Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ramblings on Rambling Lakes

Memories of Hearings Past

As I look back at all my old notes and records from the 1999 hearings in South Brunswick regarding the Dallenbach Sand Company’s attempts to mine the Green Acres lands of the Pigeon Swamp Park, they take on a new perspective.

Now that I know about the John Lynch connection, our victory in protecting the park from commercial exploitation becomes even sweeter. I had always wondered why DEP officials had believed there was strong local support for Rambling Lakes State Park, the Dallenbach invention of payback to the State for the mining rights to its parkland. Now I know. It was letters from John Lynch’s senator’s office at work

Rambling Lakes appeared on the horizon in 1998 or so, disappeared for a while and then reappeared in 1999 when the sand company, under Jack Whitman, was in the process of purchasing the land from Local 825 Operating Engineers to expand the current pit. It was at that point that I and other residents began an active campaign to battle against the mining.

Note here that it’s sad the Dallenbach name is drawn into this nefarious plot. Before the sand company was sold and eventually made its way into the Herbert empire, the Dallenbach family were good neighbors to residents and good people to know. Unfortunately, the company name was sold along with the property and now the family name is forever linked with the mess left behind.

I was in contact with DEP officials on a regular basis during the discussions. Eventually, under the good judgment of then South Brunswick Mayor Debra Johnson with support from Councilman Ted Van Hessen as leaders, the Council drafted a letter to the DEP informing them that South Brunswick and its mining ordinance did not support the Rambling Lakes Project. That eventually triggered the DEP’s denial of the project and the sale of parkland for mining.

Herbert and crew pursued the 825 deal anyhow, and even attempted to trade land in East Brunswick to the Operating Engineers to speed up the deal. In its wisdom, East Brunswick refused to fall prey and the deal never happened. 825 is still in place and the Dallenbach Sand Company has since essentially shut down.

There were more hearings down the road, including one that gave DSC a permit to import and wash sand at the facility. That too was a strange affair with the Township accepting some fairly unsubstantiated “evidence” from the Herberts that the company had “always” imported and washed sand there—something we residents had never seen evidence of when the Dallenbach family operated the plant. Now, I have to wonder if pressure from “above” in the form of John Lynch may well have been in play there as well.

It has taken nearly ten years for vindication and a realization that our success in thwarting the Rambling Lakes plan was a victory against some pretty powerful forces. By the same token, it stirs up some uneasy concerns. How can we know whether or not these same powerful political forces have been at work in other planning and development decisions in South Brunswick? It is now becoming clear that the long arm of Lynch and the County Democratic machine held out a hand for Rambling Lakes. What else might those manipulating fingers have touched?

It’s something to worry about.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Trhough the Looking Glass of Warehouse Sales

And the Reflection Isn't Fair to All

“Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice would say. That’s what comes to mind as I read the proposed ordinance permitting retails sales in South Brunswick warehouses.

Key phrases in the original wording have been changed.. The original wording read: “The site must be east of Route 130, or west of Route 130 and south of Friendship Road. But in the new version, “west of Route 130 and south of Friendship Road” have been struck out.

Is this amendment significant?

When I questioned the ordinance at the September 12th Council meeting, Council members were not too clear about all the provisions, but it was noted that eliminating retail stores from warehouses west of 130 in the Friendship Road area was intended to lessen the impact of these stores on residential areas.

Once more the specter of Forgotten South Brunswick raises its ugly head on the horizon. Both Deans-Rhode Hall Road and Davidson Mill Road are rural residential areas as well. Both roads are east of Route 130, and both roads have more than enough warehouses around them to create plenty of intrusion from retail store traffic and customers.

Is the Friendship Road residential area more deserving of peace and quiet from retail sales?

The proposed stores will be open seven days a week. No more Saturday and Sunday relief from the commuter traffic. Now it will be replaced by shopper traffic. After all, weekends are for shopping, especially for bargains.

Warehouse stores are a great idea. I love a good buy as anyone else, but if revenue is what the Township wants from this endeavor, then let all the warehouses have stores. Don’t exclude one area to protect the residents while leaving another group of residents to suffer the consequences.

Then again, the Council could take another route and remember the Northeast corner of the Township. Let the stores open in warehouses between 522 and 130 instead. Treat all residents with the same consideration and let us maintain at least a portion of the quality of life we cherish.

Is it too much to ask that our part of town be treated the same as the Friendship Road rural residential area?