Officials from three adjoining Pike County townships- Palmyra, Blooming Grove and Lackawaxen- have been asked alerted about a quandary facing Blue Heron Woods LLC, a private residential community overlapping all three. Blue Heron Woods LLC is being told by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that the NPDES permit will have to be applied for all over again for the lots still undeveloped, or the townships will be restricted from issuing any more building permits.
"It's ridiculous what this poor guy is being put through," commented Palmyra Supervisor Eric Erharhdt at their Oct. 15th meeting. Solicitor Anthony Waldron agreed that the requirement placed by DEP "seems unreasonable"; he advised setting up meeting at the DEP regional office in Wilkes-Barre.
Ehrhardt referred to Blue Heron Woods LLC president, James V. Comes, who expressed his frustration in an October 8th letter to Bharat Patel, Environmental Group Manager for the Waterways & Wetlands Program at DEP.
DEP is calling for a re-design of the storm-water management plan for Comes' project, Blue Heron Woods,in only 120 days. He states in the letter that DEP is refusing any more time extensions.
Blue Heron Woods is a 600 acre, 148 lot subdivision. About 20 single-family homes have been built so far. All of the lots are sold except one. He said it took DEP nearly two years to initially review, three years to get approved and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineering costs to complete. The NPDES permit for the infrastructure and home sites was issued in 2007.
"There is no reason for me to spend any more money trying to reach a deadline on a re-submission that, due to time constraints, would be incomplete and ultimately get rejected by your agency," Comes wrote to DEP. "I've already spent in excess of $30,000 to get to this point, so why would I spend another penny on Blue Herons Woods if the existing permit will not get renewed?"
Despite how much it took to be approved in the first place, DEP now requires this re-design to take place within 120 days, Comes said. He noted that his engineering firm went out of business shortly after he received the letter of violation on June 21.
Comes has since picked Kiley Associates as his new engineering firm, but notes it takes considerable time for a newly contracted company to go through the voluminous files related to the project. An initial extension to the 60 day response window was granted. A meeting with DEP was finally set up for Sept. 26. Comes states that this meeting was vital since many of the items DEP is requiring were not solvable, he said. Comes notes that he does not own any of the properties; he cannot re-design lots or change or add restrictions to a property he does not own.
He notes the extensive delay by agencies the first time around when he was seeking the permit, which cost him a great deal financially.
Page 2 of 2 - The developer states in the letter to DEP, "Some of what you're looking for is tantamount to making water run up hill." He is concerned about possible new regulations or interpretations of existing regulations from DEP in the next five years for the residents of Blue Heron Woods.
He is asking for another time extension from DEP until the permit is renewed, or that a decision be made that nothing more can be done to achieve a renewal of the NPDES permit. If the latter occurs, he notes, the property owners will be told their land is useless after DEP tells the townships that they can no longer issue building permits for single-family homes.
Justin Hoffmann, engineer for Kiley Associates, sent a letter to the three townships on October 9th asking for comments and concerns so that he can organize a meeting between Blue Heron Woods LLC and the three affected townships.
Hoffmann states that DEP is requiring that the NPDES permit be renewed because there are remaining lots to be developed, and are considered by DEP as part of the "Common Plan of Development." Comes submitted a NPDES permit renewal application in October of 2012 and the DEP sent a technical review letter on June 21, 2013.
Although DEP approved the original design, Hoffmann notes, the DEP now says that the original design does not meet the intent of the regulations, therefore must be re-designed in order to achieve a NPDES permit renewal. DEP gave a deadline of October 21, 2013 for the permit renewal and indicated that if not met, the townships will be prohibited from issuing building, zoning or septic permits for the nearly 128 lots still sold but still undeveloped.