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Jaylin Development Threatens Habitat

In 2020 the NJ DEP approved a 100,000 square foot retail development on 43 acres of threaten species habitat. We challenged this ruling.

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This site is habitat for the Pine Barrens tree frog and other threatened species.
Overview:

Jaylin, a developer, has proposed development on 43 acres of threatened species habitat at the border of Toms River and Manchester Townships for almost 15 years. This property is valuable habitat for northern pine snake and Pine Barrens treefrog, both state-threatened species. It also serves as a sink for nutrient runoff and stormwater in an otherwise highly-developed section of Toms River township. PPA and Save Barnegat Bay successfully opposed prior development proposals because they would harm or destroy rare species habitat and create too much impervious cover (building roofs, and pavement) for such a site. PPA provided the state with scientific reports on the threatened and endangered species and advocated for enforcement of relevant environmental protections.

This site is in the overlap of the Pinelands National Reserve and NJ’s Coastal Zone Management Area. Under current rules, the Department of Environmental Protection, rather than the Pinelands Commission, issues state environmental permits in this overlap zone.

Current Status:

In 2020 the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection approved a nearly 100,000 square foot retail development on this land submitted by Jaylin Holdings, LLC. Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) and Save Barnegat Bay (SBB) challenged the approval and the Appellate Division remanded the case back to DEP for further consideration of the issues raised by the two organizations.


Another round of public comment on the application was open until May 20, 2021. Now the DEP is reconsidering their approval.


PPA and SBB have successfully opposed development at this site for many years.  The location features extensive wetlands and is of enormous importance to Barnegat Bay.  The project site provides habitat for the Northern Pine Snake, Pine Barrens Tree Frog, and other threatened species.  In our prior comments to DEP, we took issue with the applicant’s lack of meaningful attention to impacts on amphibian and Barred Owl populations, and particularly the applicant’s controversial method of mitigating for Northern Pine Snake habitat loss.  This method included acquisition of parcels disconnected from the development and disconnected from one another to “offset” the habitat loss on the project site itself.  Aside from being inherently dubious, this “Habitat Evaluation Method” was originally devised over a decade ago.  DEP should not be relying on this outdated mitigation proposal or its supporting data in 2021 to justify the destruction of valuable coastal habitat..

It is also critical that the Pinelands Commission weigh in with DEP and investigate whether all CMP standards are being met, as DEP is required to do in areas in both the Pinelands and the Coastal Zone.

Issue Location Map:
Detailed Information

PPA has been fighting this development for close to 15 years due to its enormous value to local northern pine snake populations and to Barnegat Bay. This area of Toms River and Manchester is undeveloped in an area where much of the surrounding area is already developed. It is also located adjacent to the proposed Heritage Minerals development in Manchester.

One of many major issues with this project is the developer’s idea that parcels disconnected from the existing development and disconnected from one another can provide suitable habitat for northern pine snake. This species has an extensive foraging range and is highly susceptible to habitat fragmentation, especially by roads. The idea that the proposed mitigation is satisfactory is absurd.

PPA and Experts Positions:

PPA Comments on Letter of Interpretation – 2017
PPA Comments on Letter of Interpretation and CAFRA permit – 2016
PPA and expert comments on settlement
Threatened and Endangered Species Comments

Timeline

2004: Jaylin applied for a CAFRA permit to allow the construction of a 203,000 square foot Walmart superstore with 1,093 parking spaces on the site.

2005: Jaylin found northern pine snakes on the site, and NJDEP found that the proposed development would directly impact the local population.

2006: NJDEP denied the application because of noncompliance with threatened and endangered plant and animal regulations and impervious cover limits, among other regulations.

2009: Jaylin submitted an amended application for a 187,700 square foot retail space with 833 parking spaces, totaling 40.5% impervious coverage on the site. This application included some off-site habitat preservation.

2010: NJDEP denied Jaylin’s CAFRA application for non-compliance with threatened and endangered plant and wildlife regulations and impervious cover limits. Jaylin requested an administrative hearing and submitted a new application with the intention of negotiating a settlement agreement. NJDEP then created and applied a new Habitat Evaluation Model to guide mitigation in the application, but did not base the model on best available science or conservation principles.

2011: NJDEP entered into a settlement with Jaylin to authorize the construction of a 189,700 square foot retail space and 833 parking spaces.

2012: NJDEP issued a CAFRA and Freshwater Wetlands General Permit authorizing the construction of the Walmart. PPA and Save Barnegat Bay appealed this permit decision.

2014: The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey remanded the permit decision back to NJDEP, as the agency had failed to properly assess whether the development fell within a coastal center, which would change the allowable impervious cover on the site.

2015: Jaylin submitted an application to NJDEP for a Freshwater Wetlands Letter of Interpretation (LOI) for the site.

2016: NJDEP issued the requested LOI and made the determination that some wetlands on site were of exceptional resource value and some were of intermediate resource value. PPA and Save Barnegat Bay filed an appeal of this LOI.
Jaylin submitted an application for a CAFRA permit based on this LOI, which NJDEP granted.

2017: Toms River and the State Planning Commission designated this area as part of a regional center in violation of CAFRA regulations. This designation would allow an increase in allowable impervious coverage on the site, from 30% to 90%. The designation has yet to be approved by NJDEP.
NJDEP recognized procedural defects in its review of the LOI and requested a remand from the court, which was granted. NJDEP then opened the application for public comment and PPA and partner organizations submitted comments supporting classifying the entirety of the wetlands on site as exceptional resource value based on rare species occurrences on-site. Walmart withdrew from the property, and NJDEP issued an LOI classifying all wetlands on-site as exceptional resource value.

February 2018: Jaylin submitted a new CAFRA permit application for an approximately 140,000 square foot development with over 550 parking spaces.

July 2018: Jaylin withdrew the application. It is likely that the applicant will resubmit soon.

2020: DEP approves another Jaylin application to develop the site.  Although the footprint is scaled down somewhat, the plan is substantially similar to previous applications and presents the same environmental problems.  PPA and Save Barnegat Bay appeal DEP’s approval in court.

2021: The Appellate Division remands the case back to DEP for further consideration of the issues raised by PPA and Save Barnegat Bay.  Public comment is underway until May 20, 2021.

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