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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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DEP Offers Lease Rather Than Sale of Ponderlodge to College

 

By Jack Fichter

VILLAS — The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has offered Richard Stockton College a 20-year lease on 10 acres of Ponderlodge to create an environmental education center rather selling a portion of the property.
In a letter to Matthew Altier, vice president for Administration and Finance for Stockton College, DEP Assistant Commissioner of Natural and Historic Resources Amy Cradic said DEP was “not interested in transferring title to any portion of the property.” She said DEP is willing to offer a 20-year lease with the option to renew “on some on site facilities and surrounding impervious areas.”
The lease would include the existing banquet center, the banquet center parking lot with access to Delview Road, the pool, tennis courts, athletic fields and three residences fronting the access road.
Conditions set for the college leasing the 10 acres include:
• Approval from state House Commission and National Park Service. The letter notes if the commission and service are not able to determine that the primary purpose of the lease is public outdoor recreation, then the lease may be deemed a “conveyance of DEP property.
• Development or construction on the property would remain in the existing footprint with no additional impervious surfaces created.
• Renovation costs of the leased area would be the sole responsibility of the college.
• All renovations and improvement must incorporate green building principles issued by the U.S Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating system.
• Facilities must be open and available to the public including parking areas.
• There will be no use of chemicals/pesticides on the surrounding grounds with approval of DEP.
• Use of the facilities cannot interfere with outdoor recreational opportunities or limit access to established trails.
• Activities associated with use of the facility cannot disrupt wildlife or prevent natural movement or behavior of wildlife.
• Use of facility cannot interfere with DEP’s implementation of habitat restoration on the property.
• College will conduct at least one public meeting in Lower Township to discuss any proposed use of the facility.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew said putting together a long-term lease may take a little time but an agreement could be struck shortly between DEP and Stockton College. He said DEP would issue a permit which would allow the college to put in security and begin cleaning up the property.
“It is all going in a positive direction,” said Van Drew.
He said it was very big investment for Stockton and a complex agreement.
DEP purchased the 253-acre property, a former golf course, in February 2006 with approximately $8.5 million in Green Acres open space funding including a $1 million grant from the national Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. The property has been under the management of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The division is implementing a plan to create, reestablish and enhance critical wildlife habitat on 140 acres of forests, 15 acres of wetlands, 22 acres of grasslands, 14 acres of meadows, six acres of scrub-shrub habitat and five vernal pools.

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