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CAPE MAY - The trial date for the latest round of court contests over the fate of the Sewell Tract, in Cape May, was postponed. The trial, set to begin Nov. 30, will happen in 2021. The date is to be determined. 

According to Cape May Solicitor Frank Corrado, the litigation over the 100-acre tract near the Coast Guard base is the longest-running civil litigation case in New Jersey’s history.  

At stake is whether the tract can be developed, in total or in part, or if it must be preserved and undisturbed. 

As Corrado summarized the status of the case at a Nov. 16 Cape May City council meeting, the remains of the long-running dispute center on an amelioration offer made by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the owners of the property, East Cape May Associates (ECMA).  

The offer would allow partial development of the site in exchange for freeing the DEP from the obligation to compensate ECMA for the value of the full 100 acres. 

The city, which is not a formal party to the litigation, took conflicting positions regarding the development of the site over the many years of the litigation.  

The current council affirmed a desire to preserve the land from development in multiple resolutions. 

In a recent move, some members of the council sought to place about 10 acres of city-owned property in the tract on its Recreation and Open Space Inventory (ROSI) list, which could complicate any future development involving those parcels. 

At the same Nov. 16 council meeting, the ordinance that would have placed the property on the ROSI list was tabled, at the request of the DEP, while settlement negotiations continue. 

Complicating a case that has spanned generations of lawyers is a once-in-a-century pandemic that is playing havoc with the state courts. 

Postponed and in need of a new trial date, the case continues to break its records for longevity. 

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