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If you are planning to build a home on an existing vacant lot in the New Jersey Pinelands, this handbook will help you understand how to complete an application with the Pinelands Commission. It will also explain how the application to the Pinelands Commission relates to any municipal or county approvals you may need to obtain. This handbook is a general guide to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) that will govern the development of the home you are proposing to build. This handbook is not intended for use if you are proposing residential subdivisions or nonresidential development. To assist you, a glossary of terms is attached as Appendix A. Should you have any questions after reading this handbook, please call or write the Pinelands Commission staff at:

NJ Pinelands Commission
P.O. Box 359
New Lisbon, New Jersey 08064
Phone (609) 894-7300
FAX (609) 894-7331

Contents
I. Do I Need to Apply to the Pinelands Commission?
II. How to Complete an Application with the Pinelands Commission
III. Application Requirements for a Home That:

A. Is to be Served by Public Sanitary Sewer and that Meets Zoning 
B. Is to be Served by an Onsite Septic System and that Meets Zoning 
C. Does not Meet Zoning

IV. Options for Lots That Do Not Meet Zoning and/or Environmental Standards of the CMP

Glossary - Appendix A
Municipalities with Local Review Officer Programs - Appendix B
Municipalities Participating in Permit Faxing Program - Appendix C
Municipal Telephone List - Appendix D

I. Do I Need to Apply to the Pinelands Commission?

You do not need to file an application with the Pinelands Commission if you are planning to . . .

  • improve or expand an existing home
  • reconstruct a home that was demolished or destroyed within the past five years
  • replace an existing onsite septic system
  • improve, expand, or construct a structure that is accessory to an existing home, such as a garage, swimming pool or tool shed.

If you are unsure if you must apply to the Pinelands Commission first please contact the zoning officer of the municipality in which your lot is located. If the zoning officer is unable to answer your questions, Please contact the Pinelands Commission.

II. How To Complete an Application with the Pinelands Commission

If you are building a home on a vacant lot or if you are reconstructing a home that was destroyed or demolished more than five years ago, you will need to complete an application with the Pinelands Commission. This must be done before you obtain any permits from any municipal, county or other state agency.

All the municipalities in the Pinelands, except for the Borough of South Toms River, have land use ordinances that include the rules contained in the Pinelands Plan.  The CMP and the Township ordinances...  

  • contain the Commission's application procedures
  • identify permited use and other zoning requirments in different areas of the Pinelands
  • sets forth the scientifically based environmental standards that all development in the Pinelands must meet

If you wish to build a home on a lot located in any municipality other than South Toms River Borough, please follow the directions described below in STEPS 2 through 5. If you wish to build a home on a lot in South Toms River Borough, please contact the Pinelands Commission for assistance on how to proceed.

STEP 1

Contact the zoning officer of the municipality in which the lot is located where you want to build a home.

There are four questions you should ask your zoning officer:

  1. In what zoning district is my lot located?
  2. Are homes permitted in this zoning district?
  3. What is the minimum area requirement lot for a new home in this zoning district?
  4. Does the municipality have a Local Review Officer (LRO) program that is approved by the Pinelands Commission (a list of the municipalities that currently have this program may be found in Appendix B)?

Please note: You may also want to ask the zoning officer about any municipal zoning requirements that the home may have to meet. Examples of such requirements are rear and side yard setback standards. You will not be asked to address these requirements as part of your application to the Pinelands Commission.

If the answer to question 4 above is "yes", please submit your application for development for a single family dwelling on existing lots of record to the Local Review Officer to confirm that single family dwellings are permitted in the zoning district in which your lot is located and to confirm that your lot is large enough to meet the minimum area required for a dwelling. If the lot is conforming, the LRO can issue a permit in lieu of having to appy directly to the Pinelands Commission and receiving a Certificate of Filing.

If the answer to question 4 above is "no," you confirm that single family dwellings are permitted in the zoning district and you confirm that your lot is large enough to meet the minimum area required for a dwelling, please proceed to STEP 2. If you discover that the lot on which you wish to construct a home does not meet the minimum area required for a dwelling, please proceed to SECTION IV - Options For Lots that Do Not Meet the minimum area required and/or the Environmental Standards of the Pinelands CMP.

