Township of Warminster, PA
Bucks County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Ord. 689, 9/10/2009]
The purpose of this Part 21 is to insure that environmentally sensitive features are protected and that adequate open space to serve the residents of Warminster Township is provided.
[Ord. 689, 9/10/2009]
As used in this Part 21, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
FLOODPLAINS
Any areas of Warminster Township, classified as special flood hazard areas (SFHAs) in the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and accompanying Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) dated March 16, 2015, and issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the most recent revision thereof, including all digital data developed as part of the FIS and areas abutting streams and watercourses where the base flood elevation has not been delineated by an FIS but is inundated by the base flood.
[Amended by Ord. 725, 7/23/2015]
FOREST
Areas, groves or stands of mature or largely mature trees (i.e., greater than six inches in caliper) covering an area greater than 1/4 acre; or groves of mature trees (greater than 12 inches in caliper) consisting of more than 10 trees.
LAKES and PONDS
Natural or artificial bodies of water which retain water year round. Artificial ponds may be created by dams or may result from excavation. The shoreline of such water bodies shall be measured from the maximum condition rather than the permanent pool if there is any difference.
STEEP SLOPES
Areas where the average slope exceeds 8%.
WETLANDS
Areas that are inundated or saturated by surface water or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that, under normal circumstances, do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions, including swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.
[Ord. 689, 9/10/2009]
1. 
Minimum required open space.
A. 
The amount of land to be provided for open space purposes shall be supplied by residential land developers for all single-family residential developments in excess of the 10 homes and multifamily residential developments of twins, apartments, townhouses, etc., as follows. Any uses listed in Part 16 that are required to provide open space shall set aside open space in accordance with that part. If more than one requirement exists for open space, the standard requiring the higher level of open space protection shall be followed. In addition, these ratios are minimums. If, in order to meet the environmental protection standards of § 27-2103, a larger area of land is required for open space, then the larger area shall be set aside as open space.
Dwelling Units Per Gross Acre
Total Gross Area to be Set Aside as Open Space
(percent)
Less than 1
0%
1 to 1.99
10%
2 to 2.99
20%
3 to 4.99
30%
5 or more
40%
B. 
However, in no event shall the open space provided be less than one acre.
2. 
Open space purposes and uses.
A. 
"Open space land" means land that will be used for any of the following purposes. All plans shall designate the use of open space, the type of maintenance to be provided and a planting plan.
(1) 
To conserve natural or scenic resources, including but not limited to streams, wetlands, floodplains, forests. Areas designated as open space to preserve natural resources as required by this chapter shall remain undisturbed and in a natural state.
(2) 
To augment recreation or public open space opportunities. An area designated for open field play or fields for active recreation may be designated where the land does not contain natural resource restrictions and where such use is recommended by the Township Park and Recreation Board and approved by the Board of Supervisors and where the size, shape, topography, and soils make it suitable and usable for recreational use or lands established as a common green which shall be accessible to the public and central to the proposed development.
(a) 
The site or sites should be easily and safely accessible for all areas of the development to be served, have good ingress and egress and have access to a public road; however, no public road shall traverse the site or sites.
(b) 
The site or sites should have suitable topography and soil conditions for use and development as a recreation and open space area.
(c) 
The size, shape and location of the site or sites should be suitable for development as a particular type of park.
(d) 
The site or sites should be free of fuel, power and other transmission lines, whether underground or overhead.
(e) 
The site or sites should, to the greatest extent practical, be easily accessible to essential utilities, water, sewerage and powers.
(f) 
The site or sites shall have usable a maximum slope of 8%.
(g) 
The site or sites should be compatible with the objectives, guidelines and recommendations as set forth in the Warminster Comprehensive Recreation and Park Study, and the developer shall design and develop these areas in accordance with the standards and criteria established by the Comprehensive Recreation and Park Study.
(3) 
To preserve sites of historic, geologic, or botanic interest.
(4) 
To enhance the value of existing parks, forests, wildlife preserves, nature preserves, or other public open spaces by preserving land abutting such existing parks or open spaces serving these purposes listed in this subsection.
B. 
Minimum-width buffer yards do not count as open space.
C. 
Required open space shall not include any area required by this chapter for minimum yards, setbacks, special setbacks, or building separations.
D. 
Open space whose purpose or resulting effect is to enhance the private yards of individual lots shall not be considered to meet the requirements for open space set forth in this chapter and shall not be counted in the calculation of minimum required open space. Narrow or irregular pieces of land which serve no public open space function or which are remnants leftover after the lots, streets, and parking areas have been laid out shall not be considered to meet the requirements for open space set forth in this chapter and shall not be counted in the calculation of minimum required open space.
3. 
Open space shall include the areas required for environmental protection, as required by § 27-2103.
4. 
Administration.
A. 
The developer may offer for dedication the land to be retained as open space to Warminster Township upon the completion of the necessary and agreed-upon changes, modifications, or improvements to the land needed to make it usable for park and recreation purposes. When the Board of Supervisors deems it to be in the public interest to accept dedicated land, such acceptance shall be by means of a signed resolution to which a property description of the dedicated recreation area shall be attached. All changes and agreements should eventually be listed directly on the signed drawing linens.
