CRANBURY: New buffer set to help town manage flooding and water pollution

By Jennifer Kohlhepp, Managing Editor
CRANBURY — The township has established a uniform riparian buffer of at least 150 feet along both sides of all surface water bodies to prevent new disturbance for projects and activities.
The Township Committee unanimously voted to pass the ordinance establishing the new riparian zone standards at its June 22 meeting.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the township’s former regulations required 50-foot buffers along both sides of any surface water body except Category One (C-1) waters, for which the minimum buffer was 300 feet, and any water with trout, threatened or endangered species habitat, or acid-producing solids, for which the buffer was 150 feet.
The buffers along the C-1 waters and the waters with trout, threatened or endangered species habitat, or acid-producing solids will remain the same.
Resident Art Hasselbach, who said three-quarters of an acre of his property would be affected by the ordinance, said, “ I don’t see why we have to go further than what the DEP recommends.”
Mr. Hasselbach also alleged such an ordinance would “take Cranbury out of the picture for major developers.”The recommendation to set the uniform 150-foot buffer for all other bodies of water came from the township’s Environmental Commission and Land Development Ordinance Subcommittee, both of which “believe that strong riparian buffers serve many important goals and should therefore be established alongside all surface water bodies, not just C-1 waters, trout production or maintenance waters, or waters flowing through acid-producing soils or through habitat for threatened or endangered species,” according to the ordinance.
Environmental Commissioner Paul Mullen said he shares Mr. Hasselbach’s concerns.
“I don’t want the DEP to stifle development in Cranbury either,” he said, adding that this is nothing new and that the township has had a riparian buffer since 2006.
“What we’re proposing is the weakest riparian ordinance you could adopt that’s compliant with the DEP and we’re keeping Cranbury in control,” Mr. Mullen said. “We don’t want the DEP telling us what Cranbury can be. All we’re doing here is making sure Cranbury has the final say over our streams and water quality.”
The township has not only provided for the relaxation of the buffers under certain conditions by authorizing the Planning Board and Zoning Board to grant variances from the applicable riparian zone requirements it has also provided a lengthy list of permit-by-rule projects and activities that will not require a variance. The permit-by-rule projects and activities include general construction and maintenance activities such as putting up a fence, building a deck and adding a swimming pool; roadway and parking area activities such as re-paving or putting up a guardrail; storage activities including incidental storage associated with homes and businesses as well as operating solid waste facilities; and agricultural activities such as commencing new farming or gardening activities and soil conservation.
There are also permit-by-rule activities that require 14-day notice to the township. These include reconstructing a lawfully existing structure, elevating a building above the flood hazard area, constructing an addition less than 300 square feet outside of a floodway, using heavy machinery to remove an obstruction and constructing a boat ramp. For the full list, see
Mayor James Taylor said there are a lot of construction exemptions.
Committeeman Glenn Johnson said he was initially very resistant to the buffer.
“Having a permit-by rule list of that size of things to do within the 150 feet makes it much less onerous,” he said.
Committeewoman Susan Goetz noted there are about 50 permit-by-rule projects and activities and said the ordinance would help Cranbury manage flooding and water pollution. 