Mr. William Soler from 128 Walnut Street came before the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) meeting to have his bulk variance application heard. For 60 minutes, the MLUB listened to the applicant, asked questions, made suggestions, and decided on the matter.
Earlier in the summer, Mr. Soler engaged a contractor to replace a pre-existing brick patio with a stamped concrete patio. This work caused Mr. Soler’s property to exceed maximum impervious coverage allowed in Section 40-601 of the Borough Code Book. Impervious coverage is defined as a portion of a property lot that is covered by non-permeable surfaces, which would affect water runoff.
Mr. Soler stated that he asked his contractor to make sure that everything was in compliance with getting a permit. It was the failure to obtain a permit which led to a summons and the need to come before the board for a bulk use variance. He went on to explain that there has been a patio five to ten years prior to his purchase of the property in 2003.
“We were trying to do this in good faith, just general improvement of the property,” Mr. Soler stated during the application, “All we’re looking for from the board is to be able to maintain it.”
“You said you had pavers prior and you went up with stamped concrete. You know there’s a big difference between pavers and stamped concrete, right?” Vice-Chair Frank Gallichio asked the applicant. After explaining the difference Mr. Gallichio asked, “Did the contractor explain that to you?”
Mr. Soler responded, “We didn’t have explicit discussions about it.”
The board continued, asking questions about issues with water run off that would be caused with impervious coverage, or if there was any kind of pitch to the concrete, or if it was pitched back towards the garage on the property, or is there was any kind of drainage near the garage area.
Board attorney Michael Tripodi added to the discussion by reading the Engineering Review Summary prepared by Neglia Engineering, the borough engineer. The report stated that Neglia Engineering reviewed the documents, conducted a site visit, and determined that Mr. Soler’s impervious coverage was approximately 64%, which exceeds the maximum allowable of 50%. No actual coverage in feet was provided. The letter ended with the following statement, “The applicant shall provide testimony with respect to the improvements and what measures are proposed to address storm water runoff.”
The correspondence was dated July 26, 2011 but it was discovered that Mr. Soler never received the letter. Mr. Soler asked if he could be provided with square footage to determine how much he would have to remove, since only a percentage was offered by the Borough’s engineering firm.
MLUB members gave suggestions some of which were to cut the one-piece concrete slab into squares or to lessen the amount of the driveway area next to the garage in order to bring the coverage to 50% or less. The Board even suggested that Mr. Soler go back to his home, look at his property, and return in September to bring suggestions to address issues with coverage and possible water runoff.
At the conclusion of the application, Mariano Alemany was prepared to vote ‘no’ on the application since Mr. Soler did not provide information that was requested by the Borough Engineer. Mr. Soler reminded the Board that he never received or read the letter until that evening and he did not know he was going to be asked to address the concerns mentioned in the letter.
After some further discussion, the Board voted and approved the bulk variance application. Due to procedure and protocol, Mr. Soler would have to wait around 75 days before he could formally do any work on his property to address the coverage.
It would be 30 days to have the resolution memorialized at the next MLUB meeting. It would then be 45 days to allow people to come forward and object to the application. If Mr. Soler had his application denied, he would have been able to immediately work on his property since the MLUB suggested to have him return his property to 50% coverage, which would remove the need for a bulk use variance.
Mr. Soler asked how the delay in the finalization of his application would affect a court date which has to do with a summons he received for failing to file a permit. After the vote was taken, he was told that the Board thought there would be no problem with the court understanding that the application process is ongoing but in the works.