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Watchdogs of the Watershed 1/27/2013

The Watchdogs of the Watersheds weigh in on the furor over flooding on Fairfax Drive and in other parts of the township

     I have been reading the comments posted to the Patch article about the flooding along Fairfax Drive with interest, even posted a couple of comments myself, but feel the need to address some of the posts more in depth. Plus, when you have a blog, you get to put in your two cents worth on whatever you want, so here we go...
     After the 2011 election, I vowed to attend as many township meetings as I possibly could, to make sure that those elected would know that someone was paying attention and keeping track of what they were doing. An occasional meeting was missed here and there, but I managed to get to alot of them, and have something to say at every one I attend. One of the topics I have brought up on more than one occasion is flooding, and the township's stormwater management. I was somewhat taken aback by the hook line "One Cinnaminson woman took to the township committee meeting..." - like this was a new or unique event. (I don't mean to take anything away from Shannon! I'm thrilled that she was there, and is taking a pro-active position!) Also, another Fairfax Drive resident was there with her - it's not like she was facing the dragon alone in an unprecedented act of heroism. Shannon - you can count on me to be there with you every step of the way, and I will do anything and everything to help you.
     Before I go on to address some of the actual comments, I must once again remind people to please try to be civil to one another. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and to post it, but can't we do it without the nastiness and rudeness? And if you are going to be so hostile and offensive, at least have the courage to use your real name instead of hiding behind ridiculous aliases. You remind of elementary school bullies.
     It has been said that the homeowners are at fault for buying homes where they did. I must object: my house next to the Pompeston Creek was built in 1889, my family has been here for 6 generations. There was never any problem with flooding until the late 50s when the former farm land upstream was developed - including the Fountain Farms development, Rolling Greens, the industrial park and Walmart shopping center, the Mainline shopping center, the shopping center that is now home to the raceway, the new development on Parry Road, the construction at the Greenbriar property, as well as all the construction in Moorestown. The increase in flooding along the Pennsauken Creek has a similar history- the Shoppes at Cinnaminson are an obvious culprit, but the construction of Cinnamin Crossing, along with all of the development further upstream in Maple Shade and Moorestown, have all played a part in this nightmare. The people who bought property more recently than my family were acting on historical information (can't even really blame all of the realtors for non-disclosure) - in the past, the properties didn't flood - there wasn't documentation yet of the increasing occurrences of high water.
     Last year, I sent in OPRA requests for Cinnaminson's annual stormwater management reports for the past couple of years. These are required by the State of NJ's Stormwater Management Regulations. These are the laws that the township points to as the reason for the brush/leaf warnings and citations - the twp is only doing what the state says they have to do, so we musn't be upset with them. Does anyone remember the last time any politician - federal, state, local - ever stepped up and took responsibility for something that was handled badly or turned out to be a bad idea?
     People kept talking about how East Riverton is getting attention for their flood issues. First of all, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease - I live in East Riverton, and have been whining about the flooding for quite some time. Unfortunately, the mayor has been talking about the Belleview section of town, not the East Riverton where I live. I am attaching a copy of the USGS map from 1966/1967 which shows the two neighborhoods, along with a close-up with a couple of landmarks tagged. The Belleview flooding is coming from the unnamed stream that comes through the Taylor Wildlife Preserve, the Delaware River and from the dramatic increase in impervious ground cover due to the construction of Cinnaminson Harbor. (Do you think the people who live in Cinnaminson Harbor were told that they are living on "made land"? The whole property consists of settled dredge spoils from the deepening of the river years ago- along with all of the toxins and garbage scraped up from the bottom when they dredged.) There has never been any discussion of dealing with or even investigating the flooding along the Pompeston Creek. And why is that the part of town going to be dealt with? As they say in many situations, follow the money... The director of economic development and the mayor have said that with the Rt.130 redevelopment nearly complete, they are looking to obtain similar funding for the revitalization of the industrial zone at the northern end of the township - the former Hoeganaes site as well as the area surrounding Industrial Highway near the light rail tracks. It just makes sense that you won't attract new business and the accompanying tax dollars if the neighborhood has flooding issues. (And I'm sure that it is a complete and total coincidence that the mayor has a business located in the Belleview section that would benefit from the flood issues there being addressed.)
     Sadly, at this point, there really isn't a lot to be done for those of us who are treading water. If we were to point the blame where it belongs, we have to take a look at the history of the township's master plan. I am attaching copies of a couple of pages from "The Cinnaminson Waterfront Today and Yesterday" by Joseph H. Taylor, written in 1987, which show that we once had a township committee and a planning board that understood the need for open space and cared more about preserving the environment than about building as much as possible on every inch of land. I am making arrangements to look at the current master plan for the township this week - it will be interesting to see the difference between the 1983/1988 plans and the most recent. With any luck, I should be able to figure out just when exactly the attitude of our local government changed so drastically, and perhaps we'll discover just who sold out the residents along the Pennsauken and Pompeston Creeks.
