the stormwater revisions in the meeting below. UPDATE: The Council voted 5-0 in favor of the ordinance at its March 8, 2021 meeting. You can read the new ordinance here.