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Division of Land Use Regulation
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Before you Buy, Before you Build
(Determining if your Property is Regulated by the Division of Land Use Regulation)


Before you get to purchasing a parcel or parcels and/or doing something on property you already own, you should first determine if any part of the "site" is regulated by this Division under one of the applicable DEP Land Use Statutes and Rules. To figure this out, you need to know where the site is, and what special environmental areas, or "Special Areas" (SA), are within the site and possibly, in the area surrounding it. The Department has a mapping tool, GEOWEB, which can help you locate the property. It can also help you figure out if the site you are interested in, or own, is located entirely or in part, within a Special Area subject to our rules.

How to Determine if your Site is Regulated

Clicking on the GEOWEB link will take you to the GIS section where you can access the program. Be advised that with any mapping system, whether it is paper maps or Geographic Information System (GIS) based maps, the information you see is only as good as the data and surveys upon which the map is based. In other words, the maps may not be accurate and in general can only give you a broad idea as to what SA's may impact your site. It is however, very useful in determining if your site is within any of the geographic regions such as Highlands and Pinelands which have special rules governing activities in SA's.

In order to truly find out, in a definitive way, what the Division's jurisdiction is on any site, the Department must visit a site, possibly take samples, and submit a report on their findings. Any person or entity with rights to a parcel or parcels making up a site, can apply to the Division to have this determination made. At the present time, there is no single application for a comprehensive site review for all possible regulated Special Areas. You can however, apply separately for a determination based on the Special Area type you are interested in. They are as follows:

Freshwater Wetlands

CattailsA determination as to whether or not there are freshwater wetlands or freshwater wetlands transition areas on a site is made though a "Letter of Interpretation" (LOI). A LOI does not grant approval to conduct any regulated activities, the sole function of a LOI is to provide or confirm information about the presence or absence, boundaries, and/or resource value classification of freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters. Detailed information on the types of LOI's available can be found in the Freshwater Wetlands section of this website.

Riparian Zones and Flood Hazard Areas

RiparianUnder the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules, regulated areas include both the flood hazard area and the riparian zone.

A flood plain is an area adjacent to a watercourse that will flood during heavy rain events. The flood plain regulated by the Department is known as the flood hazard area, and, in most cases, the limits of the flood hazard area are derived from the 100-year storm plus a safety factor. In many instances, the limits of the flood hazard area may be determined from a Department delineation promulgated on or after January 24, 2013. In cases where the Department delineation has been promulgated prior to January 24, 2013, an applicant may utilize a Department delineation or the most recently released advisory, proposed, or effective FEMA mapping for the municipality, whichever identifies a higher flood elevation. In fluvial (non-tidal) flood hazard area, the applicant must compare the flood elevation in the Department delineation to the flood elevation in the applicable FEMA mapping, plus an additional foot. If the Department flood elevation is higher than the FEMA elevation plus one foot, then the Department’s flood elevation will be used. The flood hazard area and flood hazard design flood elevation may alternatively be calculated by a professional engineer who has a valid license to practice in New Jersey. Whether the flood hazard area is known from available mapping or calculated by a professional, the Department will certify the extent of the flood hazard area via a flood hazard area verification. See N.J.A.C. 7:13-3.1 for more information on determining the flood hazard area.

The riparian zone is the land both within and adjacent to a watercourse. It may extend 50 feet, 150 feet, or 300 feet landward from the top of bank of a watercourse. The extent depends on the environmental sensitivity of the watercourse and its surrounding areas. In addition to approving the extent of the flood hazard area as described above, the flood hazard area verification may also include approval of the limits of the riparian zone.  For information on determining the riparian zone, see N.J.A.C. 7:13-4.1.

The flood hazard area verification does not approve of any construction or alterations in topography or land cover on a site. Instead, it is a document that contains the Department’s approval of the flood hazard area design flood elevation on a site. It may also include the approval of the limits of the riparian zone. See General Provisions of a Verification at N.J.A.C. 7:13-5.1 for more information.

The Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules also include applicability determinations at N.J.A.C. 7:13-2.5, which are used to determine what permits (if any) are required for a particular project. Applicability determinations do not verify the limits of any regulated areas or authorize any construction.

Please refer to the Flood Hazard Area section of this website for more information.

Coastal Special Areas

HouseSpecial areas are areas that are either so naturally valuable, important for human use, hazardous, sensitive to impact, or particular in their planning requirements, as to merit focused attention and special management rules. A site may contain a variety of regulated special areas or none at all. If a site contains a special area, an applicant must demonstrate that the proposed development meets the requirements for construction within that special area. In certain circumstances, development of a site immediately adjacent to an off-site special area, may require a demonstration of compliance with that special area rule.

The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb. Requirements for activities within special areas can be found in Subchapter 9 of the Coastal Zone Management Rules N.J.A.C. 7:7.

The Division recommends contacting an environmental consulting firm that specializes in development within coastal areas to help you better understand your site’s development opportunities and limitations. In addition, if a site within a coastal area is currently developed with upland development (buildings) and/or waterfront structures (bulkhead, other shore protection structure, dock, boat lift, etc.), it is worthwhile to investigate the legality of those structures. The Department’s online system, Data Miner, can be utilized for reviewing recent permitting history of a site. In order to obtain older permitting history, an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request form must be submitted.

Areas Now or Formerly Flowed by State Waters (Tidelands)

TidalTo determine whether you are in an area that may require either a tideland license or a grant you may do one of the following:

    • Use NJ-GeoWeb to interactively view parcel data, aerial photography and the tidelands claim line by accessing the Department’s web-based environmental mapping application known as NJ-GeoWeb. 
    • If you are an individual property owner who is not represented by a professional such as a consultant, engineer, realtor, or attorney, you can send to the Division a letter of Inquiry/Request of Tidelands Ownership
    • If you have GIS capability in your home or office, you can download Tidelands GIS Claim Line.
    • You can order a rectified aerial photo map with tideland claim line of your site.

More information on each of these options can be found on our "Tidelands" webpage.

Once you Know What Special Areas will Impact your Site

Once you know if your site and/or the area where you are considering an activity falls within the Department's jurisdiction and which SA it may impact AND if you are in a regional area which may also influence the type or need for a permit, then you can move on to select the type of activity(ies) you wish do do on your site, and determine what permits may be required. Select your activity(ies)

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Last Updated: April 12, 2022