STEP 2

Fill out a Pinelands Application Form, have it notarized, and submit it the Pinelands Commission.

To obtain an application form from the Commission, please call the Commission's office at (609) 894-7300. Application forms can also be obtained from the municipal zoning officer or construction code official. You can also print out the application form directly from our Application Page.

Please complete the application form, have it notarized and send it to the Pinelands Commission. Along with the application form, you may wish to send a photocopy of a tax map showing the lot on which you intend to construct a home. This may help prevent any confusion over the location of your lot. This can be obtained from the municipality. If you need any assistance in filling out the form, please contact our Applicant Services Representatives.

STEP 3

A member of the Pinelands Commission's staff will review your application.

We will review the information you provide on the application form and may visit your lot. This will help us to determine if there are any environmental conditions (such as the presence of wetlands) that might affect the development of your lot.

Within 30 days of the date we receive your application, we will contact you in writing. We will let you know what additional information if any is needed to determine if the home you plan to build will meet the standards of the CMP. This may include such items as a plot plan or a soil boring in the vicinity of a proposed onsite septic system. Please refer to SECTION III - Application Requirements, to find out more about the information that may be needed.

STEP 4

A Certificate of Filing will be issued by the Pinelands Commission staff.

With in 30 days after all the information is submitted that is needed to complete an application with the Pinelands Commission, we will issue a letter entitled "Certificate of Filing.  Please note that this letter is not an approval enabling you to begin building a home on your lot. Instead, this letter verifies that you have completed an application with the Pinelands Commission. The Certificate of Filing will also note that the municipality or another permitting agency (such as the county health department if an onsite septic system is proposed) can now take action on any permit application you submit to that particular agency. In addition, the Certificate of Filing will note if the proposed development is inconsistent with any of the standards found in the Pinelands Plan.

STEP 5

Obtain necessary approvals from other permitting agencies and submit them to the Pinelands Commission

When applying to a municipality, county or state agency for a permit to construct a home on your lot, provide the permitting agency with a copy of the Certificate of Filing received from the Pinelands Commission. 

If you receive a municipal or county approval, such as a county septic permit or municipal construction permit, it must be submitted to the Pinelands Commission. It is important to remember that the local approval does not take effect and no development may begin until the local approval has been reviewed by the Pinelands Commission and the Pinelands Commission has issued a letter advising that the approval may take effect.

STEP 6

The Pinelands Commission reviews municipal and county approvals.

If you receive a municipal construction permit from one the municipalities listed in Appendix C, please follow the directions described in Step 6A below. For all other permits, please refer to Step 6B below.

Step 6A.

If your lot is located in one of the municipalities listed in Appendix C, the municipal construction code official will notify the Commission directly when you apply for a construction permit. The Commission will then notify the construction code official directly, by fax, if the development is consistent with the CMP.

If it is determined that the development is consistent with the CMP, the construction code official will notify you when you receive the construction permit and then you may begin building your home. Provided you have all the necessary permits and approvals.

If we determine that the development is not consistent with the CMP, we will notify the construction code official that the construction permit should not be issued.

If we inform the construction code official that the construction permit should not be issued, we will also contact you in writing about the construction permit. We will advise you that a public hearing has been scheduled to give you an opportunity to demonstrate that the development is consistent with the CMP. If you wish to resolve the issues before the hearing, please send us a letter requesting that the hearing be postponed and we will reschedule it. If you resolve the issues before the next hearing date, the public hearing will be canceled.

If a hearing is necessary, the Pinelands Commission will either approve, approve with conditions or deny the home within 45 days of the date on which the hearing occurs. No development can begin unless you receive notice that the proposed development has been approved by the Pinelands Commission following the public hearing.

Step 6B.

