Atlantic County may have a new Pinelands commissioner after the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting Tuesday.
Paul Galletta, co-owner of Atlantic Blueberries in Hammonton, is resigning his seat after 12 years on the commission, he said Monday.
Buena engineer Jerome H. Irick, the president of the Atlantic County Board of Agriculture, is on the agenda to be appointed to replace him.
"It was time to step down," said Galletta, citing business, family and some health issues. "But I am feeling good now."
He said he has gotten to know Irick over the last year, and said Irick is well qualified to be on the commission with lots of "common sense and compassion."
Galletta said he treasures his land preservation work on the commission the most, and the lifelong friends he made there, particularly among the staff members.
"Almost 50 percent of the land in the Pinelands has been preserved," he said, through various purchase and/or protection programs, including farmland preservation. "All sides of the table feel good about that. There were times we disagreed, but we could always get along."
The 15 commissioners disagreed about how to handle an application by South Jersey Gas to build a 22-mile pipeline from Maurice River Township to the B.L. England electric plant in Beesley's Point in Upper Township. It needed commission approval to travel through 10 miles of protected Pinelands Forest.
In 2014 the commission narrowly voted not to approve the piepline, then after some new commissioners joined the board, it voted in favor of it in early 2017.
Galletta voted in favor of the pipeline both times.
But the pipeline's approval is now dead, after the plant's owner R.C. Cape May Holdings announced it no longer planned to convert he plant from coal and oil to natural gas. It will close the plant for good instead in May.