Ed McClinchey used to live in Camden County and was appointed as that county’s representative on the state Pinelands Commission in 2010. He had a second home in the Seaview Harbor section of Egg Harbor Township and at some point made that his primary residence. He resigned as Camden’s commissioner earlier this year.
Gov. Chris Christie then nominated McGlinchey to serve as one of the seven gubernatorial appointees to the commission. But serious questions have been raised about the timing of McGlinchey’s move, his resignation and his application for a federal grant to raise his primary residence in the township.
Christie should nominate someone else to the Pinelands Commission, someone who will respect the interests of the people in the pinelands and surrounding communities.
McGlinchey filed ethics forms with the commission from 2010 to 2013 declaring his primary residence was in Camden County and that he had a second home in Atlantic County.
But he applied for a $130,000 federal Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation grant to elevate his Seaview Harbor house, according to a copy of his application provided by environmentalists opposed to his commission votes. McGlinchey would be eligible for the Hurricane Sandy relief program only if the house were his primary residence in 2012 when the storm hit.
Perhaps he’ll be joining the hundred or so people in New Jersey charged with falsely filing applications for Sandy relief, including an Atlantic City woman and three others just last week. Perhaps he continued to represent Camden County when he was no longer eligible.
Either way, he should no longer serve on the Pinelands Commission. Christie should nominate someone else, preferably from South Jersey and dedicated to preserving the pinelands in ways that don’t unreasonably burden the residents of the region.
This is important because the Pinelands Commission lately has shown an unfortunate susceptibility to an elitist and misguided interpretation of its mandate and rules.
In 2015, for example, it tried to ban a Hammonton turf farm from occasionally letting kids play soccer on grass it was legally growing for sports fields. That prompted the state Legislature to vote to take agricultural oversight in the pinelands away from the commission, but Christie insisted that it remain with the commission and got a compromise amending pinelands rules to expressly allow field sports among permitted forms of low-intensity recreation.
For a few years now, the commission has had trouble approving a natural-gas pipeline to convert and clean up the emissions of the coal-fired Beesleys Point powerplant — even though the pipeline would run along a highway and do no harm to the environment or the water in the pinelands aquifer.
Commissioners who live in South Jersey, know its people and see the pinelands regularly are more likely to preserve the pinelands in ways that don’t disregard the people affected by their actions and don’t deviate from the goals of the original intent of preservation.
A new appointment should be made soon not only by Christie, but also by officials in Cape May and Camden counties to fill their seats on the Pinelands Commission.
The people of South Jersey have to live with the consequences of the commission’s actions, and they must have representatives on it who respect their needs and desires.