With increasing demand, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission raising fees

Citing an increased demand in development, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said it is raising fees for the first time in six years. 

Starting March 1 fees for filing Subdivision and Land Development and Stormwater Management plan applications will be increasing.  

The new fee schedule is:  

  • $200 — Lot line adjustment
  • $265 — Residential development, plus $20 for each lot above six.
  • $415 — Non-Residential, plus $15 for every 1,000 square feet above 5,000.
  • $415 — Non-Residential without a building, plus $20 for each acre above three.
  • $1,175 — Stormwater Reviews for projects with more than 10,000 square feet of impervious coverage, plus $45 per each disturbed acre between two acres and 40 acres.
  • $4,000 – Escrow fee required for stormwater reviews of projects with more than 10,000 square feet of impervious coverage and more than 40 acres of disturbed land.

All fees were determined through an analysis of the actual time needed to perform the reviews. 

The commission said the increased fees come at a time when development across the region has reached what it described as a fever pace, with the frequency and complexity of plans increasing.  

LVPC Community and Environmental planners and engineers perform reviews for land development and stormwater management plans designed to determine whether the plans meet local planning and zoning regulation and follow the policies laid out in FutureLV: The Regional Plan.  

The reviews are advisory in nature, leaving the municipality the project is located in with the power to accept, reject or request improvements to a project.  

The commission said most plans are filed by developers advancing multimillion-dollar projects, but they can be as small as a two-unit subdivision.  

The LVPC reviewed 547 land development or lot line adjustment plans and 223 stormwater management plans in 2022 – the most since 2008.   


Runoff fees posing design, fiscal challenges

Is a stormwater fee in your municipal forecast?

Some municipalities have yet to adopted stormwater fees, which help pay for infrastructure that limits storm run-off. But others, including Allentown and Easton, already have.

Property owners can reduce fees by reducing the amount of impervious surface on a property, or by implementing techniques to help reduce runoff, which can send pollutants into creeks and streams.

“We look at existing soils and infiltration,” to determine the best system to use on a site, said Estelle Eberhardt, a professional engineer and principal of Irick Eberhardt & Mientus Inc., which is based in Upper Hanover Township, Montgomery County. She handles the firm’s stormwater management planning.

Depending on the site, the system could include detention and retention basins.

Detention basins or “dry ponds” typically don’t have water in them at all times. They help protect against flooding, Eberhardt said.

Retention basins or “wet ponds” typically have water in them at all times. They may be planted with wetland vegetation to filter and slow down the water absorption process.

“Plants help to uptake the water” and they help to reduce water flows downstream, Eberhardt said.
They’re not the only options.

“Green infrastructure” including rain gardens, infiltrating trenches, green roofs, rain barrels and porous pavements are other elements to help reduce storm water runoff, according to a report by PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based environmental group.

The goal overall is to reduce the extent of impervious surfaces, such as sidewalks, driveways, roads, parking lots or roofs.

Stormwater fees are typically based on the amount of impervious surface on a property.

In Allentown, for example, storm water fees apply to property owners with impervious surfaces equal to or greater than 250 square feet, said Angela DiBuo, the city’s MS4 coordinator. MS4 is shorthand for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System program.

DiBuo said the fee is important to meet state and federal mandates and to pay for administrative and capital investments to repair or replace old infrastructure like piping and storm sewers.

For some larger commercial property owners, the fees could become onerous, said Michael Gibson, business development manager at Ondra-Huyett Associates Inc., a construction management firm in Upper Macungie Township.

Gibson said another problem is that current fee structures do not take into account the amount of water actually discharging from a property.

“The big concern is there is no technology to measure how much runs off a property,” he said.

Some municipalities have offered grant-based relief, aimed at reducing upgrade costs for property owners trying to reduce stormwater runoff. And other may allow property owners to generate credits offsetting up to 50 percent of the fee.

“Municipal credits are specific to each municipality, and … while tax credits help, they don’t cancel out the fee,” he said.

Creating regional authorities could help reduce fees, Gibson said.

But, he added, no single uniform municipal storm water management code exists to create a standardized fee schedule.

“Everyone can require something different,” Gibson said.