Based upon good, albeit unconfirmed, information, we understand that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) has drafted and is floating possible new regulations that would prohibit all property in the State Development and Redevelopment Plan (“State Plan”) located in Planning Areas 3, 4 and 5 from connecting to sanitary sewer systems, even if the property is located in a sewer service area and sewer lines were already constructed, in the ground and available for connection. This means that any development in those areas would be forced to rely upon septic systems, draining wastewater and sewerage from toilets, showers and sinks, for instance, into the soils utilizing a ground (soils) based or alternative filtration system. Indeed, with the possibility of limited or no grandfathering, approved developments could be at risk. The proposal would likely affect thousands of properties around the state. One stark example is that under the currently approved State Plan property owners with projects in several counties would almost all lose the right to connect to existing sanitary sewer systems. The number of properties that would lose the right to connect to existing sanitary sewer facilities will only increase under the State Plan currently pending review by the State Planning Commission.
Public sanitary sewer systems discharge to sewerage treatment plants as opposed to the ground. The to be proposed regulatory change would not only impact groundwater, but where sewerage treatment facilities have been built and sized anticipating additional development and connections, residents would be forced to absorb substantial additional costs arising from the elimination of intended users for these systems. These regulations would limit development in many areas, possibly even where such development was intended as part of “smart growth” that the State Plan and NJDEP have touted, but would also have negative environmental impacts. While it must be noted that the regulations have not been released by the NJDEP or seen by this author, even the limited information available suggests that such a proposal would have various adverse impacts, intended and unintended. Indeed, anyone owning or under a contract to purchase property in Planning Areas 3, 4 or 5 and located in a sewer service area, would be wise to consider the impacts of the regulations on their ability to develop and use their real estate and the likely downzoning that will result in the event such regulations are adopted by the NJDEP.
Anyone having questions about the new regulations and whether their property is located in Planning Areas 3, 4 or 5 as well as a sewer service area should contact the Real Estate or Environmental Group at Stark & Stark at (609) 895-7250.