B. 
In the event that the land is not dedicated to the Township, a plan for the administration and maintenance of all such open space shall be presented to the Township Supervisors as part of the overall development plan. Such plan shall take one or more of the following forms:
(1) 
The owner or developer of the development containing the open space shall post an escrow bond or cash escrow with the Township to insure the administration and maintenance of the open space. The interest which accrues to the bond shall be used by the Township for the maintenance of the open space.
(2) 
A homeowners' association may maintain and administer common open space, but are required to post an escrow bond or cash escrow with the Township to insure such maintenance. The association may not dissolve itself or dispose of the common open space without first offering to dedicate the same to the Township or to an organization specifically conceived and established to own and maintain the open space per the original organization's commitment.
C. 
If the homeowners' association desires to dissolve and offers the land and equipment to Warminster Township, the Parks and Recreation Board shall review the land condition and maintenance costs and provide budgetary inputs to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors shall then determine whether they wish the land to be dedicated to the Township or whether the homeowners' association is free to dispose of the land. The Board of Supervisors shall require that the land be used for open space or recreational purposes, and such land shall not become a further extension of the original building development or any subsequent development.
[Ord. 689, 9/10/2009]
The developer shall determine what environmental or natural features are present on the lot and shall meet the following standards of environmental protection. For any lot proposed for development to which the provisions of Chapter 22, Subdivision and Land Development, do not apply, the environmental standards of this section shall apply. Site alterations, including regrading the existing topography, filling lakes, ponds, marshes or floodplains, clearing vegetation or altering watercourses prior to the submission of plans for development, shall be a violation of this chapter. Where alterations occur, restoration of the lot to its original condition shall be required. The provisions of this section shall apply to all zoning districts, including nonresidential districts. For any lot proposed for development subject to Chapter 22, Subdivision and Land Development, such lot shall not be subject to the provisions of this section but rather shall meet the environmental standards set forth in Chapter 22, Subdivision and Land Development.
A. 
Floodplains. All such lands shall remain as permanent open space, except that roads may cross the floodplain where design approval is obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
B. 
Steep slopes. In areas of steep slopes, i.e., those above 8%, the following standards shall apply:
(1) 
Eight percent to 15%. No more than 40% of such areas shall be developed and/or regraded or stripped of vegetation.
(2) 
Fifteen percent to 25%. No more than 30% of such areas shall be developed and/or regraded or stripped of vegetation.
(3) 
Twenty-five percent or more. No more than 15% of such areas shall be developed and/or regraded or stripped of vegetation.
C. 
Forest. No more than 30% of such forests may be cleared or developed. The remaining 70% shall be maintained as permanent open space.
D. 
Lakes, ponds, wetlands or watercourses. These areas shall be left as permanent open space. No development, filling, piping or diverting shall be permitted except for required roads.
E. 
Riparian buffer. No land disturbance shall be permitted within any riparian buffer except as permitted below. The measurement of the riparian buffer shall extend a minimum of 100 feet from each defined edge of an identified watercourse or surface water body at bankfull flow or level or shall equal the extent of the one-hundred-year floodplain, whichever is greater. The buffer area will consist of two distinct protection zones.
(1) 
Zone 1. This buffer area will begin at the edge of the identified waterway (which includes wetlands and intermittent watercourses) and occupy a margin of land with a minimum width of 50 feet, measured horizontally on a line perpendicular to the edge of water at bankfull flow.
(a) 
Open space uses that are primarily passive in nature may be permitted in Zone 1, including:
1) 
Open space uses such as wildlife sanctuaries, nature preserves, forest preserves, fishing areas, passive areas for public or private parklands, and reforestation.
2) 
Customary agricultural practices in accordance with a soil conservation plan approved by the Bucks County Conservation District and a nutrient management plan in accordance with state requirements, if applicable.
3) 
Regulated activities permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Township for stream or wetland crossing or other encroachment (i.e., farm vehicle and livestock, recreational trails, roads, sewer or waterlines, and utility transmission lines), provided that any disturbance is offset by riparian corridor improvements as approved by the Township.
4) 
Vegetation management in accordance with a stream bank stabilization plan or an approved landscape or open space management plan.
(b) 
Runoff or wastewater to be buffered or filtered by Zone 1 will be limited to sheet flow or subsurface flow only. Concentrated flows must be converted to sheet flow or subsurface flows prior to entering Zone 1.
(2) 
Zone 2. This buffer zone will begin at the outer edge of Zone 1 and occupy a minimum width of 50 feet in addition to Zone 1. However, where the width of the one-hundred-year floodplain extends greater than 100 feet from the waterway, Zone 1 shall remain a minimum of 50 feet and Zone 2 shall extend from the outer edge of Zone 1 to the outer edge of the one-hundred-year floodplain. Uses permitted in this buffer area include open space uses that are primarily passive in nature, including:
(a) 
Open space uses such as wildlife sanctuaries, nature preserves, forest preserves, passive areas for public or private parklands, recreational trails and reforestation.
