Myths and Facts
Myth: The rules don’t allow me to plant
Fact : The DEP Highlands rules only
require a permit for a “Major Highlands Development”.
A flower garden or vegetable garden would not be considered
a “Major Highlands Development” and therefore
would not require a permit.
“Major Highlands Development” does not
include agricultural or horticultural development or
agricultural or horticultural use.
Myth: The rules don’t allow me to cut
firewood without a Highlands permit.
Fact : The DEP Highlands rules only
require a permit for activities that meet the definition
of “Major Highlands Development”. Selective
tree cutting or removal of dead trees would not meet
this definition and therefore does not require a permit.
Myth: The rules don’t allow me to put
an addition on my existing home.
Fact : The Highlands Act and implementing
rules exempt any improvement to a legally existing single-family
dwelling in existence on August 10, 2004. This includes
additions, garages, sheds, driveways, porches, decks,
patios, swimming pools, or septic systems, as long as
the improvement maintains the use as a single-family
dwelling and does not permit use of the structure as
a multiple unit dwelling.
Myth: There is no money to support land acquisition
for open space and farmland preservation in the Highlands.
Fact : While preservation funding
is limited, substantial resources have been dedicated
to funding land acquisition in the Highlands. Since the
passage of the Highlands Act, almost $160 million in
State funds have been set aside to state, local, and
nonprofit open space acquisition projects in the Highlands.
These funds will be supplemented by new appropriations
of State funds for Highlands preservation in 2006 and
subsequent years. The Federal government, counties, municipalities,
and conservation nonprofits represent important sources
of additional Highlands acquisition funds.
In addition, the State Agriculture Development Committee
(SADC) continues to accept and process applications for
farmland preservation in the Highlands Region through
all five of its acquisition programs. Also, there is
an additional $30 million in SADC funding that has been
dedicated to the preservation of farms specifically in
Myth: If my project is exempt, DEP requires
me to obtain an exemption letter.
Fact : An exemption letter (a.k.a.
Highlands Applicability Determination) is not required
by the DEP unless an application for a permit unrelated
to the Highlands legislation (ex. Freshwater Wetlands,
Stream Encroachment, or Water Supply permit) is being
submitted to the DEP for activities located within the
Preservation Area. This is required so that the DEP can
determine which rules ( Highlands or the others listed
above) to apply in reviewing the permit application.
However, even in the case noted above, an exemption
letter is not required for:
- Improvements (ex. Driveway, garage, shed, patio,
deck, septic system or swimming pool) to an existing
single family dwelling in existence on August 10, 2004,
provided that the lot upon which the home is situated
has not been further subdivided;
- Any activity that is part of an agricultural or
horticultural development or agricultural or horticultural
- Any activity conducted by a landowner in accordance
with an approved woodland management plan issued pursuant
to the Farmland Assessment Act, N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.3;
- The normal harvesting of forest products on public
land in accordance with a forest management plan approved
by the State Forester.
If your project meets one of the project types listed
above or found at subchapter 2.4(b) of the rules, even
if you need another DEP permit, an exemption letter is
not required by the DEP.
Myth: The DEP can come to my property at any
time to inspect it.
Fact : The DEP has authority to access
a property anywhere in the State if:
- There is a pending permit application or there is
a valid permit for development on the site;
- There are regulated activities taking place, whether
or not a permit has been issued; or
- There is an actual or suspected source of pollution.
Myth: The Highlands rules will apply in the
Fact : The DEP Highlands rules do not
apply to the Planning area, they only apply to the Preservation
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