If your lot is not located in one of the municipalities listed in Appendix C, please submit a copy of any county or municipal approval, such as a county septic system permit or a municipal construction permit along with any plans approved by the agencies, to the Pinelands Commission within 5 days of the date it is issued. Within 15 days of the date we receive the required notice of the approval and the plans approved by the agencies, we will advise you in writing if the approval is consistent with the CMP. If it is consistent, the Commission's letter will also advise you that the approval can take effect.

If we determine that the local approval is not consistent with the CMP, we will notify you in writing that a public hearing has been scheduled. The purpose of this hearing is to give you an opportunity to demonstrate that the development is consistent with the CMP. If you wish to resolve the issues before the hearing, please send us a letter requesting that the hearing be postponed and we will reschedule the hearing. If you resolve the issues before the next hearing date, the public hearing will be canceled.

If a hearing is necessary, the Pinelands Commission will either approve, approve with conditions or deny the local approval within 45 days of the date on which the hearing occurs. If a hearing is scheduled, the approval does not take effect. No development can begin until you receive notice that the proposed development has been approved by the Pinelands Commission following this public hearing.

III. Application Requirements

The Pinelands Commission staff will review your application to determine if a home is a permitted use on the lot, if your lot meets the minimum area required for a dwelling, and whether the lot meets the environmental standards found in the CMP. The information needed to complete an application for a home can vary. At times, the only information we need is the Pinelands Application form. At other times, we need a plan showing the proposed development and the distance it will maintain to any wetlands located on or within 300 feet of the lot.

What follows is a description of the most common types of applications we receive for homes on existing lots. A list of items needed to complete an application for each type of development is also included. There may be special circumstances relating to your lot which may mean you will need to submit more items than those listed. A complete list of the potential items needed to complete an application is contained in the CMP. Please keep in mind that unless your lot is located in South Toms River Borough, you should contact the municipality before you gather this information to get a general idea of whether or not the lot on which you want to build a home meets the minimum area required for a dwelling.

A. A home on a lot that meets minimum area required for a dwelling and that will be served by a public sanitary sewer system:

  1. A Pinelands Application Form
  2. Documentation demonstrating that public sanitary sewer is available to serve the lot on which the home is proposed. The municipality should be able to assist you with this.
  3. If there are wetlands on or within 300 feet of the lot, a plan showing all proposed development, the limits of any proposed clearing and the location of the wetlands. A 300 foot buffer to any wetlands is required unless it is shown that a smaller buffer will not have a significant adverse impact on the wetlands. The Commission staff can determine the minimum distance the house can be built from the wetlands without having an adverse impact on the wetlands by using the Buffer Delineation Model for New Jersey Pinelands Wetlands, dated 1985. This model takes into account the type and quality of the wetlands within 300 feet of the proposed home. If you wish, you may have a consultant evaluate your property using this model and submit it to the Pinelands Commission staff for review and confirmation.

    Please do not provide us with a plan showing that you are proposing to build your home less than 300 feet from wetlands until we confirm that the home, in the location you propose, will not have a significant adverse impact on the wetlands.

B. A home located on a lot that meets the minimum area required for a dwelling and that will be served by an onsite septic system:

  1. A Pinelands Application Form
  2. The results of a soil boring prepared by an engineer and taken at the location of the proposed onsite septic system disposal bed along with a plan showing the location, the elevation and the date of the soil log. The results must indicate the depth at which groundwater was encountered and they must include an estimate in feet and/or inches of the depth at which the seasonal high water table (SHWT) was encountered. (This is needed to determine if the seasonal high water table is at least 5 feet below the natural ground surface as is required by the CMP. This distance is needed to ensure that the onsite septic system will not impact groundwater quality in the Pinelands.)

