CAPE MAY - The Sewell Tract, a 100-acre parcel of undeveloped land, in Cape May, has been the subject of litigation for almost 30 years.
At issue is the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) “Amelioration Offer,” which would allow partial development on the tract in exchange for the state avoiding paying the owners, East Cape May Associates, for the regulatory taking of the full 100 acres.
Concerned Citizens for Sewell Tract Preservation, a local Cape May non-profit seeking to preserve the entire tract from development, entered the litigation, in 2014.
In an Oct. 8 press release, Concerned Citizens for Sewell Tract Preservation expressed dismay that recent attempts at a potential negotiated settlement of the litigation were rebuffed by the DEP. In the absence of a settlement, the new trial is scheduled for Nov. 30.
Cape May City Council has been on both sides of the issue during the litigation. At one point, favoring the development of the tract was a party to a settlement that would have seen the development of a residential housing complex on about 25% of the tract. The council took a position against development.
Concerned Citizens for Sewell Tract Preservation also made two letters it wrote to Gov. Phil Murphy and Environmental Commissioner Catherine McCabe publicly available, urging their intervention in the issue to allow time for settlement negotiations to proceed.
The letters assert that the DEP’s actions have been driven less by its mission to protect the environment and more by a desire “to protect the state’s coffers.”