Township of Upper Gwynedd, PA
Montgomery County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Upper Gwynedd 3-24-2014 by Ord. No. 2014-02. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Flood damage control — See Ch. 103.
Operation of heavy equipment — See Ch. 113.
Stormwater management — See Chs. 161, 162, 163 and 164.
Streets and sidewalks — See Ch. 165.
Subdivision and land development — See Ch. 168.

§ 109-1 Title.

This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Upper Gwynedd Township Grading Ordinance."

§ 109-2 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide minimum standards to safeguard persons, to protect property and to promote the public welfare by regulating and controlling the design, construction, quality of materials, use, location and maintenance of grading, excavations and fills.

§ 109-3 Definitions.

Whenever used in this chapter, the following words shall have the meanings indicated:
BMP (BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICE)
Activities, facilities, measure or procedures used to manage stormwater impacts from land development, to protect and maintain water quality and groundwater recharge and to otherwise meet the purposes of this chapter, including, but not limited to, infiltration, filter strips, low-impact design, bioretention, wet ponds, permeable paving, grassed swales, forested buffers, sand filters, and detention basins.
BUILDING PERMIT
A permit issued by the Building Code Official pursuant to Upper Gwynedd Township regulations for the construction, erection or alteration of a structure or building.
EARTH DISTURBANCE
Construction or other human activity which disturbs and destabilizes the surface of the land, including, but not limited to, clearing and grubbing, grading, excavations, construction of embankments, land development, road maintenance and the moving, depositing, stockpiling or storing of soil, rock or earth materials.
EROSION AND SEDIMENT POLLUTION CONTROL (E&S PLAN)
A site-specific plan identifying the BMPs to minimize erosion and sedimentation, pursuant to 25 Pa. Code Chapter 102.
EXCAVATION
Any act by which earth, sand, gravel, rock or any other similar material is cut into, dug, quarried, uncovered, removed, displaced, relocated or bulldozed, and includes the conditions resulting therefrom.
FILL
Any act by which earth, sand, gravel, rock or any other material is deposited, placed, pushed, dumped, pulled, transported or moved to a new location, and includes the conditions resulting therefrom.
GRADE
The elevation of the existing ground surface at the location of any proposed excavation or fill.
GRADING
Excavation or fill, or any combination thereof, and includes the conditions resulting from any excavation or fill.
GRADING PERMIT
Any permit required under § 109-5 hereof.
PERSON
A natural person but shall also include a partnership, corporation or similar entity.
SITE
A lot, tract or parcel of land, or a series of lots, tracts or parcels of land joined together, where grading work is contiguous and performed at the same time.
TOWNSHIP
Upper Gwynedd Township as may be represented by building code officials or officers appointed by the Board of Commissioners.

§ 109-4 Scope; exceptions.

New grading, excavations and fills, or changes, additions, repairs or alterations made to existing excavations and fills, shall conform to the provisions of this chapter, except that this chapter shall not apply to:
A. 
Work in a public street or alley or in a Township park, playground or recreation area or on other public property.
B. 
The mining, quarrying and associated excavating, processing or stockpiling of rocks, sand, aggregate or clay unless such work affects the support of adjacent or contiguous property or structures as those activities may be authorized by Chapter 195, Zoning.
C. 
The operation of a sanitary landfill or dump operated by the Township.
D. 
Use of land for gardening for home consumption.
E. 
Agriculture, when operated in accordance with a conservation plan, nutrient management plan, or erosion and sedimentation control plan approved by the Montgomery County Conservation District, including activities such as growing crops, rotating crops, tilling of soil, and grazing animals.
F. 
Forest management operations following the Department of Environmental Protection's management practices contained in its publication "Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Guidelines for Forestry" and operating under an E&S plan approved by the Montgomery County Conservation District, which have a zoning permit approval by Upper Gwynedd Township.
G. 
Any emergency activity immediately necessary for the protection of life, property or natural resources.
H. 
Repair of an on-lot sewage system.

§ 109-5 Permits required.

