Little Egg Harbor Developer Courted Great Wolf Lodge Resorts

Jan 16, 2019

Real estate developer Linda Fahmie from Princeton represents her family in two parcels of land in Little Egg Harbor Township and has learned how to shop it from her developer father who has retired. She has been courting Great Wolf Lodge Inc. to buy her 68 acres next to Walmart on Route 9, she told Mayor Bobbi Jo Crea and the township committee during their municipal meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10.

Fahmie said the bank had taken back the land adjoining Cranberry Creek, but she had plans for the 68 acres that abut Otis Bog Road.

However, she claims when Committeeman Ray Gormley was mayor (2017 and ’18), he never returned her phone calls and refused to meet with her while she was in the process of attracting Great Wolf.

Great Wolf runs 16 family resorts that include an indoor water park as an attraction.

Fahmie said when Gene Kobryn was mayor (2016), he was cooperating with her and her plans for Great Wolf. She said there was a $70 million ERG grant available. (Economic Redevelopment and Growth). She claims to have had three or four meetings with Kobryn, Township Engineer Jason Worth and state officials from the Department of Environmental Protection. But after Kobryn lost his bid for re-election, Fahmie said, she could no longer get anyone to contact her.

“This would be, probably, the best thing we ever had to come to Little Egg Harbor, and we may have lost it,” Fahmie said. Great Wolf was “not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling. “I’m furious. I spent two years on this and you wouldn’t give me the courtesy of a call back?

“The project sunsets in June,” she said. “There’s no one running to Little Egg Harbor. There’s nothing here.”

Crea said the township has a new Commercial Revitalization Committee that Fahmie could attend.

Gormley asked if he could respond to Fahmie, “as this is clearly targeted at me.”

“The town’s professionals represent us. … This township has recently taken steps to put in place a town center with designated water and sewer. The town has done all the necessary steps to get things in place for these types of ratables.

“It is inappropriate for us to sit and talk with a land owner who wants to bring a project forward to the planning board,” he continued. “It’s inappropriate for us (elected officials) to sit and negotiate.”

Fahmie said that in the world she knows, that’s what officials do. “What any large organization wants is a community that’s not fighting them. They want a mayor, the political head of a community to write a letter (of support). It’s not making a deal with anyone. I asked you to be in on a conference call (when you were) mayor, just to hear you say you were interested – let’s make it happen, get a conversation going with Great Wolf. That’s what all the communities do.”

Fahmie said a rural community, LaGrange, Ga., and the state arranged to spend $24 million to entice Great Wolf to come into its town, a suburb of Atlanta.

“For them to get this close, and poof – now I think they are going to Baltimore.”

Deputy Mayor John Kehm said he sat on the Economic Development Committee three years ago when Fahmie was asking for financial help to hire a consultant for the project. “Why should Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor put out money if it’s your land?”

Fahmie said that was a different project he was alluding to, and the consultant she hired for Great Wolf was paid out of her own pocket.

“We would love to have Great Wolf ,but we have to have willing partners,” said Kehm. “Great Wolf has not contacted our planning or zoning departments.”

“They don’t do that; communities court them,” said Fahmie.

Gormley said he had done his homework, and Great Wolf had also considered Bader Field and Great Adventure besides Little Egg.

“The state’s incentive plan sunsets in June,” he added. “Where is the applicant? They could come in informally (to the planning board). It needs planning board approval, it needs CAFRA (Coastal Area Facilities Review Act) approval, it needs DOT access approval and any number of environmental approvals. We don’t know the specifics of that site. I can’t do the wetlands determination.”

“All I needed was a letter that Little Egg Harbor was interested,” said Fahmie. “What does the township need? A new fire department, a baseball field?

“These people don’t need you, you need them,” said Fahmie.

Fahmie also said the land has been posted and she would be increasing surveillance at the site because it’s a liability issue for people to use the land as they do now, for dirt biking and as a dumping ground.

Ten acres of the 68-acre plot was once home to an asphalt plant and in 2007, the New Jersey Department of Envirinmental Protection signed off on the cleanup of the property  after Ellas Fahmie remediated two underground storage tanks once used for fuel and eleven above ground liquid asphalt tanks in the center of the lot plus two lagoons located behind and east of the main plant. — Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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