Freeholders position on the Appellate Court's Decision regarding the Durand Tract
August 13, 2015
Recently the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that the Department of Environmental Protection cannot be forced to return the 80 acres of land located in an Industrial Park, to the City of Millville or Cumberland County. This land is commonly referred to as the Durand Tract.
We at the Freeholder Board level are very disappointed with the outcome and are reviewing the decision with our legal counsel regarding what options are available to us. While we can understand and respect arguments for both sides of the issue, this decision opens the door that any type of land can be acquired for preservation. Additionally, it is concerning to us is that there are a number statistical facts that have not been publicly discussed.
Fact: Total Area in Cumberland County is 321,228 Acres.
Fact: Total Area Preserved or Protected in Cumberland County is approximately 130,657 or 41%.
Fact: 90% of Cumberland County is located outside of the DEP recognized Sewer Service Area or only 10% (28,073 acres) of land that is developable. The vast majority of the land (13,428 acres) located within the NJ DEP approved sewer service area is already developed.
Fact: The property in question has approved water and sewer service on it and is adjacent to Gorton Road and State Highway Route 55 – the only 4 lane highway in the county
Fact: Marilyn Lennon, Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Land Use Management for the NJ DEP forwarded correspondence to the land owner advising of the following “I have determined that the above referenced parcels are appropriate for identification as sewer service area within the Cumberland County Wastewater Management Plan currently under development. I have directed my staff to include these parcels within the draft sewer service area to support the proposed development”.
Fact: The Property the only industrial zoned property of this size with water, sewer and rail availability.
Fact: There were no public hearings with the regard to the purchase of this property.
Fact: No Public Notices with respect the purchase of the land by Green Acres were placed in the local newspapers.
Fact: Two out of the 3 New Jersey DEP commissioned appraisal reports concede that the best use of the property is for future industrial development. From Curini Appraisal, “Highest and Best Use, Future Industrial Development”. From LeGore and Jones Appraisal Services, “The estimated Highest and Best use of the subject property would be for one of the uses permitted in this Industrially Zone Area”.
We believe that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has completely ignored the public process for land acquisition. They are sending a message to Counties and Municipalities throughout the State that essentially says “do as I say, not as I do”. This was not the intent of the legislature when Green Acres was created and we believe that the Agency has truly overstepped the very rules and regulations that they are responsible for implementing.
In the meantime, we are hopeful that the State House Commission that is also reviewing this case will agree with the County and the City of Millville that the public process was ignored and allow the NJ DEP sell the land back to the City and the County for $395,000.
The Freeholder Board recognizes the importance of preserving the beauty and the habitat of our land but we also believe that there needs to be a balance. The County must have the opportunity to grow economically. The statistics clearly demonstrate that we have much work to do to restore the balance between economic opportunities and open space and habitat. We believe that it is possible to enjoy economic growth and job creation while maintaining the beauty of open space and the outstanding quality of life that we enjoy.
The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders
Joe Derella, Director
Doug Long, Deputy Director
Freeholder Darlene Barber
Freeholder Carman Daddario
Freeholder Carol Musso
Freeholder Jim Sauro
Freeholder Tom Sheppard