     For anyone who may be interested, I can make copies of the Taylor document - just let me know if you want one. The Watchdogs will also be hosting a showing of "Glimpses of Cinnaminson, Palmyra and Riverton" - a compilation of a local doctor's home movies from the 1920s and 1930s. Anyone who has old photos or documents is encouraged to contact me - an evening of reminiscing could be fun, maybe even enlightening, for more recent residents.
     Membership in the Watchdogs is free to anyone who wants to join. Watch for a story from Catherine Laughlin about the group in the near future.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cindy Pierson January 27, 2013 at 08:53 PM
As I do so often, I urge everyone who has a stake in the issue of flooding, or just an opinion or question about this topic, or any other that affects the township, to come to the township committee meetings! If enough of us are there, our voices will be heard, and we can make a difference!
Anndee Byers January 28, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Thank you for sharing this information. The article points out many of the challenges that face a community that is growing and yet needs to seek a balance between the natural beauty of the creek and the building of commercial properties. Building construction is easy, as we've seen, replacing nature... a different story. Anndee Byers
Cindy Pierson January 28, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Searching news archives has unearthed some interesting info about the changes to the twp master plan over the years, and clearly shows the changes in the attitude of both the twp committee and the planning board. Still putting everything in chronological order, and comparing old statements with recent ones - will post after verifying & documenting everything. I'll have copies of the completed project available to anyone who wants one just in case there are any "technical glitches" when I try to post.
Committeeman Anthony Minniti January 28, 2013 at 08:15 PM
First let me say that I appreciate Cindy's interest in local government.I wish more residents shared her desire to be informed.That said, it's because she characterizes herself as "informed" that I find it necessary to comment.I will preface my comments by reminding readers that this blog is opinion, and as such, has no editorial review or fact checking.As Cindy has every right to express her opinion, no one should confuse her posts as being "informational".Space limitations prohibit me from correcting all the misleading claims written above, but there is one statement that I simply cannot "let go". As a member of Township Committee, I proposed & campaigned for Cinnaminson's first Open Space Tax. This initiative was overwhelmingly supported by residents & passed in 2004. Since passage, the Committees on which I've served have preserved the 100 acre Hunter Farm, the 20 acre Route 90 parcel (Winner Fields), and multiple smaller parcels that amount to over 12 acres. We continue to pursue opportunities to add to our inventory of protected open space.Claims that recent Township Committees are somehow environmentally "unfriendly" when compared to our predecessors are not only unfair, but completely inaccurate."Watchdogs" serve important roles in the political process and have a responsibility to ensure their facts are accurate, unlike "activists" who have their own agenda.The fact is no administration has been as proactive in preserving open space than those of the last 8 years.
Cindy Pierson January 28, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Thank you Tony- I am always appreciative of your comments and willingness to respond. Mr. Minniti is absolutely correct - my blog posts are my opinions, interpretations and personal view of the world around me. I urge everyone to use news articles, comments and blogs like mine as just a starting point - do your own research, find out as much information as you can on all sides of every issue, and base your opinion on the facts you have learned, not on the opinion of one person who happens to write a blog.
Committeeman Anthony Minniti January 28, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Never a problem Cindy, and I hope you are as appreciative my well documented committment to open space preservation. I would ask that in your investigation of the Planning Board and Township Committee actions regarding open space, that you pay particular attention to, and highlight for your readers the last Township Master Plan update. As a member of both the Planning Board Subcommittee and Township Committee at the time, I recommended the adoption of "Open Space and Recreation" elements. For the first time in the history of Cinnaminson, our Master Plan was formally amended to include open space preservation as well as recreation as official components of our Master Plan. I am proud to have played a leading role in that effort. Needless to say, if you have any questions about the town's efforts to balance development with preservation of open space, do not hestiate to contact me. As a member of the Environmental Committee (1994,95), Planning Board (1997-2010), and Township Committee (2002-present) I draw from a broad base of experience.
Phil January 28, 2013 at 09:27 PM
The one part I don't think residents relate to is how development in Moorestown and Maple Shade (and further up Pennsauken Creek which runs all the way to Voorhees) affect Cinnaminson. While everyone keeps pointing to the Shoppes, I'd argue that that area has the same surface area as the previous development so while it may appear to be a cause, I don't believe it's as major a contributing factor as some have suggested, but is a part of the issue. I'd argue the Centerton development has as much to do with the flooding as the Shoppes do. The headwaters of the creek are there, behind Martin's Liquors and I'd bet the holding ponds empty into it, through Strawbridge Lake and down the creek towards the Delaware and the homes on Fairfax.
CDB January 28, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Great job as usual Cindy. You've obviously done your homework and know a great deal more than most, including any committee person. I'd use my real name, but I don't want my business harassed or shut down!
Cindy Pierson January 29, 2013 at 03:16 AM
Thanks again, Tony - I actually just talked to Pat the other night about the master plan, and will be happy to highlight the sections you pointed out for those who read my blog (although that's only a couple of people besides you and me!) And thanks again for being willing to keep the avenues of communication open - it is appreciated!
