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Thursday, May 30, 2024


Upper Audience Given Timeout at Raucous Meeting

Redevelopment Attorney James Maley explains the reason for an ordinance change being considered in Upper Township Feb. 27. Maley used a graphic of the site at Beesley’s Point to show how an existing electrical substation would be moved from the center of the site to a site to the left on the map.
Christopher South

Redevelopment Attorney James Maley explains the reason for an ordinance change being considered in Upper Township Feb. 27. Maley used a graphic of the site at Beesley’s Point to show how an existing electrical substation would be moved from the center of the site to a site to the left on the map.

By Christopher South

PETERSBURG – Upper Township Mayor Jay Newman had to give the audience a timeout Feb. 27, as wind farm opponents continually voiced objections out of turn and refused to stay on the topic at hand.
Newman called for a five-minute recess to settle down a raucous crowd bent on stopping an ordinance that would’ve created an amendment to the redevelopment plan for the site of the former B.L. England generating station, in Beesley’s Point. 
The change, as highlighted by James Maley, a redevelopment attorney, would be to move an electrical substation from the center of the redevelopment area to an area designated as the “coal pile.”  
Despite Maley’s explanation of the proposed change, and Township Solicitor Anthony Monzo’s instructions that public comment should be “comments” rather than questions, plus repeated admonitions by Newman and Township Administrator Gary DeMarzo to stay on the topic, the mostly out-of-town crowd ignored the public comment format and shouted at the elected officials and booed those who supported the ordinance.
After the recess, township officials spent less time trying to correct the public and simply let them speak for their allotted time. The day after the meeting, DeMarzo said the tone changed after the break.
“Last night, it started to become mob rule rather than Robert’s Rules,” he said. “After we went out and came back, both sides seemed to have calmed down a bit.”
“The recess took the wind out of the crowd, but some comments were well-placed – the oil question, the placement questions. …” DeMarzo said.
There were comments related to how much petroleum was used in the creation of a wind turbine and the placement of the electrical substation.
Resident Jeff Battersby pointed out the high number of “misinformed nonresidents” attending the meeting, some of whom posted signs and inflatable sea creatures outside the entrance to Township Hall and had signs inside the Upper Township Committee meeting room.
“I fully support the ordinance regarding the redevelopment,” Battersby said, eliciting disagreement from audience members. 
Elaine Hasselbach, of Ocean City, was initially stopped from making comments because they were off topic but stayed for public comment and voiced support for energy sources from alternatives to fossil fuels. 
Resident Joe Aliano said he was for the substation if it was placed far enough away from homes. 
Former Committeeman Hobie Young also addressed the placement of the substation, and Maley responded that there would be buffering between the substation and the rest of the development area. 
Barbara Murphy-Leary thanked the committee for paying attention to the aesthetics of the project.
“I appreciate you looking out for the aesthetics of Upper Township,” she said.
Most commenters, however, voiced opposition to the ordinance and blamed the committee for the future degradation of the ocean. 
Barbara McCall, from Ocean City, traced the trail of the ownership of Beesley’s Point Developers, who will be responsible for the redevelopment project, connecting them to Pure Energy, which sold the site to Beesley’s Point Developers for $10, she said. 
McCall objected to an overlay zone in the redevelopment area, saying, “It’s premature to rezone the property.”
Patricia Covington echoed McCall’s remarks before referring to the Ocean Wind I project being developed by Ørsted, a Danish wind energy developer.
At one point, the solicitor told the audience the meeting was getting out of hand, and they were making it hard to create a record of the meeting. 
He said the developer would be coming before the Planning Board, where many of the night’s comments should be directed. Monzo said the public comment being taken at the time was regarding the electrical substation only, and general public comment would come later.
A commenter asked if Ocean Wind was involved in creating the redevelopment project plan. Maley said the township was working with Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), which was working with Ocean Wind. Ocean Wind is the name of the project being developed by Ørsted. In January, Orsted bought PSEG’s 25% share of the project.
“So, you are involved,” the speaker said. “This is going to be an electrification of the ocean.”    
She quoted former President Theodore Roosevelt about short-sighted men robbing the country of its charm.
“This will destroy the ocean, New Jersey, and will destroy the shore towns,” said Nancy Hollingsworth, of Wildwood Crest.
LouAnn Caldwell, of Ocean City, said she wanted the seascape to be free of wind turbines and spoke about how the destruction of the ocean habitat would be substantive and pervasive.
Tom Jones, of Brigantine, said Ørsted was going to use the PSEG substation being addressed in the ordinance, and implied the township would never be compensated by Ørsted as he claimed other towns would be.
Maley said earlier in the meeting that the site has an electrical substation, and, regardless of whether the ordinance was passed, PSEG would maintain an electrical substation on the property. The ordinance change was to permit moving the substation to another location on the site. 
Another speaker said the substation was going to require 24-hour protection after attacks on the electrical grid have happened in other areas.
A representative of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance voiced support for the redevelopment project, calling it a “well-thought-out redevelopment plan.” 
Similarly, Sunny Vargas, of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, said the approved plan would give the former B.L. England generating station site a “second life,” eliciting boos from the audience.  
Comments continued for approximately two hours before the committee voted 3-to-2 to pass the ordinance. 
Committeeman Curtis Corson, who voted against the ordinance, had asked to table the ordinance to hear more on the topic. He said U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd) had called for two congressional hearings on the wind turbines and whether the deaths of marine mammals along the New Jersey coastline were related to sonic soundings as part of the preconstruction phase for the proposed wind farm. 
Corson said one hearing was to be scheduled for the district in New Jersey and the other in Washington, D.C. 
Committeeman Victor Nappen, who had seconded Corson’s motion to table the ordinance – a motion that was defeated – echoed some of Corson’s sentiments.
“I don’t feel the need to rush into a vote tonight,” Nappen said.
Nappen, a science teacher, said he had a conversation with Van Drew that raised more questions than provided answers. Van Drew has called for a moratorium on anything to do with ocean wind farm development until it is certain whales dying on New Jersey and New York beaches were not caused by wind farm work.
“I would like to join the moratorium until we get the answer we deserve,” Nappen said.
The meeting was attended by former state Sen. Nick Asselta, of Vineland. Asselta said, during a recess when many of the audience members left, that he was interested in learning about energy production and particularly how the energy production lost by the closing of two power plants will be replaced. 
Thoughts? Questions? Contact the author, Christopher South, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

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