To the Editor:
It is no secret that the Middle Township Committee and Planning Board are in favor of Cape May Hospitality’s purchase of and future plan for a four-story hotel and 100-plus-space parking lot on a property in Court House.
The mayor stated in this newspaper that he “fully support(s) the concept of a first-class hotel chain investing and building in Middle Township.” The Planning Board recently approved the master plan (in a live meeting during this pandemic) to change the zoning of the property from rural conservation to town center, with no record of discussion by that entity.
For the last few years, my neighbors and I have tried to make our voices heard in opposition to this project because of environmental concerns, as well as the disruptions that this hotel will cause not only to our adjacent neighborhood but to the woefully inadequate two-lane road it will front.
We’ve cited increased traffic, noise and light pollution, disruption to the deer and other wildlife that call the property home, as well as the effects this structure will impose on the immediate surrounding property – forests, wetlands, and marshes. All our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. They just pretended to listen.
I believe that is because this has never truly been up for discussion since a 2015 court ruling stated that a convenience mart with 12 gas pumps could be located on the site, due to our Zoning Board “acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”
During the court case, the decision by the judge to rule in favor of the former owner of the property was based on misinformation, as well. What map could a judge have possibly looked at and state that “the piece of property doesn’t resemble a property one would find in a rural conservation zone, nor do surrounding properties. All other uses in the area are commercial or public uses”?
Anyone can look at an aerial view of the property and surrounding ones or even look at it from the ground to see this is completely opposite of what the property truly is and what it is used for.
The lawyer for the group stated in writing that the property is adjacent to other commercial ones, namely the Crest Haven complex and auto dealers on Stone Harbor Boulevard.
What he didn’t state was that in between the property and those commercial sites are multiple bodies of water, including wetlands to the north and south, which are immediately adjacent to the property, not commercial or business properties. To the east of the property lays acres of forests and several fresh and saltwater bodies of water. Again, not “adjacent.”
There are other points in the court records that I believe are inaccurate, but not being a lawyer, I don’t know how I can dispute them. There are valid reasons why this property does not meet the definition of a town center designation.
The township said there will be something built on the property because of the court’s ruling that a zone change could be made. Now that the zone change is a done deal, I can only plead with Cape May Hospitality using the words of Vince Orlando, township engineer, that one of the purposes of a zoning change is to “keep the character of the neighborhood intact.” That will definitely not happen in this case.
I can only ask, again, that the new owners find a truly suitable location within Middle Township.