    PLEASE TAKE NOTE:

 

  • One acre is the smallest size lot that can be developed when an onsite septic system is utilized, unless you receive a Waiver of Strict Compliance from the Pinelands Commission. (For more information about Waivers, please refer to SECTION IV - Options for Lots that Do Not meet the minimum area required for a dwelling and/or the Environmental Standards of the CMP). On lots that are between 1.0 and 3.2 acres and that meet the minimum area required for a dwelling, an alternate design septic system must be used. On lots of at least 3.2 acres that meet the minimum lot size and density standards, a standard septic system may be used.
  • You may be required to submit information to the county health department other than the soil boring results needed by the Pinelands Commission; for example, you may be asked to provide the results of percolation/permeability test to the county. We suggest that you contact the county health department to determine what will be needed, then you can decide whether it would be more cost effective to obtain all the information at once.
  • Please note that a septic system can't be located with in 300 feet of wetlands.

 

3.  If there are wetlands on or within 300 feet of the lot, a plan showing the wetlands, all proposed development including the onsite septic system and the proposed limits of clearing. A 300 foot buffer to any wetlands is required for the onsite septic system. A 300 foot buffer to the wetlands is also required for the home including all accessory structures, clearing and land disturbance unless it is shown that a smaller buffer will not have a significant adverse impact on the wetlands. The Commission staff can determine the minimum distance the home can be built from the wetlands without having an adverse impact on the wetlands by using the Buffer Delineation Model for New Jersey Pinelands Wetlands, dated 1985. This model takes into account the type and quality of the wetlands within 300 feet of the proposed home. If you wish, you may have a consultant evaluate your property using this model and submit it to us for review and confirmation. Please do not provide us with a plan showing that you are proposing to build your home less than 300 feet from wetlands until we confirm that the home, in the location you propose, will not have a significant adverse impact on the wetlands.

PLEASE NOTE: In some instances the home may be located less than 300 feet to the wetlands; however, the onsite septic system must be located at least 300 feet from the wetlands to prevent any impact upon the wetlands from the wastewater from the home. The only situation where this may differ is if a Waiver of Strict Compliance form the Commission's development standards is approved. A discussion about Waivers is found in SECTION IV - Options for Lots that Do No Meet the minimum area required for a dwelling and/or the Environmental Standards of the Pinelands Plan.

C. A home on a lot that does not meet the minimum required area for a dwelling:

If the lot on which you want to build a home meets environmental standards but does not meet minimum area required for a dwelling, you may still be able to build a home on the lot if you meet the qualifications for cultural housing or grandfathered lots. These provisions only apply if you are planning to build a home for yourself or a member of your immediate family on a lot that was owned by you or a member of your immediate family prior to 1979.

1.     Cultural Housing Provision

The cultural housing provision of the Pinelands Plan allows immediate family members to develop a home on a lot that is at least 3.2 acres and that has been owned since February 7, 1979, if you meet certain conditions. (If additional conditions are met, you may be able to develop on a one (1) acre lot.) To demonstrate that you qualify to build a home on your lot under this provision, please submit the following information:

a. A notarized affidavit stating the following:

i. the home you plan to build will be your principal place of residence; and
ii. you have not developed a home under the cultural housing provisions within the last five years; and
iii. that the lot on which you want to build a home has been in your continuous ownership, or in the continuous ownership of a member of your immediate family since February 7, 1979; and
iv. that you have resided in the Pinelands for at least 5 years and you or one or more members of your immediate family have resided in the Pinelands for a total of at least 20 different years.

 b. A copy of the deed indicating who owned the lot as of February 7, 1979. To qualify under the cultural housing provision, you must demonstrate that the property has been owned by you or a member of your immediate family since February 7, 1979.

The affidavit and deed will be needed to complete your application with the Pinelands Commission in addition to the information described in SECTION III - Application Requirements.

2.     Grandfather Provision

If your lot is at least one acre and it is located in any Pinelands municipality other than South Toms River Borough, but the lot does not meet the minimum area required for a dwelling, you may be able to build a home on it if you demonstrate that you meet the grandfather provision of the CMP.

If you wish to build a home under the grandfather provision on a lot not located in South Toms River Borough, please contact the municipal zoning officer to determine the requirements. In general, you will need to submit the following type of information to demonstrate that you do qualify:

a. A notarized affidavit stating that:

i. the proposed home will be your primary residence; and 
ii. the lot was not in common ownership with a lot immediately adjacent to it  from February 7, 1979 to the present date.

b. A copy of the deed for the lot indicating who owned the lot as of February 7, 1979. To qualify under the grandfather provisions, you must demonstrate that the property has been owned by you or a member of your immediate family since February 7, 1979.

