COURT HOUSE - During public comment at the Aug. 19 Middle Township Committee meeting, a group of residents protested what they called “high-density development” on the land east of the Garden State Parkway.
In recent years, a complex of 45 townhome units was built on land adjacent to Laguna Oaks Golf Course. The group, organized as the Wetlands Preservation Alliance, opposes plans by developer Fred Langford to increase the number of housing units in an area north of the golf course, and east of Bayberry Drive.
A press release stated the area of proposed development is designated as a National Heritage Priority Site by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
DEP documents state that such designated sites represent “the best remaining habitat for rare species and rare ecological communities.” The documents went on to state that the areas “should be considered top priorities for the preservation of biological diversity in New Jersey.”
Speaking for the alliance, James Quick said Langford has “systematically and illegally de-watered the site” to change its wetlands designation and promote development. The group accused the township of “turning a blind eye” to the developer's actions.
A press release by the alliance stated that its members have regularly given the municipality and the DEP information about Langford’s actions to no avail.
“Reports of extensive ditch-digging produced no action by the township,” Quick said. Instead, the group’s members claim the municipality engaged in a “shell game” that “changed lot numbers so often no one could figure out what area was being talked about.”
Michael Zuckerman, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities in Cape May, is in the alliance. He said the habitat in the area has degradation resulting from the municipality’s support of “rampant development.”
The group also claimed that various political entities point at each other as having the authority to intervene. Alliance members, instead, point at the governing body saying, “We elected you to protect us.”
When Mayor Timothy Donohue asked what the group wanted the municipality to do, their response included three demands.
The alliance asked for a cease in, “rubber-stamping every permit application submitted” by developers and “to protect what’s left of this National Heritage Priority Site.”
They also asked the committee to “block any and all efforts by developers to follow through on their stated intention to re-zone this habitat."
Lastly, they asked that the municipality “take aggressive action to prevent any further construction of high-density townhouses in and around the Laguna Golf Course, as well as other comparable neighborhood.”
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