Ocean Acres Conservation Zone
In 2004, Barnegat Township adopted an ordinance that created a 350 acre Residential Conservation (RC) Zone within the existing Regional Growth portion of the Ocean Acres sub-division. Walters Group, a major land owner within the subdivision, believes that a 135 lot portion of the conservation zone should now be rezoned to allow the development of houses.
In June of 2004, Barnegat Township adopted an ordinance that created a 350 acre Residential Conservation (RC) Zone within the existing Regional Growth portion of the Ocean Acres sub-division. This conservation zone was created at the direction of the Pinelands Commission in order to protect wetlands and wetland buffers, several endangered plant species and a local population of Northern Pine Snakes, a protected threatened species in the Pinelands.
This new RC zone comprised approximately 730 existing subdivided undersized lots. The boundaries of the RC Zone were drawn to encompass both wetlands and wetlands buffer areas, as well as areas which constituted habitat critical to the survival of populations of threatened and endangered species.
[+ ZOOM] Four Mile Branch which is within the conservation zone. © PPA
Within the conservation zone is an area of 135 lots, bordered by Nautilus Drive, Avalon Avenue, Mutineer Area and Viking Drive, which the major land owner, Walters Group, is contending is not critical habitat for any local populations of threatened and endangered species. They completed a new two year study which they believe supports the position that this area should be removed from the RC zone so that it can be developed.
[+ ZOOM] Division of Fish and Wildlife reveiw.
The Ocean Acres sub-division in Barnegat Township consists of 2,000 lots that were subdivided prior to the enactment the Pinelands Protection Act of 1979. Many of these lots are less than a ¼ acre in size. In 2004, Ocean Acres was divided into the conservation zone (RC) and the development zone was labeled Residential High (RH). The Residential High (RH) zone has approximately 1,237 lots. Owners in the RH zone are permitted to build a single family dwelling on vacant lots of 9,000-10,000 square feet, but under the 2004 ordinance (click to read Ordinance 2004-23) they can develop lots which are less than 9,000 square feet if the owner purchases two of the RC lots and deed restricts them for open space.
When Barnegat Township passed the Ordinance for the RC and RH zoning in 2004, Walters Group objected and entered into a three-party agreement (click here to read agreement) with Barnegat Township and the Pinelands Commission to allow for an additional two-year study of the 135 lot portion of the conservation zone that they believed should be made developable.
The Pinelands Commission staff on October 5, 2009 made a determination that the 38 acre –135 lot site did not constitute critical habitat for the Northern Pine Snake.
The environmental community believes that the Pinelands Commission has failed to protect important Pinelands species habitat and it is now up to the Barnegat Township governing body to take or not take the next step to protect this important habitat in Barnegat Township.
The Barnegat Township Committee, on May 3, 2012, had a second reading and public hearing for Ordinance 2010-06 which would have removed 135 lots consisting of 38 acres from the conservation zone to the RH development zone. This Ordinance received three “no” votes and did not pass leaving intact the wildlife corridor that was established in 2004.
But agian on May 7, 2012, the Barnegat Township Committee had a second reading of Ordinance 2012-12 which would remove these 135 lots consisting of 38 acres from the conservation zone to the RH development zone. This time the ordinance received four "yes" votes (Melchiondo, Cirulli, Bille, and Morano) and 1 abstention (Lisella) allowing for lots to be rezoned for development.
[+ ZOOM] Ocean Acres Conservation Zone wetlands.
PPA also believes that the zoning concept which was put into place with Ordinance 2004-23 is not working. The zoning was set up to assure that both lots inside and the lots outside of the conservation area would retain value. It was a way to save the ecological resources and the value of all the lots in Ocean Acres.
The Pinelands Commission determined in October of 2004 that there were 567 vacant lots between 9,000-10,000 square feet. In order to build on these 567 lots a total of 1,034 lots, two conservation lots for each buildable lot, would be deed restricted in the conservation zone of the Ocean Acres development. In 2004 there were 730 lots in the conservation zone, meaning all individually owned lots could be purchased.
Lot owners of the undersized lots also had, with Ordinance 2004-23, the option to purchase 0.25 Pinelands Development Credits (PDC) or permanently protect 2/3 of an acre of vacant wetlands located within the conservation zone.
The ordinance had one additional complicating factor and that was that re-subdivision would continue to be permitted in the RH development zone. This meant that the owner of several contiguous lots could decide to consolidate and re-sudivide, requiring fewer conservation lots and negating the need to protect any lands in the RC zone or the purchase of PDC’s.
To date there have been many re-subdivisions negating the purchase of some 150 lots in the conservation zone to be purchased for deed restriction. In December of 2009 there were 5 applications before the Barnegat Township Planning Board, including four applications by Walters, which negated the need for 54 of the 150 lots.
To date, no conservation lots have been purchased and no PDC's have been purchased in exchange for building on an Ocean Acres lot.
PPA is concerned about the large number of conservation lot opportunities that have been lost and has asked the Barnegat Township Governing Body to consider changes to strengthen its current ordinance. Barnegat should make it an obligation to purchase the two conservation lots based on the size of the lots as of January 2010, and to allow for the purchase of land or PDC’s only after all conservation zone lots have been deed-restricted.
News - Ocean Acres 29 Apr 2010 - 33.6KB
Atlantic City Press, Barnegat Twp planners say Ocean Acres Phase 3 fits master plan but is a bad idea, by Eric Campbell
PPA's submission to the Pinelands Commission:
In August of 2009, Pinelands Preservation Alliance obtained a review of the EcolScience, Inc. report, on the 135 lot area, by Dr. Joanna Burger, Professor, Division of Life Sciences, Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers University and Dr. Emile DeVito, Director of Science and Conservation, New Jersey Conservation Foundation. On August 7, 2009 we submitted a letter along with the comments from Dr. Joanna Burger and Dr. Emile DeVito.
News - Ocean Acres - 16 May 2010 - 74.5KB
Atlantic City Press, First snakes now worries of overdevelopment stall construction at Barnegat Twp Ocean Acres, by Eric Scott Campbell