Sunday, October 1, 2023

Residents Question Middle’s Eight ‘Smart Growth’ Choices 3.15.2006

By Al Campbell

CREST HAVEN – Castigated by residents irate over development in Middle Township, officials including Mayor F. Nathan Doughty and planning board members sat mum through a 90-minute hearing for the township’s Smart Growth petition.
Held at the county administration building March 8 under the auspices of the Office of Smart Growth, chaired by Eileen Swan, the session allowed speakers three minutes each to air their concerns. Eleven spoke.  It was held in response to the receipt of 28 requests for a hearing.
No answers or debate were allowed. Those who did not wish to speak, or whose presentation would have taken too long, were urged to make written comments that will be accepted until 45 days from the meeting.
In short, the petition seeks state approve to designate eight centers within the municipality where growth will be allowed and encouraged.
They include:
_ Swainton village
_ Court House
_ Whitesboro-Burleigh
_ Rio Grande
_ Del Haven
_ Green Creek
_ Goshen hamlet
_ Hildreth village center (along Intracoastal Waterway in approximate location of former Islander Family Amusement Park on Route 47, west of Wildwood).
According to Marcia Shiffman of Maser Consulting, who assisted in preparation of the document, Court House has some 300 acres for development, limited acreage as commercial.
Whitesboro-Burleigh is being looked at as having the “greatest amount of growth, and greatest amount of land.”
Due to those facts, the areas are being weighed as places for affordable housing, and are a key area, which had room for expansion and development, said Shiffman.
Rio Grande, little over a square mile in size, is a town center with 200 acres of vacant land and “room for addition,” said Shiffman. There is limited residential development and commercial development with 80 acres under current zoning, she said.
Swainton village on Route 9 is “a very small, limited area of 190 acres,” said Shiffman. It has “very limited growth” projected, she added.
Del Haven and Green Creek are “both very developed areas,” Shiffman said.
Future growth in those areas will be “very limited” with “infill” development.
Both areas have sewer, and more of Green Creek is proposed to get sewer, said
Goshen hamlet “less than 100 acres in size with limited jobs, no water or sewer,” nor are any planned.
Hildreth village center, with 50 gross acres and 86 upland acres. The present owner is “pursuing redevelopment of the area,” said Shiffman.
When the microphone went public, John Cadidi of Rio Grande was first to speak. “I don’t think planner were involved with Rio Grande’s future,” he said.
“It seems to me they just see open spaces and lots of land, and bring in developers. All developers want to do is build, build, build,” he said.
“They never take into considerations folks already living in the community,” he said. “You don’t have to be trained to see this development’s turned this into a fiasco.”
Vilma Pombo of Swainton, and a member of the local planning board, urged, “no centers be enlarged in Middle Township.”
She said not all features of the 2003 master plan were “put into action,” and that “ordinances to cover the changes were never written, dealing with lot sizes in rural and sensitive land zones.”
“People do not want to see more density and development,” said Pombo.
She also noted there were “many clerical errors in the state plan petition.” She pointed out that Goshen Swainton Road was termed Route 646 when it is Route 664.
“Development costs more than the taxes generated, and it can destroy the very characteristics” that make the area enjoyable.
“We have a master plan on board here that’s been ignored,” said Sam Kelly of Swainton, president of Middle Township Taxpayers Association.
He said if the state allows the petition to be adopted, “You will not eliminate sprawl. We need your help. Do not abandon this community. Middle Township needs growth controlled.”
“Give Middle officials what they ask for, and this will be your Alamo,” said Kelly.
Stephen O’Connor of Court House noted there was mention of an extension of Mechanic Street to Bayberry Drive that is “in direct conflict with all the plans of DOT.
“Be aware, it’s been my observation the planning board in Middle Township often grants developers variances in that they do not have to put sidewalks in. That’s essential, especially in Court House and Rio Grande,” said O’Connor.
There was also mention of historic preservation, he said, “but I’m not aware of any historic property inventory update. To the best of my knowledge, there is none,” he said.
Margie Green of Del Haven told Swan of flooding problems at her five-year-old home, due in part to a developer who cleared “11-12 acres and clear cut the forest and woods to build 20 homes.”
She said the developer “brought in 1,500 dumpster loads of fill” so the result is homes “four feet higher than my home. There was no drainage put in at that time. Every time it rains, my property is flooding,” said Green.
Green said she was “trying to work with (Middle Township Administrator-Clerk) James Alexis and (municipal Engineer) Vincent Orlando.”
They have been “trying to put pressure on the builder, but the builder doesn’t think he is responsible for damage to my property,” said Green.
Matt Blake represented the American Littoral Society and warned, “Coastal resources are fragile eco systems that can withstand limited amount of environmental harm.”
He warned that some growth centers were dangerously near fragile eco-systems.
Another of Blake’s concerns was water supply, especially when considering salt-water intrusion into many aquifers.
He charged the township would begin to “look like Hoboken.”
“I would hope at the very least you consider pulling out these environmentally sensitive areas,” he said.
Ashley Stetser told the panel she hoped to meet a representative from one of the large developers.
“The people here today are concerned citizens,” she said. “I don’t see anybody here representing them (developers,).”
Swan urged those in attendance to sign up for notification of state planning commission meetings.
“Thank you all for coming to educate us further,” she concluded.
Contact Campbell at (609) 886-8600 Ext 28 or:

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