Grawtown Road Development

In Fall 2007 the Jackson Township Planning Board denied the Grawtown Estates application for a preliminary major subdivision of 493 residential lots of a 300 acrenpiece of property on Grawtown Road, Jackson Township, Ocean County.

The board denied the application by a vote of 8 to 1. Members gave two reasons for their denial: the first was road and traffic impacts surrounding the development and the second was uncertainty about the existence of threatened or endangered species on the site.

Image of Pine Snake Found on Grawtown Road Property[+ ZOOM] Pine Snake Found on Grawtown Road Property © J. Yannariello

Residents along Bowman and Grawtown Roads have had three northern pine snake sightings over the last two years. These were brought to the attention of the planning board during the review of the application. Under the Jackson Township Land Use Ordinance the planning board must make the determination whether or not the application meets section 109-71 C.(1), which states "No development shall be carried out in the Pinelands Area unless it is designed to avoid irreversible impacts on habitats that are critical to the survival of any local populations of those threatened or endangered animal species designated by the DEP pursuant to NJSA 23:2A-1."

This provision, which is part of the Pinelands Commission's Comprehensive Management Plan (7:50- 6.33), is in every municipal ordinance that covers any part of the Pinelands Area. Each municipality in the Pinelands is required to protect threatened or endangered wildlife habitat. If an applicant has not submitted studies showing the planning board members that a site does not contain critical habitat, the application should be denied.

The Grawtown Estates developer hired consultants to do threatened and endangered species surveys. The consultants reported that they did not encounter any northern pine snakes during the two years of spring and fall surveys they performed. The residents, however, have documented one live northern pine snake entering the Grawtown Estates property and two that were found dead along Grawtown Road. In each case the sightings were reported to the state. The residents took photos and submitted them to the state with a completed New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Threatened and Endangered Species Reporting form.

Image of A map showing the proposed development along Grawtown Road.[+ ZOOM] A map showing the proposed development along Grawtown Road. © PPA

Raymond Shea, the attorney for the applicant, said the criterion is "does the property contain suitable habitat" and not whether someone has found a live or dead snake on the property. The presence of pine snakes at a Pinelands site, however, generally indicates the presence of suitable foraging, nesting or hibernation habitat there.

The Jackson Planning Board also sited road and traffic hazards in the area. Planning Board Chairman Ken Bressi indicated there have been a total of 322 accidents since 2004 on the 4 roadways surrounding the site. The board felt the applicants proposed road improvements would not make the roadways safer.

The development is not necessarily dead. The developer may challenge the Planning Board action in court, may redesign the development to try to answer the Board's objections, or may simply do nothing for the immediate future.

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