The affidavit and deed will be needed to complete your application with the Pinelands Commission in addition to the information described in SECTION III - Application Requirements.

IV. Options for Lots That Do Not Meet the Lot Size and/or Environmental Standards of the CMP

A. File an Application for a Waiver of Strict Compliance from the standards of the CMP.
If you find that your lot does not meet the minimum area required for a dwelling and/or that it does not meet the environmental standards of the CMP, you can apply for a Waiver from these standards. Waiver applications for single family homes involve two tests: (1) whether an extraordinary hardship exists and (2) whether the development of a home on your lot would meet certain minimum environmental standards. The standards for a Waiver are contained in the CMP. If you would like to file an application for a Waiver, first please complete a Pinelands application form, have it notarized and return it to the Pinelands Commission. We will then review the application form and advise you within 30 days if a Waiver is possible and what information will be needed to complete an application for the Waiver.

B. The Pinelands Commission Limited Practical Use Acquisition Program.
If you do not meet the standards contained in the CMP and your application for a Waiver is denied by the Commission, you may apply to the Commission to see if your lot could be purchased by the State of New Jersey under the Commission's Limited Practical Use Acquisition Program. If your Waiver is denied by the Commission, we will send a questionnaire for you to complete. Your response to this will enable us to determine if you are eligible for this program. For additional information about this program, please call us or write to our office.

C. Pinelands Development Credit Program/Density Transfer Program.
Municipal land use ordinances (other than those for South Toms River Borough) sometimes contain provisions that enable individuals to develop homes on undersized lots that meet environmental standards. One provision allows you to construct a home in growth areas if you purchase Pinelands Development Credits. These are transferable development rights which, when purchased, result in the permanent protection of land in the more sensitive regions of the Pinelands.

Another program, which may be available, is the residential density transfer program. If this program is included in the municipality's zoning ordinance, you may be able to construct a home on an undersized lot of at least one acre in certain zoning districts if you acquire and/or deed restrict land which is not adjacent to your lot, to meet the minimum area required for a dwelling.

To find out if either of these programs exist in the municipality in which you wish to build a home, please contact the municipal zoning officer.

APPENDIX A
GLOSSARY

Affidavit: a written statement whose truthfulness is sworn to in the presence of an attorney or a notary public.

Immediate Family: those persons related by blood or legal relationship in the following manner: husbands and wives, great-grandparents, grandparents, great-grandchildren, grandchildren, parents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews, nieces and first cousins.

Land Use Ordinance: a county or municipal law that regulates or affects the use and the development of land.

Percolation Test: a test to measure the rate at which water flows out of a test hole excavated in the ground.

Plot Plan: a map showing the location of one or more of the following: a proposed home, driveway(s), septic system, lot boundaries, limits of disturbance/clearing, wetlands located within 300 feet of any proposed development and a line showing the required buffer to wetlands.

Seasonal High Water Table: the level below the natural surface of the ground to which water rises in the soil on a seasonal basis in most years.

Septic System: an underground system with a septic tank used for the decomposition of domestic waste. Onsite septic systems that are not intended to reduce the level of nitrate/nitrogen in the wastewater are generally known as "conventional" septic systems. Onsite septic systems that are intended to reduce the level of nitrate/nitrogen in the wastewater, such as RUCK septic systems or pressure dosed septic systems, are generally referred to as "alternative design" septic systems.

Soil Boring: a soil excavation made with the use of a soil auger.

Soil Log: a description of a vertical section of soil which includes the depth, thickness, color, texture, structure, content and consistency of each soil horizon (a layer of soil that differs from layers of soil above and below it) from the ground surface to a depth a ten (10) feet.

Zoning District: a specifically delineated area in a municipality within which uniform regulations govern permitted uses, lot sizes and the density of development.

