You may be wondering about the status of our proposed expanded parking project, which will address adding new parking and improving conditions along the driveway which deteriorate in bad weather. Creating and improving additional parking is a long and complex process requiring approval from several agencies. Here’s a timeline of what has happened to date and where we stand now.
September 2014: Building Craft (Farzad Shadzik’s company) and TRC Engineering work together to create an amended site plan to add a parking area on the front lawn as well as improve the parking area on the sides of the driveway, creating 64 parking spaces.
January 2015: A complete application to the Hopewell Township Planning Board is submitted. Plans have to be submitted one month in advance of a Planning Board meeting to get on the agenda.
February 2015: The plan is brought to the Hopewell Township Planning Board Meeting; they raise several concerns about the increase in the amount of impervious surface at UUCWC by adding parking, as this may impact storm-water runoff; and their requirements for appearance and minimizing impacts on neighbors. Farzad and the engineer address these issues with a revised plan.
May 2015: The amended plans, with landscaping to address the Planning Board’s concerns, are submitted to the Township. The Township Planning Board tentatively approves the plan; however, it is conditional on receiving approvals from the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission (D&RCC), Mercer County Planning Board, the Hopewell Township Board of Fire Commissioners, and the Mercer County Soil Conservation District.
Summer/Fall 2015: Farzad Shadzik sends our application to D&RCC; however, the parking expansion project goes on hold while investigations into the purchase of the neighboring property at 4 Old Washington Crossing Road are pursued, as that purchase would impact parking issues.
Fall/Winter 2015: The neighboring property is not purchased and our focus is returned to the parking project.
Spring 2016: Susan Irgang follows up with D&RCC on the application’s status; they say they never received it. In investigating reapplication, we learn that, due to the amount of surface area of the project, UUCWC could be subject to regulations concerning the percentage of impervious surface on our property. Discussions are held with D&RCC prior to resubmitting an application, as being subject to regulation by the Commission would mean more in-depth and expensive studies from hydrologists, engineers, wetlands agencies, etc.; D&RCC recommends a pre-application meeting to discuss this.
June 2016: Farzad and Susan meet with D&RCC agency director and their engineer and are told that gravel, while an acceptable material for the Hopewell Township Planning Board, is not considered permeable by their group. Use of gravel would therefore increase our percentage of impervious surface and make UUCWC subject to regulation by the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission. However, the director and engineer suggest that we consider using a permeable paving system, similar to that used in the current overflow parking at the back of our current lot. This product would not increase our percentage of impervious surface coverage, possibly exempting us from regulation. We submit our application indicating we will use this product, which may be more costly than gravel, but may be acceptable by the D&RCC.
July 2016: We receive a letter of exemption from D&RCC; that is, by using the permeable paving system, we are not adding to the amount of impervious surface on our property and are thus exempt from further regulation by the Commission. This is a big step forward, as very few applications make it past the D&RCC without regulation.
August 2016: We reach out to the Mercer County Planning Board, Mercer County Soil Conservation District and the Hopewell Township Board of Fire Commissioners to ask about their application process.
September 2016: The Mercer County Planning Board replies to our inquiry, advising that their application will require additional drainage reports, a current survey, and the amended plan showing the permeable pavers, as we are situated on a county road and next to Jacob’s Creek.
The Mercer County Soil Conservation District responds that they require a Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Permit prior to the start of construction. They also need to see plans from a licensed engineer which they will review to discuss the project further.
October 2016: Our engineer is contacted about these new requirements and will advise us on the additional needs and costs.
On the positive side, the Hopewell Township Board of Fire Commissioners has indicated that they may have no objection to our plan. We await formalization of this.
So our expansion project may be temporarily parked, but it is moving forward. We continue to wade through the requirements of various agencies and hope to get required materials and approvals as soon as possible. Meanwhile, as we head into winter and snowy then muddy areas along the driveway, we ask that you use caution in parking but know we are working our way through the processes needed to move this project to completion.