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BPU Promotes Sprawl - Approves 1,400 acre tract for development

Date : Wed, 14 Apr 2010 12:59:05 -0400


For Immediate Release Contact: Jeff Tittel 609.396.5700
April 14, 2010

BPU Promotes Sprawl

Newark - Today the Board of Public Utilities overruled the hearing officer and the ratepayer advocate and approved the sale of Holly Farm to a developer. Holly Farm, 1,400 undeveloped acres in Millville Township, is one of the most environmentally sensitive unprotected places in New Jersey. The Sierra Club has worked with many other environmental organizations and agencies over the last 8 years to conserve this environmentally sensitive piece of land. The Sierra Club strongly objects to Conectiv's proposed sale of a 1400 acre tract in the City of Millville to a developer.

"Today the Board of Public Utilities chose a speculative real estate deal over the environment and the ratepayers," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "This is a dirty deal to build senior housing and a golf course in the middle of one of the most ecologically important areas. This is the largest most environmentally sensitive unprotected track of land in New Jersey, and now it will get paved over."

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres program has made a cash offer to purchase the land. This offer provides a greater net economic benefit to Conectiv than the conditional, speculative purchase offer of the developer. A purchase by Green Acres is a guarantee of full protection for the site, offers greater financial reward, and will safeguard the substantial public investment made in the surrounding critical resource areas. The NJ Ratepayer advocate agrees with this position.

"The sale of this land sells out the environment and sells out the ratepayers of New Jersey. If this land were bought for preservation the ratepayers of New Jersey would get the money upfront," said Tittel. "Putting this environmentally sensitive land up for development, means that ratepayers won't get paid for years, and we will lose an environmental gem."

The Sierra Club, along with the entire environmental community and numerous citizens of Millville, strongly oppose this sale. It is the worst example of destructive sprawl - creating an island of development surrounded by protected open space. Twenty years of efforts to protect the biological diversity of the Manumuskin and Menantico watersheds must not be jeopardized and the Sierra Club believes that the site should permanently remain undeveloped.

The Conectiv site lies within the heart of thousands of acres of preserved land between the Manumuskin River and the Menantico Creek, which are both designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers. The contiguous forest ecosystem is within a biodiversity hotspot in southern New Jersey, containing both Pine Barrens species and maritime elements of the Delaware Bayshore forest region.

"This tract of land is of vital ecological importance. Not only is it a biodiversity hotspot, containing numerous wetlands and endangered species, but it is part of a large, contiguous ecosystem of protected land," said Tittel. "If it is developed it will cause irrevocable harm to the surrounding critical natural resources."

Numerous wetland and endangered species, including Pine Barrens Treefrog, Southern Gray Treefrog, Northern Pine Snake, Cooper's Hawk, Barred Owl, Bald Eagle, Dotted Skipper and Red-Headed Woodpecker, exist on the property. The Landscape Project of the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program classifies the entire site as critical endangered species habitat.

Protecting the biological diversity of the Manumuskin and Menantico watersheds has been a focal point of conservation efforts for decades. The State of New Jersey has been protecting the forested headwaters by acquiring land for the Peaslee Wildlife Management Area and the Menantico Ponds Wildlife Management Area, and The Nature Conservancy has been expanding its Manumuskin Preserve, which is the last stronghold for the federally-endangered Sensitive Joint Vetch.


Received on 2010-04-14 09:59:05

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
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