Ross Chatham January 29, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Yet again, this is why we should just drain the creek. No creek, no problem.
Ric January 29, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Sorry, I would have to argue against you because the surface area has definitely changed. The section of the Shoppes that is closest to Cinnaminson Avenue was substantially elevated with the construction of the retaining wall – it raised a huge portion of the land. The land was then contoured to channel rain water downward towards the driveway which is linked to Cinnaminson Avenue. Then the rain is channeled directly onto Calhoun Avenue. If you are still unsure, take a look at the huge retaining wall – you can see it was recently added by the Shoppes by just a quick look.
Ruth Mays January 29, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Where would you drain the creek to? It drains now, right into the Delaware River, like it has for the past thousands of years. The problem is that land surrounding the creek used to be able to absorb rainwater when it was forest and farmland. Now that it is urban/suburban developed land with houses, other buildings, streets, sidewalks, driveways and the like, there is simply not enough unpaved area to absorb all of the rain that falls. That water must go somewhere; most of it goes right to the creeks and rivers, either directly or by way of storm sewers. This raises the water level in the creeks. Add to that the backflow from the Delaware River when the tide comes in, and then the picture is not so pretty. Take a drive over the Fork Landing bridge at high tide some time. You will be amazed how high the water level gets. On days with a full moon and a high tide, the barricades may be up because the water overflows the roadway. The use of semi-permeable pavement, addition of detention basins, and rain gardens would improve the situation, but not solve it completely. When the Walmart shopping center was under discussion, the Environmental commission suggested that semi-permeable pavement be required, but that was not done because the developer thought it would cost too much money. Yes, I attended those hearings,
Phil January 29, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Ric, we'll have to agree to disagree. I lived down the street from there, that whole place was pavement when it was the mini-mall, Caldor and Acme. Some of the run-off may have changed, but the surface area of pavement is no where near the level it was prior to it's developments, drainage may run differently, but it's still down through storm waters to the creek. That retaining wall has nothing to do with runoff, it was put in place because the people behind it claimed the land and refused to move or provide the easement required, so they built it.
Phil January 29, 2013 at 05:26 PM
I agree with Ruth. When I ride the RiverLine I'm always amazed at how high the water is adjacent to the Rt. 73 station with is further downstream from the flooding area (not by a lot, granted). I'm shocked it hasn't flooded there yet. I do know the other side of the tracks have a huge drainage ditch so that may help somewhat.
Cindy Pierson January 29, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Thank you Ruth! Your comment, along with the copy of p.13 from the Taylor report attached to this post, explains the idiocy of Ross's comment. It's nice to know that there are still people in town with common sense and an understanding of the world around them.
FbS January 29, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Thanks Cindy for your insight.. I was especially interested in your statement about the dredge material that makes up the 'new' shoreline where the harbor homes are now and sure enough using an historical mapping website you are correct. Some time around 1958 this area was made..
charlie mothershed January 30, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Ruth,I think Ross was just trying to inject a bit of levity into this issue,at least l hope so.The only party that would be so agianst the importance of the watershed would be someone who is vested in gains if it were to drain . Ross you don't stand to make money on destroying Gods work do you .
Skitch January 31, 2013 at 05:05 AM
Then please explain to me that when the township buys open space property with grants such as the Cinnaminson Home all one has to do is petition the state to have the property removed from the open space inventory so that building on the property can be accomplished. How is this environmentally friendly when it is well known that this property alone will affect so many residents and the community in a negative way. When the residents of the community very loudly made our position to the committee very clear about our major concerns with the flooding issues, the sewerage issues the committee politely listened but turned a deaf ear and went along with their original plan anyway because it benefited them but not the residents of the surrounding neighborhood that were already there. You ARE going to have problems with flooding and sewerage when this building goes up. Since I am on record many times with my current sewerage/flooding problems, you will be buying my house when the flooding and sewerage becomes an issue. You will not be able to tell me or the other residents that it's not your problem when it clearly will be. Just saying that i don't see this committee as very environmentally friendly particularly in my neighborhood. I don't see the open space rules as environmentally friendly when all one has to do is express an interest in building on that land and poof the land can be taken off the inventory if the price is right and exchanged for another piece of property.
Committeeman Anthony Minniti January 31, 2013 at 09:52 AM
"Skitch", I would be happy to discuss all these issues but will not do so on a blog. Please come to the next (or any) Township Committee meeting and during public comment, provide you name and address for the record, and I will go through each question you pose. Your questions and my responses will then become part of the public record. If you are unable to attend a meeting, feel free to contact me offline to discuss, however, the public will not have the benefit of our conversation. I look forward to hearing from you.
Skitch February 01, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Mr. Minnitti, been there and done that and it didn't make a bit of difference. Myself and all of my neighbors sat in on months and months worth of committee meetings, we all went on record with our concerns and it the end it meant nothing. Why waste my valuable time.
Bernadette Russell February 19, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Cindy..,,how can I too get involved with your environmental efforts? Thanks!

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