(b) 
Customary agricultural practices in accordance with a soil conservation plan approved by the Bucks County Conservation District.
(c) 
Regulated activities permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Township for stream or wetland crossing or other encroachment (i.e., farm vehicle and livestock, recreational trails, roads, sewer or waterlines, and utility transmission lines), provided that any disturbance is offset by riparian corridor improvements as approved by the Township.
(d) 
Recreational activities or uses not involving impervious surfaces such as ball fields or golf courses.
(e) 
Naturalized stormwater management facilities, provided the entire facility is located a minimum of 50 feet from the defined edge of the identified watercourse and situated outside the one-hundred-year floodplain.
(3) 
Prohibited uses. Any use or activity not authorized within Subsections A or B above shall be prohibited within the riparian buffer. The following activities and facilities are specifically prohibited:
(a) 
Clear-cutting of trees and other vegetation.
(b) 
Selective cutting of trees and/or the clearing of other vegetation, except where such clearing is necessary to prepare land for a use permitted under Subsections A or B above or where removal is necessary as a means to eliminate dead, diseased or hazardous trees. Removal is subject to revegetation by native plants that are most suited to the riparian corridor.
(c) 
Storage of any hazardous or noxious materials.
(d) 
Roads or driveways, except as permitted as corridor crossings by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Township.
(e) 
Parking lots.
(f) 
Subsurface sewage disposal areas.
(4) 
Revegetation of riparian area. In cases where a major subdivision or land development is proposed, replanting of the riparian corridor shall be required where there is little or no existing streamside vegetation. Native vegetation approved by the Township must be used in replanting efforts. Three layers of vegetation are required when replanting the riparian corridor. These layers include herbaceous plants that serve as ground cover, understory shrubs, and trees that form an overhead canopy. The revegetation plan shall be prepared by a qualified professional such as a landscape architect or engineer and shall comply with the following minimum requirements, unless modified by the Board of Supervisors upon recommendation of the Planning Commission:
(a) 
Ground cover. Ground cover consisting of a native seed mix extending a minimum of 25 feet in width from the edge of the stream bank must be provided along the portion(s) of the stream corridor where little or no riparian vegetation exists. Appropriate ground cover includes native herbs and forbs, exclusive of noxious weeds as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This twenty-five-foot-wide planted area shall be designated on the plan as a "no mow zone" and shall be left as natural cover except in accordance with the maintenance instructions stated on the plan.
(b) 
Trees and shrubs. These planting layers include trees that form an overhead canopy and understory shrubs. Overstory trees are deciduous or evergreen trees that include oak, hickory, maple gum, beech, sycamore, hemlock, pine and fir. Evergreen and deciduous shrubs should consist of elderberry, viburnum, azalea, rhododendron, holly, laurel and alders. These plants shall be planted in an informal manner, clustered within Zone 1 of the riparian buffer as indicated in this Subsection E(4). These plants shall be provided at a rate of at least one overstory tree and three shrubs for every 20 linear feet of waterway.
[Amended by Ord. 737, 1/19/2017]
(c) 
Exceptions. These planting requirements shall not apply to existing farm fields located within the riparian buffer if farming operations are to be continued and the required nutrient management plan is met.
[Ord. 689, 9/10/2009]
1. 
Areas with environmental restrictions due to slopes, woodlands, wetlands, floodplains, streams, watercourses, and riparian buffer areas shall be left undisturbed to the extent specified herein and not occupied by structures, driveways, parking areas, or other improvements. No portion of the building envelope or yard areas in which parking or accessory structures are permitted shall be occupied by environmental resources as defined above.
2. 
Areas outside of the building envelope of the lot for single-family detached dwellings only (the area of the lot excluding all required yard areas, setbacks, and easements) may contain environmental resources as defined herein, provided that those areas so affected must be identified on the recorded plans for the subdivision or land development or on the building permit application and shall be subject to a deed restriction to prevent any disturbance or development of these areas.
[Ord. 689, 9/10/2009]
1. 
Where the Board of Supervisors agrees with the developer that, because of the size, shape, location, access, topography or other physical features of the land, it is impractical to set aside land for recreational and/or open space area as required by this chapter, the Supervisors shall require a payment of a fee in lieu of the provision of such land, which shall be payable to the Township prior to approval of each final section of the overall plan by the Board of Supervisors.
2. 
The amount of the fee shall be substantially equal to the value of the land that would have been set aside and shall be paid to the Township prior to the approval of the final plot. The land shall be valued in its unimproved state. In the event that the Township and the developer are unable to agree on the value, the value will be determined by arbitration before three disinterested persons, one thereof to be appointed by the Township, one by the developer, and the third by the two appointed as aforesaid, and the award of such three persons, or any two of them, shall be final and conclusive.
3. 
All monies paid to the Township pursuant to this chapter shall be kept in a capital reserve fund. Monies in such fund shall be used only for the acquisition of recreation and open space land or capital improvements for open space and park and recreation purposes within the Township.