MILLVILLE — Cumberland County officials on Wednesday will consider a new map that environmentalist say would lead to extended development at the so-called Wawa Tract.
The map extends the sanitary sewer boundaries further into the tract and closer to Union Lake than a plan approved by the city, state, environmental groups and Wawa in April 2011.
The new map — which is scheduled to be voted on by the Cumberland County Planning Board at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday — was prompted by a series of issues involving habitat for pine snakes and bald eagles at the Wawa Tract. The map before the county planning board was developed with input from the county and city.
Members of environmental groups opposing extensive development at the Wawa Tract on Tuesdayasked City Commission to stand by the plan adopted in April 2011. Groups say development at the almost 400 acre site could cause potential pollution problems for the adjoining Union Lake and nearby stretches of the Maurice River.
“We would just like to see you try to keep the sewer service area outside of the area that has been proposed to be preserved,” said Jane Morton Galetto of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries. “I think it’s pretty simple.”
Matt Blake of the American Littoral Society said the city has, for more than a year, stood by the earlier agreement and the 210 acres it was to preserve as open space.
“Now, when the state says you need to enlarge the open space areas to provide an adequate protective buffer for the bald eagle nests, the city and county instead put forward a map that proposes to move the sewer line closer to the lake,” he said. “These birds are telling us more needs to be done here.”
Mayor Tim Shannon said he wants some clarifications as to the buffers required by state regulations for bald eagle nesting sites.
Owned by Wawa, the Wawa Tract covers 398 acres in an area loosely bordered by Sharp Street and Routes 47 and 55. The tract fronts Union Lake for almost a mile. The site is also across Union Lake from the state-run Union Lake Wildlife Management Area.
The state, city, environmental groups and Wawa agreed in April 2011 to a plan that designated 210 acres to remain as open space. The plan also set aside acreage for a shopping center, homes, elementary school, athletic fields, office park and historic preservation.
However, the state Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, in April reversed its sewer extension ban for the site, saying new information indicated the Wawa Tract was not suitable habitat for pine snakes. DEP’s decision to lift the ban was then put on hold after the discovery of bald eagle nesting sites.
DEP officials said the county and city would work on a new sewer service area to be forwarded to the state.
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