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State of New Jersey-Department of Environmental Protection-DEP Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Guidance
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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Exemptions & Grandfathering

The activities in (1) through (17) below are exempt from meeting Highlands regulatory standards as implemented by DEP. These exemptions do not alter or obviate the requirements of any other applicable State or local laws, rules, regulations, development regulations, or ordinances. These exemptions are found at Section 2.3 of the Highlands rule.

  1. The construction of a single-family dwelling, for an individual's own use or the use of an immediate family member, on a lot owned by the individual on August 10, 2004 or on a lot for which the individual has on or before May 17, 2004 entered into a binding contract of sale to purchase that lot;
  2. The construction of a single-family dwelling on a lot in existence on August 10, 2004, provided that the construction does not result in the ultimate disturbance of more than one acre of land or a cumulative increase in impervious surface by one-quarter acre or more;
  3. A major Highlands development that received on or before March 29, 2004:
    1. one of the following approvals pursuant to the "Municipal Land Use Law," :
      1. Preliminary or final site plan approval;
      2. Final municipal building or construction permit;
      3. Minor subdivision approval where no subsequent site plan approval is required; or
      4. Preliminary or Final subdivision approval where no subsequent site plan approval is required; and
    2. At least one of the following DEP permits, if applicable to the proposed major Highlands development:
      1. A permit or certification pursuant to the "Water Supply Management Act,";
      2. A water extension permit or other approval or authorization pursuant to the "Safe Drinking Water Act,"
      3. A certification or other approval or authorization issued pursuant to the "The Realty Improvement Sewerage and Facilities Act (1954),"
      4. A treatment works approval pursuant to the "Water Pollution Control Act,"); or
    3. One of the following DEP permits, if applicable to the proposed major Highlands development, and if the proposed major Highlands development does not require one of the permits listed above:
      1. A permit or other approval or authorization issued pursuant to the "Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act," ;
      2. A permit or other approval or authorization issued pursuant to the "Flood Hazard Area Control Act
    4. The exemption provided c. above applies only to the land area and the scope of the major Highlands development addressed by the qualifying approvals applicable to the project and described in a-c. above and shall expire:
      1. If any of those qualifying approvals expire;
      2. If construction beyond site preparation does not commence within three years after August 10, 2004; or
      3. If construction ceases for a cumulative total of one year after August 10, 2007
  4. Reconstruction of any building or structure for any reason within 125 percent of the footprint of the lawfully existing impervious surfaces on the site, provided that the reconstruction or redevelopement does not increase the lawfully existing impervious surface by one-quarter acre or more. This exemption shall not apply to the reconstruction of any agricultural or horticultural building or structure for a non-agricultural or non-horticultural use;
  5. Any improvement to a legally existing single-family dwelling in existence on August 10, 2004, including but not limited to an addition, garage, shed, driveway, porch, deck, patio, swimming pool, or septic system as long as the improvement maintains the use as a single-family dwelling as defined by code or ordinance in the municipality in which the dwelling is located and does not permit the use of the structure as a multiple unit dwelling;
  6. Any improvement, for non-residential purposes, to a place of worship owned by a nonprofit entity, society or association, or association organized primarily for religious purposes, or a public or private school, or a hospital, in existence August 10, 2004, including but not limited to new structures, an addition to an existing building or structure, a site improvement, or a sanitary facility;
  7. An activity conducted in accordance with an approved woodland management plan issued pursuant to the Farmland Assessment Act, N.J.S.A.54:4-23.3 or for public lands, the normal harvesting of forest products in accordance with a forest management plan approved by the State Forester;
  8. The construction or extension of trails with non-impervious surfaces (use definition of “impervious” in the act to establish the meaning of non-impervious) on publicly owned lands or on privately owned lands where a conservation or recreational use easement has been established and filed with the deed for the lots on which the easement exists;
  9. The routine maintenance and operations, rehabilitation, preservation, reconstruction, or repair of transportation or infrastructure systems by a State entity or local government unit, provided that the activity is consistent with the goals and purposes of the Highlands Act and does not result in the construction of any new through-capacity travel lanes;
  10. The construction of transportation safety projects and bicycle and pedestrian facilities by a State entity or local government unit, provided that the activity does not result in the construction of any new through-capacity travel lanes;
  11. The routine maintenance and operations, rehabilitation, preservation, reconstruction, repair, or upgrade of public utility lines, rights of way, or systems, by a public utility, provided that the activity is consistent with the goals and purposes of the Highlands Act;
  12. The reactivation of rail lines and rail beds existing on August 10, 2004;
  13. The construction of a public infrastructure project approved by public referendum prior to January 1, 2005 or a capital project approved by public referendum prior to January 1, 2005;
  14. The mining, quarrying, or production of ready mix concrete, bituminous concrete, or Class B recycling materials occurring or which are permitted to occur on any mine, mine site, or construction materials facility existing on June 7, 2004;
  15. The remediation of any contaminated site pursuant to N.J.S.A. 58:10B-1 et seq.;
  16. Any lands of a federal military installation existing on August 10, 2004 that lie within the Highlands Region; and
  17. A major Highlands development located within an area designated as Planning Area 1 (Metropolitan), or Planning Area 2 (Suburban), as designated pursuant to the State Planning Act, N.J.S.A. 52:18A-196 et seq. as of March 29, 2004, that on or before March 29, 2004 has been the subject of a settlement agreement and stipulation of dismissal issued by the Superior Court, or a builder's remedy issued by the Superior Court, to satisfy the constitutional requirement to provide for the fulfillment of the fair share obligation of the municipality in which the development is located. This exemption shall expire if construction beyond site preparation does not commence within three years after receiving all final approvals required pursuant to the "Municipal Land Use Law," N.J.S.A. 52:18A-196 et seq.