APPENDIX B
MUNICIPALITIES WITH LOCAL
REVIEW OFFICER PROGRAMS

(As of June 2013)

Atlantic County Burlington County Camden County

Buena Borough
Estell Manor City
Hammonton Twp.
Weymouth

Pemberton Twp.
Southampton Twp.
Tabernacle Twp.
Washington Twp.
Waterford Twp.
Winslow Twp.
Cape May County Cumberland County Gloucester County
Dennis Twp.
Woodbine Boro.
Franklin Twp.
Ocean County
Barnegat Twp.
Jackson Twp.
Stafford Twp.

APPENDIX C
MUNICIPALITIES PARTICIPATING IN
PERMIT FAXING PROGRAM

ATLANTIC COUNTY BURLINGTON COUNTY CAMDEN COUNTY
Buena Borough
Buena Vista Township
Egg Harbor Township
Estell Manor City
Galloway Township
Hamilton Township
Hammonton Town
Mullica Township
Weymouth Township
Evesham Township
Pemberton Township
Shamong Township
Southampton Township
Tabernacle Township
Washington Township
Berlin Township
Chesilhurst Borough
Waterford Township
Winslow Township
CAPE MAY COUNTY CUMBERLAND COUNTY GLOUCESTER COUNTY
Dennis Township
Upper Township
Woodbine Borough
Maurice River Township Franklin Township
Monroe Township
OCEAN COUNTY
Barnegat Township
Jackson Township
Lacey Township
Manchester Township
Ocean Township
Stafford Township

APPENDIX D
MUNICIPAL TELEPHONE LIST

ATLANTIC COUNTY
Buena Borough (609) 697-9393
Buena Vista Township (856) 697-2100
Corbin City (609) 628-2673
Egg Harbor City (609) 965-0081
Egg Harbor Township (609) 926-4000
Estell Manor City (609) 476-2692
Folsom Borough (856) 561-3178
Galloway Township (609) 652-3700
Hamilton Township (609) 625-1511
Hammonton Town (609) 567-4300
Mullica Township (609) 561-0064
Port Republic City (609) 652-1501
Weymouth Township (609) 476-2633
BURLINGTON COUNTY
Bass River Township (609) 296-4270
Evesham Township (856) 983-2900
Medford Lakes Borough (609) 654-8898
Medford Township (609) 654-2608
New Hanover Township (609) 758-2172
North Hanover Township (609) 758-2522
Pemberton Township (609) 894-8201
Shamong Township (609) 268-8385
Southampton Township (609) 859-2736
Springfield Township (609) 723-2464
Tabernacle Township (609) 268-1220
Washington Township (609) 965-3242
Woodland Township (609) 726-1700
Wrightstown Borough (609) 723-4450
CAMDEN COUNTY
Berlin Borough (856) 767-7777
Berlin Township (856) 767-1854
Chesilhurst Borough (856) 767-4153
Waterford Township (856) 768-2300
Winslow Township (609) 567-0700
CAPE MAY COUNTY
Dennis Township (609) 861-9700
Upper Township (609) 628-2011 Ext.200
Woodbine Borough (609) 861-2153
CUMBERLAND COUNTY
Maurice River Township (856) 785-1120
Vineland City (856) 794-4000
GLOUCESTER COUNTY
Franklin Township (856) 694-1234
Monroe Township (856) 629-9251
OCEAN COUNTY
Barnegat Township (609) 698-0080
Beachwood Borough (732) 286-6000
Berkeley Township (732) 244-7400
Dover Township (732) 341-1000
Eagleswood Township (609) 296-3040
Jackson Township (732) 928-1200
Lacey Township (609) 693-1100
Lakehurst Borough (732) 657-4141
Little Egg Harbor Township (609) 296-7241
Manchester Township (732) 657-8121
Ocean Township (609) 693-3302
Plumsted Township (609) 758-2241
South Toms River Borough (732) 349-0403
Stafford Township (609) 597-1000
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Pinelands Commission
15 Springfield Road
New Lisbon, NJ 08064
609-894-7300