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.