The following activities require a grading permit:
A. 
Modifying, disturbing, blocking, diverting or otherwise adversely affecting the natural flow of surface water within an ephemeral, intermittent or perennial stream or in a manner which impacts an adjoining parcel/property.
B. 
Construction, erection or installation of any drainage dam or obstruction affecting the drainage of any parcel/property.
C. 
Earth disturbance in excess of 500 square feet, cumulatively in one year; a year being 12 consecutive months from the date of the first earth disturbance or application for a grading permit.
D. 
A fill which exceeds 10 cubic yards of material.
E. 
Construction and/or installation of driveways and swimming pools.

§ 109-6 Application for permit.

A. 
Every applicant for a grading permit shall file a written application therefor with the Township Engineer, to be filed at the Township Administration Building with the Township Building Code Official or such person that may be designated to receive the application. Such application shall:
(1) 
Describe the land on which the proposed work is to be done, by lot, block, tract or street address or similar description, which will readily identify and definitely locate the proposed work.
(2) 
Be accompanied by a site plan which includes all of the following information located within 50 feet of the limit of disturbance:
(a) 
Lot lines, monuments/pins/markers and setback lines.
(b) 
Existing and proposed contours; existing vegetation; soil types; wetlands; watercourses; and any other natural features which may be affected by the proposed application.
(c) 
First-floor, garage and ancillary building elevations.
(d) 
Existing and proposed building/structure locations, building/structure horizontal dimensions, wells, wastewater treatment systems, sanitary laterals, water supply pipes, storm sewers, inlets, manholes, basement drains, sump pump drains, utility boxes, walls, fences, berms, underground utilities, and all other man-made structures/features and inverts of any stormwater facilities.
(e) 
Ground elevations at each corner of each building and at all door entrances.
(f) 
All proposed changes to the site, including but not limited to cuts, fills, structures, paving, utilities and vegetation and topsoil proposed to be stripped.
(g) 
Existing and proposed driveway openings and slopes, driveway turnarounds and parking areas, depressed curb length and driveway configurations from garage or parking area to the street.
(h) 
Existing and proposed sidewalk and path locations.
(i) 
Easements, covenants, equitable servitudes and deed restrictions.
(j) 
Existing and proposed impervious coverage.
(k) 
Dimensioned ties from two building corners to a monumented property corner.
(l) 
Bench mark for vertical datum.
(m) 
If applicable, reference to PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit.
(n) 
Erosion and sedimentation control measures, high points, drainage arrows, drainage swales, and the limits of disturbance.
(o) 
Seal, signature, name and address of responsible engineer or surveyor.
(p) 
Name and address of permittee and property owner.
(q) 
Tax Map parcel number and acreage.
(r) 
Address of the site.
(s) 
Subdivision name (if applicable).
(t) 
North arrow.
(u) 
Location map showing relationship of the site to adjoining properties. Scale of the location map shall be one inch equals 800 feet.
(v) 
Date of plan preparation; revision dates, along with a description of the revisions.
(3) 
Stormwater management plan, where applicable, pursuant to the Township Stormwater Management Ordinance and the Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.[1] Where an activity proposes more than 1,000 square feet of new impervious cover as part of the grading permit application, then a stormwater management plan shall be provided that complies with Chapter 162, Stormwater Management.
[Amended 2-22-2016 by Ord. No. 2016-03]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Chs. 161, 162, 163 and 164 for the watershed-specific stormwater management ordinances; see Ch. 168, Subdivision and Land Development.
(4) 
State the estimated dates for the starting and completion of the grading work.
(5) 
State the purpose for which the grading application is filed.
B. 
The Township may waive the requirement for any or all plans and specifications listed above if it finds that the information on the application is sufficient to show that the work will conform to the provisions of this chapter.
C. 
Before the Township grading permit can be issued, all other applicable federal, state, county and local permits must be obtained. For example, this may include but is not limited to: DEP/county required NPDES permits, Montgomery County Conservation District approvals, PADEP Chapter 105 permits (waterway encroachment), etc.

§ 109-7 Permit fees.

Before issuing a grading permit, the Township shall collect a permit fee in accordance with a schedule of fees as adopted and revised from time to time by resolution of the Board of Commissioners and on file in the office of the Township Manager.

§ 109-8 Inspection fees.

The owner shall pay the actual cost of any material tests and reimburse the Township for necessary inspection at the current rate for each hour or portion thereof that a Township inspector is engaged on the work.

§ 109-9 Expiration of permit.

