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NJARA. Alert. Natural Habitat in Danger. Bog Turtle, Corn Snake, Short Eared Owl and the Northern Goes Hawk. Montgomery County, NJ.

I am crossposting an email I received from the NJ Animal Rights Alliance:

ATTN: Residents of Skillman, Belle Mead, Harlingen, Rocky Hill and Montgomery Township.

A group of concerned citizens are seeking to halt the development of 88 acres of undeveloped land in Montgomery Township. A large portion of this tract is wetlands and contains an abundant amount of wildlife. They have strong reason to believe that this land is the home of a few of New Jersey’s endangered species: Bog Turtle, Corn Snake, Short Eared Owl and the Northern Goes Hawk as well as threatened species Coopers Hawk and the Barred Owl.

If you would like to join them in fighting the destruction of these, and other, animals' homes, they ask that you attend the next planning board meeting on Monday, February 9, 2009 at 7:30 pm at the Montgomery Township Municipal Building, 2261 Van Horne Road (Route 206), Belle Mead.

Here is more information:

Montgomery Township Residents We Need Your Help!

Hello fellow Montgomery Township residents: we are at the immanent crossroads of losing a very large tract of land to developers in our township and adjacent to our backyards. In 1975, the township master plan set aside areas of undeveloped land in our town as Cluster House zoning. This is an area where the lots for each home are allowed to be less than the "normal" zoning (2-1/2 acre lot currently) and the homes would be grouped closely together. This zoning may have been applicable in an undeveloped township in the 1970s, but is not applicable today with recent growth. The developer, East Country Development Associates is taking advantage of that out dated zoning TODAY!

There exists 88 acres of undeveloped land behind the homes that front: Burnt Hill Road, Sunset Road, Skillman Road and the homes in Red Fox Run subdivision along Squirrel and Badger Drives. This land has remained undeveloped for quite some time and there is a significant reason. A large portion of this tract is wetlands, deemed a flood hazard zone by the DEP, and contains an abundant amount of wildlife. In fact, we have very strong reason to believe that this land is the home of a few of New Jersey’s endangered species: Bog Turtle, Corn Snake, Short Eared Owl and the Northern Goes Hawk as well as threatened species Coopers Hawk and the Barred Owl.

This is the website for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/tandespp.htm and perhaps you have seen these animals yourselves in the area as have some other of our residents. The problem is the DEP does not know about these potential endangered species living in the woods to be developed. Some of the very concerned citizens here in Montgomery that reside along these woods have filed reports in reference to these endangered species to the DEP. The DEP being a state agency reacts very slowly.

We are now at the risk of losing this land before the DEP is able to investigate. In 2007, the revalidation of the original approval was consummated when the Montgomery Township Planning Board elected to not approve but not invalidate a previous 1988 approval. East Country Development Associates is appealing to an old NJDEP Wetlands Law based on the 1988 approval seeking "general permits" to build closer to the stream and natural drainage wetland areas. In addition, the developer is offering to provide to the township sewer linkage for the schools. There is precedent case law whereby developers cannot provide municipal infrastructure, and the township is under no obligation to provide infrastructure to a developer, as sewers are required for this development.

East Country Development Associates is seeking approval of a 54 home development on this land. These homes consist of 3,600 to 4,000 sq-ft homes on lot sizes of around ½ acre, which will be placed right behind the current homes on the streets, mentioned above. Homes of such large sizes on lots that small will max out the lot development, which is something that potential homebuyers will not know until after the sale. What would you think if you bought a house only to find out later that you cannot place a deck, a pool, or a shed in your yard?

A Montgomery Planning Board meeting was held January 26th to review East Country Development Associate’s proposal. At this review, several residents who reside along this property attended. Issues raised and not resolved were flooding and water drainage, traffic congestion on Burnt Hill Road during school sessions, increased burden on the school system, protection of the endangered species, outlandish size of the planned homes on small lots, buffer areas and their respective sizes, and that the developer has not provided home details and elevations.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP? Join our fight and voice your opinion at the next planning board meeting on Monday, February 9, 2009 at 7:30 pm at the Montgomery Township Municipal Building, 2261 Van Horne Road (Route 206), Belle Mead. Group of us concerned citizens are seeking legal counsel in the form of a Land Use Attorney. We need to provide a retainer of $5,000 to use the lawyer’s services. If we all contribute a portion of the fee, the financial burden on us all will be minimal. We will potentially preserve endangered species, prevent traffic congestion, prevent an increased burden to the school system, protect our property values, prevent potential flooding, and maintain the quality of our neighborhood without the sight of over-sized cluster homes in our back yards. If you would like to contribute, get more details, or be kept abreast of this situation please email or call us with your name, house address and email address. Please attend the meeting on February 9th and let your voice be heard. It is important that the public record show your concerns.

A copy of the application, plans and all supporting documents are on file in the offices of the Planning Board at the Montgomery Township Municipal Building, 2261 Van Horne Road (Route 206), Belle Mead.

Thank you,

Paul and Andrea Cresti
346 Burnt Hill Road
Bog Turtle
pbcarch@comcast.net

Mike and Linda DiMario
23 Badger Drive
m.dimario@comcast.net
Land-use in question

Dan Dudzik
370 Burnt Hill Road
daniel@studiogreendesigncenter.com

Dr. Ed Spector
22 Badger Drive
Short Eared Owl
ehspector@msn.com

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