Chatham Committee Told Possible Green Village Farming Land Shows No Signs of Adding Pollution to Loantaka Brook Near Property
Friday, May 27, 2011 • 6:37am
CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NJ - A plot of land in Green Village that possibly could be used to farm vegetables for sale to area markets and restaurants poses no danger of pollution to Loantaka Brook, a trustee of the Great Swamp Watershed Association told the Chatham Township Committee on Thursday evening.
According to published reports, Thomas and Debra Bucuk purchased property at 461 Green Village Road last year and their son Michael wants to turn the property into an organic farm. They hope to sell their produce at the Chatham Farmer's Market.
Neighbors reportedly believe that the Bucuks have been operating a landscaping business from the property, which is currently zoned as a residential area.
At Thursday’s Township Committee meeting, Chatham Borough resident, Chuck Gullage, who is a trustee of the watershed association, said he had studied the Bucuk property and found no apparent violation of state requirements for a buffer between the property and adjacent Loantaka Brook.
Gullage, speaking as a private citizen and not representing the association at the meeting, said a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection 300-foot buffer required between wetlands and “C-1” bodies of water does not apply to the Loantaka Brook because that brook is not classified as C-1.
Township Committeeman Kevin Tubbs, however, disagreed with that assessment.
Gullage replied he would research the brook’s classification further.
He added, however, the Bucuk property meets the normal 50-foot wetlands buffer requirement and erosion and flooding already existed on the property.
Although Gullage said aerial photographs from 2007 and 2010 showed “furrows” on the property right up to the stream bed, which could indicate that fertilizer was allowed to run off the land, he saw no evidence agricultural activity had begun on the land.
The landowner, the trustee said, had begun cutting grass but had correctly planted a “vegetation barrier” separating the cut area from the brook.
He added the Bucuks told him they had a plowing and salting operation, but the storage for that operation was done on another site. Salting was not evident on the Bucuk property, he noted.
Aside from a few small pickup trucks and a plow dating from the 1940s, Gullage said he saw no agricultural equipment on the property.
Mayor Nicole Hagner replied a subcommittee of the governing body was exploring whether farming should be allowed in the township as a whole and was not restricting its focus to the Bucuk property.
Gullage replied he was not qualified to give an opinion about whether or not farming should be allowed in the township.
He said his expertise was in water pollution and he saw no signs of pollution or toxins entering Loantaka Brook from the Bucuk property.
Committeeman Bailey Brower, Jr. pointed out Gullage gave the Committee a different point of view from that of an attorney who previously had appeared before the governing body and had spoken against allowing farming.
On another environmental matter, the Committee shelved action on a revision of the township’s regulation of steep slope disturbance until it could clarify the language in the proposed ordinance.
While the proposal as currently written appears to allow disturbance up to a maximum of 1,000 square feet on all land with slopes more than 15%, it also appears to restrict disturbance of slopes over 25% to 500 square feet.
Committee members wanted to clarify whether that meant, if an applicant is proposing to disturb slopes of various heights, the applicant is restricted to a 500-square-foot disturbance only on that portion of the property where slopes exceed 25%.
Township Attorney Carl Woodward will rework the proposed ordinance prior to its introduction.
The Committee did introduce a measure changing lot-grading regulations to clarify how impervious coverage and stormwater runoff is managed to prevent negative impacts on neighboring properties.
Township Engineer John Ruschke said the revised ordinance “will help us to look more scientifically at how property owners manage stormwater and its impact on neighboring properties.”
He added the proposal also would provide owners with more guidance on how to more efficiently manage stormwater runoff.
Brower noted when he joined the governing body nine years ago many regulations regarding property development were “Draconian” and the township had gradually changed regulations to make them more friendly to property owners.
The public hearing and scheduled adoption of the ordinance are set for June 9.
Speaking about the completion of the Shunpike Field renovations, Ruschke said although the recent heavy rains had slowed progress on the project, the contractor had been able to resume work during this week’s warm weather and the project should be completed soon.
He added Public Service Electric & Gas Co. had installed the pole for the new lighting and a transformer should be installed next week. The asphalt path and brickwork on top of it should be installed within a few weeks, Ruschke noted.
The dedication of the field, originally scheduled for June 4, has been delayed until June 18 due to the inclement weather and a number of events scheduled in the township between the 4th and the 18th, Hagner said.
On another matter, the mayor issued a proclamation declaring May 22 until the end of June in honor of the “Parents Who Host Lose the Most” campaign.
The campaign is aimed at discouraging parents from serving alcohol in their homes to those under the legal drinking age of 21.
Although in favor of the concept, especially regarding curbing parties in homes where alcohol is served to minors when their parents are not home, Brower said the wording of the proclamation went too far because it would restrict parents from serving “even a sip of champagne” to their own children under 21.
The governing body also agreed to allow the Municipal Building to close at 1 pm on Fridays from the last day of school through the end of August. During that time, municipal employees will take a half hour instead of a full hour lunch from Monday through Thursday.
The Committee also agreed to renew its lease of facilities in the Municipal Building to the School District of the Chathams from 2011 through 2014 at a cost of $50,000 per year.