Every grading permit shall expire and become null and void if the work authorized by such permit has not been commenced within six months or is not completed within one year from the date of issue, provided that the Township may, if the permit holder presents satisfactory evidence that unusual difficulties have prevented work from being started or completed within the specified time limit, grant a reasonable extension of time; and provided, further, that the application for the extension of time is made before the date of expiration of the permit.

§ 109-10 Denial of permit; appeal.

A. 
Where the work as proposed by the applicant is likely to endanger any property or any street or alley, the Township shall deny the grading permit. In determining whether the proposed work is likely to endanger property or streets or alleys or create hazardous conditions, the Township shall give due consideration to possible saturation by rains, earth movements, runoff of surface waters and subsurface conditions such as the stratification and faulting of rock and the nature and type of the soil or rock.
B. 
The Board of Commissioners shall consider promptly appeals from the provisions of this chapter or from the determinations of the Township Engineer, and the Board shall make determinations of alternate methods, standards or materials when, in its opinion, strict compliance with the provisions of this chapter is unnecessary. Any applicant or permit holder shall have the right to appeal to any court of competent jurisdiction from any decision or determination of the Board of Commissioners.

§ 109-11 Inspections.

A. 
The Township Engineer shall, when requested, make the inspections hereinafter required and shall either approve that portion of the work which has been completed or notify the permit holder wherein the same fails to comply with the provisions of this chapter. Where it is found by inspection that the soil or other conditions are not as stated or shown in the application, the Township Engineer may refuse to approve further work until approval is obtained for a revised grading plan conforming to existing conditions.
B. 
Plans for grading work, bearing the stamp of approval of the Township Engineer, shall be maintained at the site during the progress of the grading work and until the work has been approved.
C. 
The permit holder shall notify the Township Engineer in order to obtain inspections in accordance with the following schedule and at least 24 hours before the inspection is to be made.
(1) 
Initial inspection. When work on the excavation or fill is to be commenced.
(2) 
Rough grading. When all rough grading has been completed.
(3) 
Drainage facilities. When drainage facilities are to be installed and before such facilities are backfilled.
(4) 
Special structures. When excavations are completed for retaining or crib walls and when reinforcing steel is in place and before concrete is poured.
(5) 
Final inspection. When all work, including the installation of all drainage and other structures, has been completed.
D. 
If at any stage of the work the Township Engineer shall determine by inspection that the nature of the formation is such that further work as authorized by an existing permit is likely to endanger property or streets or alleys or create hazardous conditions, the Township Engineer may require, as a condition to allowing work to be done, that such reasonable safety precautions be taken as the Township Engineer considers advisable to avoid such likelihood of danger. Safety precautions may include, but shall not be limited to, specifying a flatter exposed slope, construction of additional drainage facilities, berms, terracing, compaction or cribbing.

§ 109-12 Standards for compaction of fills. [1]

All fills shall be compacted to provide stability of material and to prevent undesirable settlement. The fill shall be spread in a series of layers, each not exceeding 12 inches in thickness, and shall be compacted by a sheep's-foot roller or other approved method after each layer is spread. The Township Engineer may require tests or other information if in his opinion the conditions or materials are such that additional information is necessary.
[1]
Editor's Note: Former § 109-12, Standards for excavations, was repealed 2-22-2016 by Ord. No. 2016-03. This ordinance also provided for the redesignation of former §§ 109-14 through 109-20 as §§ 109-12 through 109-18, respectively.

§ 109-13 Drainage. [1]

A. 
A statement, signed and sealed by a registered professional land surveyor, or engineer, licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, shall be submitted, indicating that, to the best of his/her knowledge and belief, the proposed grading activities shall not significantly increase stormwater runoff to and/or otherwise adversely impact downstream properties except as may be part of an approved stormwater runoff collection and management plan.
B. 
Stormwater shall not pond except where proposed in accordance with a stormwater management plan for the site (detention basins, etc.).
C. 
In no case shall grading be completed in such a manner as to divert or channel water onto an adjacent property unless it is part of a stormwater management plan and an easement is obtained from the adjacent property owner.
[1]
Editor's Note: Former § 109-13, Standards for fills, was repealed 2-22-2016 by Ord. No. 2016-03. This ordinance also provided for the redesignation of former §§ 109-14 through 109-20 as §§ 109-12 through 109-18, respectively.

§ 109-14 Maintenance.

