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Housing Development Won't Impact Animals, Applicant Says

Stop 18 Homes’ environmental expert will speak at Oct. 9 meeting.

The potential impact on existing wildlife and vegetation if a proposed 18-home development on the former Wemple property—off Twin Oaks Road—is approved was the focus of testimony before the planning board Tuesday.

Environmental expert Edward Kuk, representing Lang, told the board the revised plan for the 34-acre property at Twin Oaks and Foothill roads has “minimized” the impact on wildlife and vegetation.

The application is for the building of 18 single-family homes on the woodlands, formerly owned by the late John Wemple, and currently owned by Steven Lang.

Wemple, who willed the property to his nieces and nephews after his death in 2002, had maintained to his neighbors that he never wanted to see the land developed, and made that a part of his will, which was overturned by the Superior Court of New Jersey in 2005.

Kuk described the tract Tuesday as “an isolated habitat,” completely surrounded by development. The impact on wildlife, vegetation and wetlands has been minimized, he said, by the applicant including additional buffers and what he called “a contiguous habitat corridor” in the center region of the property.

Kuk also noted that there were no threatened or endangered species recorded at the property.

Attorney Jeffrey Brookner, representing more than 60 residents in the —which is opposing the application—questioned Kuk on the types of animals that could be affected by the building.

“To say that the property is isolated ignores the proximity of other parcels that some species could use,” Brookner said.

Brookner also questioned the distinction between threatened and endangered species and “species of special concern,” of which several were spotted on the property.

An environmental expert speaking on behalf of Stop 18 Homes is scheduled to testify when the hearing is continued Oct. 9.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Foothill Road resident Bob Vaucher told the board that Wemple was an avid car collector. Since there was no garbage pickup at that time, he said, it was common for Wemple to dump garbage in the back of his property.

“That’s where he put everything he didn’t want," Vaucher said. "There wasn’t any place else to put it."

Brookner explained that Vaucher’s testimony was important because he wanted to make the board—and whoever might conduct a Phase I land contamination study in conjunction with the application—to be aware that some of the land was used as a dump.

"I believe there is enough evidence before the board to require a Phase II [more extensive study],” Brookner said.

Michael Cresitello, the attorney for Lang, assured the board that, if any problems were discovered during a Phase I study, the applicant would be required to correct the problems before any residences could be constructed.

In addition to the environmental report, engineer for the applicant Jim Mantz said that among the changes made to the plans were eliminating the need for a variance for a lot with a steep slope. The lot that would have been affected by this, he said, will not be developed and will instead be donated to the township.

That makes the property fully compliant from a storm water management perspective, Mantz said, and adds a lot along Foothill Road that will contain the currently existing red barn and a future home.

Golden Gal September 12, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I do not agree with Mr. Kuc's testimony that the former Wemple property is" an Isolated habitat completely surrounded by development". I have been a long time resident of this area,and have observed many animals,reptiles,birds,and other forms of wildlife,including some endangered species,on our land. We are within close proximity to the former Wemple property,and our back yard is bordered by a large wooded area. In addition, nearby, there is large tract of mountain land,containing a reservoir,and streams purchased under Bridgewater Township's Green Acres. program. The hunger for land development,fueled mainly by greed,in my opinion,has had a terrible impact on our wildlife populations. They are struggling for survival against man and his insatiable appetite for building houses,and paving roads!
nc3000 September 14, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The Wemple property has been a destination for much of the wildlife on the mountain. We are across Steele Gap Rd from the proposed development and see deer, foxes, and turkeys come out of the forest, across our lawn, then go across the street to the Wemple property. Just last month, we found a box turtle in our yard. We have seen the same one over a few years (same markings on its shell). It is not endangered but is a species of special concern. This area is teeming with wildlife. Do not destroy its habitat.
Linda F September 16, 2012 at 10:59 AM
What is the point of having a Will if the recipients will only go to the court to get what they want... money. I guess the nieces and nephews are really showing Mr. Wemple what they thought of him. Mr. Wemple clearly did not want this land built on and loved the area as it is. Nieces and nephews... how about respecting his wishes? Sadly it seems the poor man thought more of his nieces and nephews than they thought of him. So sorry.

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