Local Developer, Trust for Public Land Still Working to See Holgate Parcel Preserved

Jun 28, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Preservation is still the “game plan” for a bayside parcel between Rosemma and Beck avenues in Holgate, according to local developer Mark Davies. “We’re still in the process,” said Davies. “Unfortunately it just takes forever.”

Kathy Haake, senior project manager for Trust for Public Land, confirmed last week that “things continue to move slowly, but we are in regular contact with the developer” to discuss buying the property so that it can remain as open space.

As Davies noted, permissions from the state, related to rules within the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA), are a primary hold-up within the process.

Last winter, the Long Beach Township Land Use Board unanimously approved a request to establish seven single-family residential building lots, with one lot not currently developable, on the property. At the time, Davies, the applicant along with the property owners, said he was still working with TPL toward preservation, and the board approval was a necessary step.

The parcel, across Long Beach Boulevard from the oceanfront, was previously classified as wetlands, prohibiting development. Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, during which sand washed onto the area, Davies and property owners David Collins, Esther Tessel Collins, Kim Lambert and Michelle Forte petitioned the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection to revise coastal wetlands maps to exclude an approximately 2.2-acre parcel. The petitioners asserted that the overwash from the storm altered the area enough that the land no longer meets the definition of coastal wetlands as described in the Wetlands Act of 1970.

As the DEP explained last year, “Based on the results of the Department’s overall investigation of the petitioners’ property, approximately 1.15 acres of mapped coastal wetlands which abut South Bay Avenue are no longer at or below an elevation of one foot above local extreme high water and, as a result, are no longer growing, or are capable of growing, the vegetative species identified by the Act.”

Davies and the Trust for Public Land did have a contract in place last year, but because the various necessary regulatory approvals – which included the LBT LUB approval for development, as well as final notice from the state of the wetlands map revision – were not in place, TPL terminated its option agreement when the contract expired.

However, discussions thereafter resumed, and they continue.

Residents have spoken out against any development on the property, which would be permitted should the preservation option fizzle, and they have voiced concerns about the precedent set by the DEP’s decision to de-classify wetlands. Many said they believe the site could revert back to wetlands, while others worry more broadly about the loss of open space on Long Beach Island.

If Davies can move forward with TPL, the area could, in the end, be conserved. As the developer said last year at a LBT LUB meeting, “I would prefer to see it open.”

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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