The owner of any property on which an excavation or fill has been made shall maintain in good condition and repair all retaining walls, cribbing, drainage structures, fences and other protective devices.

§ 109-15 General requirements.

A. 
The top or bottom edge of slopes shall be at least five feet from property or right-of-way lines of streets in order to permit the normal rounding of the edge without encroaching on the abutting property.
B. 
The owner of a property shall be responsible to protect and clean up lower properties of silt and debris washing from his property as a result of the grading of his property.
C. 
In order to prevent the denuding of the landscape, wherever practicable large trees and other natural features constituting important physical, aesthetic and economic assets to existing or impending suburban development shall be preserved.
D. 
An erosion and sedimentation control plan in conformance with the regulations of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection must also be prepared and implemented. A Department of Environmental Protection permit may also be required.
E. 
Before granting final occupancy permits for buildings, building lots shall be finish graded and stabilized with permanent ground cover. A temporary occupancy permit may be issued by the Township if it is not possible to establish lawns due to the season of the year. Prior to issuance of the temporary occupancy permit, the Township may require extra mulching, installation of silt barriers, and/or construction of temporary sedimentation basins to control excess runoff, in addition to escrow to secure establishment of ground cover.
F. 
No excavation or fill shall be made with a slope steeper than three horizontal to one vertical except under the following conditions:
(1) 
The material is sufficiently stable to sustain a steeper slope. A sealed, written statement to that effect from an engineer licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania shall be submitted to the Township. The statement shall affirm that the site has been inspected and the deviation from the slope restriction shall not result in injury to persons or damage to property. A detail of the proposed excavation including a cross section and center-line profile of any swale (along with proposed grade, seeding, erosion protection, etc.) shall be submitted with the grading permit application.
(2) 
A retaining wall is designed and constructed in accordance with acceptable engineering practice to support the slope of the excavation or fill. Design plans and calculations bearing the signature and seal of the responsible licensed professional engineer or architect shall be submitted for Township review and approval. A building permit is required for any retaining wall in excess of four feet in height.
G. 
First-floor certifications. Construction of any structure requiring a grading plan under this chapter shall not continue past the foundation stage until the owner/builder has submitted certification that the first-floor and garage-floor elevations of the proposed structure conform to the plans submitted with the grading permit application. The certification shall be submitted to the Township Engineer and shall be signed and sealed by the responsible registered professional land surveyor, landscape architect, or engineer, licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

§ 109-16 Issuance of grading certificate; revocation.

A. 
If upon final inspection of an excavation or fill it is found that the work authorized by the grading permit has been satisfactorily completed in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and any other requirements imposed, a grading certificate covering such work and stating that the work is approved shall be issued to the permit holder by the Township.
B. 
The Township shall have the power to revoke any grading certificate whenever it finds that the work covered by the certificate has been materially extended or altered without a permit to do so or that any retaining walls, cribbing, drainage structures, fence or other protective devices shown on the approved plans and specifications submitted with the application for a permit have not been maintained in good order and repair.
C. 
Before such revocation, the Township shall first give written notice to the permit holder and to the owner of the property involved, specifying the defective condition and stating that, unless such defective condition is remedied satisfactorily, the grading certificate may be revoked. If the defective condition is remedied, the certificate shall not be revoked.

§ 109-17 Violations and penalties.

A. 
No person shall construct, enlarge, alter, repair or maintain any grading, excavation or fill or cause the same to be done contrary to or in violation of any provision of this chapter.
B. 
When written notice of a violation of any of the provisions of this chapter has been served by the Township on any person, such violation shall be discontinued immediately.
C. 
Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be liable, on conviction thereof, to a penalty not exceeding $600 and costs of prosecution for each and every offense or, upon default in payment of the fine and costs, to imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 30 days, and whenever such person shall have been notified by the Township by service of summons in a prosecution or in any other way that he is committing such violation of this chapter, each day that he shall continue such violation after such notification shall constitute a separate offense, punishable by a like fine or penalty. Such fines or penalties shall be collected as like fines or penalties are now by law collected.

§ 109-18 Additional remedies.

In case any work is performed by any person in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, the Township, in addition to other remedies, may institute in the name of the Township any appropriate legal action or proceeding to prevent such unlawful work and to restrain or abate such violation.