On Wednesday, May 16, @ 1 PM at the Municipal Building the future of the entirety of Waretown east of the Parkway is at stake. Public support is urgently needed. Merce Ridgway comments
DISAPPEARING NATURE IN WARETOWN
Wednesday, May 16, is a decisive date in determining the future of Waretown. That’s when New Jersey’s State Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposal by Ocean Township’s pro-development Republican leadership to build on most of the remaining natural land east of the Garden State Parkway.
At issue is Waretown’s petition for “town center designation” under New Jersey’s State Plan. Contrary to what the words “town center” may mean to you, this intensive development zone would sprawl not only the length of Route 9 and Main Street, but also along most of the environmentally sensitive land along Wells Mills Road (Route 532). Strip malls, commercial development, a hotel, a conference center, a golf course, gas stations, affordable housing, and large new township offices are envisioned.
Just last month, the State Planning Commission held a hearing in Trenton in which Waretown’s public officials were allowed to comment on their environmentally destructive plans, but the public was not allowed to speak. May 16 may be the public’s last chance.
Once the State Planning Commission establishes an official “center” for the township, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is likely to adopt this center as a “Sector Permit” area, which is bureaucratic jargon for an area in which public objection to building proposals has been rendered meaningless because intensive development has been granted conceptual pre-approval. In other words, after Wednesday the game may be up.
There is much to lose if the pro-development leadership in Waretown succeeds in its efforts.
The impacts on water quality alone tell the story. That runoff from development has a polluting effect on water bodies is a well-known fact. Much of the area proposed for intensive development – a “center” has sixty percent impervious cover – lies upstream of Waretown’s swimming lake. In their quest for the dollar, the town fathers will likely foul their own swimming waters.
Further downstream, shortly before entering Barnegat Bay, Waretown Creek flows into a system of lagoons in the North Harbor section. With high-density development slated for hundreds of upstream acres, the nearly pristine condition of the waters presently entering these lagoons will be a thing of the past.
Polluting runoff from development – as well as the altered water table that usually accompanies large developments – will also pose a threat to the many endangered plant species that depend on pristine water quality, not only in Waretown Creek but also in Oyster Creek to the north.
Waretown Creek’s breeding pools for endangered Pine Barrens Treefrogs, which are protected in theory but not always in practice by the DEP, will also be threatened.
These natural and esthetic threats to water quality exist alongside an ominous threat that goes to the very question of human survival. Where, over the long run, is Waretown – or the rest of Ocean County – going to find clean drinking water as our aquifers become depleted and polluted by overdevelopment?
These are but a sampling of the environmental hazards posed by this reckless development proposal, a proposal that is out of harmony with both the environment and the people’s oft-expressed desire to conserve what little remains of our natural heritage.
Much of this land is already owned by Ocean Township and could be conserved merely by being designated as permanent open space. The rest is of sufficiently high wildlife value that it could be readily purchased by governmental and not-for-profit conservation entities were there but a minimum of environmental concern on the part of Waretown’s money-crazed leaders.
Waretown’s public officials have already approved – although Save Barnegat Bay and other groups have appealed – the 1,500 unit “Greenbriar” development on 950 acres south of Route 532. Is it too much to ask that the other side of the road be left so that nature can continue to exist and mankind can continue to enjoy it?
It may be assumed that those who stand to gain financially from the plan to undo Waretown’s rustic character will show up at the Municipal Building at 1 PM on Wednesday, May 16. It would behoove those who want to preserve that character to do likewise.
Willie deCamp is president of Save Barnegat Bay, which has 1,300 members. He may be reached at 732-830-3600.