NORTH WILDWOOD – North Wildwood received two notices of violation June 6 from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Among other issues, the notices asserted the city engaged in “unauthorized and unpermitted destruction of more than eight acres of mature, densely vegetated natural dunes.” The DEP notices also alleged the city constructed 2,234 linear feet of unpermitted new bulkhead and performed beach grading without regulatory oversight.
DEP issued a press release concerning the alleged violations. In the release, DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said the city’s actions were “undertaken without regard for the laws and regulations that have long been in place to protect the public safety and the fragile ecosystems” that protect the state’s coastal communities.
Mayor Patrick Rosenello spoke to the issue, at a June 16 North Wildwood City Council meeting, dismissing the violations as overblown. Rosenello said the DEP was aware of emergency work the city had to perform and of the city’s intent to seek the required permits as part of a larger permit process dealing with beach construction projects.
“They knew, but I guess they got a little impatient,” Rosenello told the public.
At the same meeting, when Rosenello characterized the circumstances surrounding the notices of violation as a misunderstanding, the city hedged its bets by approving a personal services contract with attorney Neil Yoskin, of Princeton, whom the mayor called “the best environmental lawyer in the state.”
Yoskin was already at work by the time the contract was approved by the council.
In a June 8 letter, Yoskin claimed the dunes in question were so badly eroded that the city was forced to put imported sand on the footprint of the former dunes.
Yoskin also made a request of the DEP on the city’s behalf, asking for, in the DEP’s wording, “emergency authorization solely to modify the slope of sand that has been stockpiled by the city and to place that sand in the northern portion of the city’s oceanfront beach area.”
The state authorized “a one-time slope adjustment/sand placement” effort, in a June 24 letter, but only after using the letter to remind Yoskin of DEP’s assertion the city misused an earlier permit when “instead of placing harvested sand directly onto the designated areas of the beach, in accordance with the permit, the city stockpiled sand in multiple other locations on the beach and on vegetated dunes.”
DEP issued two additional notices of violation June 25 to two North Wildwood contractors. The notices state the contractors participated in a series of beach and dune activities that were not in compliance with issued permits.
In a June 8 letter to DEP, the city denied it violated permits and requested an extension of 30 days to formally reply to the notices. This all predated the second set of violation notices.
Lance Miller, a city resident, wrote to Rosenello, challenging the mayor’s contention that the city always intended to file for the appropriate permits once the emergency work was completed. According to Miller, some of the violations cited by the DEP were for work done over a year ago. He similarly noted that some of the bulkhead work was “done last year.”
“I would think a year would be sufficient time to apply for the work done,” Miller added.
During the July 8 council meeting, Rosenello said that Yoskin would be issuing the city’s reply to the notices of violation soon. He indicated the reply would also address the second two notices, as well.
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