Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mount Olive tract preserved as watershed resource (6/9/10)

I especially like that the housing project was already started and was stopped. I've seen parcels -- in Upper Freehold, Colts Neck -- that had been carved out, maybe a road paved, with no other progress for quite a while. This gives hope that these projects can be stopped, even if they've already been started.

Original Dan Goldburg story appears on

MOUNT OLIVE -- A strategically important property near the headwaters of the South Branch Watershed in Mount Olive that had been slated for development will instead be preserved, the Trust for Public Land and the New Jersey Land Conservancy announced.
That’s good news for many township residents and environmentalists who were concerned about how a residential development would affect the surrounding neighborhood and the Raritan River, which supplies drinking water to more than 1 million New Jersey residents in Morris, Hunterdon and Somerset Counties.
The $2.65 million purchase of the 134-acre tract, which sits on the border of Mount Olive and Washington Township in the Highlands region, was coordinated by The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization.
“Conservation of drinking water sources is paramount to keeping New Jersey’s citizens healthy,” said Anthony Cucchi, New Jersey state director for The Trust for Public Land, in a press release.
A portion of the property had been approved in 2004 for 16 single-family homes. As part of the development, a road was installed as were several stream crossings, detention basins and footings for an arch bridge.
The developers, Anthony and Golnaz Mortezai of Chester Township, were fined by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2006 after state officials said the destruction of wetland transition areas on the site led to severe soil erosion that caused streams running through the property to fill with silt.
The foundations for the 16 homes had been laid, said Terrence Nolan, spokesman for the Trust for Public Land, but the souring economy spoiled the development.
The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, which will manage the land as a watershed resource, plans to remove the detention basins, restore stream channels to their natural state and has been given $100,000 from the former owner of the property and the Trust for Public Land to begin remediation.
“The Land Conservancy of New Jersey is excited to have the opportunity to restore the disturbed streams and stop the erosion that has plagued this beautiful property so that it can once again provide clean drinking water,” said David Epstein, conservancy president.
The Morris County Preservation Trust Fund gave $1.65 million toward the project.
“Here is further demonstration of Morris County’s two decades of preservation leadership, as we continue to help protect more critical water supply lands for the benefit of our residents,” said Jack Schrier, freeholder and liaison to the county’s Preservation Trust Fund programs.
The Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority contributed $500,000 and $460,000 came from two New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program grants.
“It’s a good piece to add to our open space inventory,” said David Scapicchio, Mount Olive mayor. “(We get) another piece of open space that the town can use but didn’t pay for.”

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