October 27, 2021

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Cape May’s most significant undeveloped assets preserved following 30-year authorized fight

3 min read

New Jersey will pay back $19 million to developers it has been preventing for 3 a long time to protect the greatest undeveloped parcel in Cape May perhaps, according to particulars of a settlement disclosed Tuesday.

“Both environmentally and financially this is this kind of a results for the town,” stated Cape May Mayor Zack Mullock, who observed that he’s been advised the go well with was the longest-managing litigation in the state.

“It’s a fantastic victory,” explained Jim Testa, president of Involved Citizens for Sewell Tract Preservation, which experienced intervened in the scenario. Testa produced the details of the settlement.

However the 100-acre Sewell tract is not beachfront, Testa mentioned the preserved land “will be like owning a forest in the middle of Cape Could,” contribute to wildlife habitat, and keep on to “act like a giant sponge” to assistance ease flooding all through storms that improve more critical as the local weather warms.

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The undeveloped land, known as the Sewell tract, is off Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Avenues, amongst Cape May well Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, and is near to the Coastline Guard Coaching Middle at the east stop of the 2.9-sq.-mile city.

A agent for the condition Section of Environmental Safety could not be arrived at straight away for remark.

The settlement puts to rest a saga stretching back to the 1950s when East Cape May well Associates ordered the land from the city, pledging it would be formulated. In return, the city promised to give utilities.

Options stalled, nonetheless, as appreciation for the environmental price of house like it grew and the point out and federal authorities sought stiffer protections for wetlands and coastal parts.

In 1990, the DEP denied East Cape May well Associates’ allow software to establish 366 one-loved ones homes on the land. The developer filed a civil accommodate in state Superior Court in 1992, professing its property experienced been so devalued, the point out fundamentally was using its land without having compensation.

The events inevitably neared a settlement that would have authorized for partial development, but that collapsed when federal authorities in essence stepped in citing environmental issues. A mistrial in 2019 additional complicated the case, and the pandemic extra a different delay.

Nevertheless principals in East Cape May well Associates have died in new years, their estates have ongoing the circumstance. Jacob Perskie, an legal professional who has represented East Cape Could Associates in court docket, stated he could not remark when achieved Tuesday afternoon.

Testa would like to see the point out open accessibility to the general public and consist of strolling and birding trails as a managed park. He would also like to see adjacent city-owned land incorporated into the preserved place, as effectively as some individually owned parcels.

In a critique of its grasp prepare in 2019, Cape Could officials termed the Sewell tract a “freshwater precedence area” and dwelling to threatened and endangered species, and observed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services had also declared the space as precedence wetlands to safeguard versus increasing sea waters.

Cape May City Council has also handed resolutions in support of preservation of the tract. The town was not, having said that, a participant in the lawsuit.

Mullock, the mayor, mentioned the preservation saved the metropolis $16 million in bonds it had authorized, but under no circumstances issued, to supply utilities to the web page. The lawsuit experienced “hung like a dark cloud” about the metropolis, he claimed, noting that the metropolis would have experienced to concern the financial debt if the land experienced not been preserved.

Environmentally, he reported, the land is portion of a big flyway for migrating birds immediately after crossing the Delaware Bay.

“This is just an all-about residence operate for Cape May possibly,” Mullock claimed.

The mayor explained he fulfilled personally with Gov. Phil Murphy throughout the city’s Independence Day Parade in July and preserving the Sewell tract was the sole concentration of the dialogue.

The town owns 10.5 acres adjoining the web page, Mullock reported, and would like to see it employed in conjunction with the new preserved web page, with probably a parking large amount extra to accommodate birders and other people.

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