Developer accuses objector of ethics violation
FAIR HAVEN — It appears to be far from smooth sailing for those seeking and those opposing the construction of a large, private, boating dock for a riverfront Hance Road property.
River Capital Associates, LLC, which had taken ownership of 1 Hance Road last Oct. 6, submitted an application a waterfront development plan on Nov. 4 to NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which has caused two borough residents to voice objections about the application to the state, triggering a response from the developer alleging an ethics violation on the part of an one of the objectors.
According to information obtained from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), River Capital, is seeking approval to rebuild the bulkhead, which has fallen into disrepair, at the property’s shoreline and to extend the boat dock by approximately 62 feet into the Navesink River.
The application, said DEP spokesman Lawrence Hajna, is currently under review by the project manager and the property owner has been notified that additional information is being requested for the process to proceed.
That letter, signed by Kara Turner, the project manager, outlined what would be required from the property owner and what would have to make available to address the application’s deficiencies. The letter stated to River Capital that it finds its plans for its shore protection structure (the bulkhead) “acceptable, as long as it will cause minimum feasible adverse impact to the living marine and estuarine resources.”
Turner’s letter also states that her division “has received public comment regarding the proposed dock being a hazard to navigation,” and advises the property owner to “demonstrate the proposed structures are in compliance” with state regulations.
Two complaint letters came from borough residents Ralph W. Wyndrum Jr. and Richard B. Huff, who raised concerns about the impact the extended dock would have on area boating and on the environment.
Wyndrum, who is a neighbor of the property owner, is the borough’s environmental commission chairman, with Huff serving as the commission’s vice chair.
It was Huff’s letter that sparked a response from the principle of River Capital Associates, Patrick Scire.
In his letter to the DEP, Huff sites his affiliation with the environmental commission in objecting to the project. But, noted Mayor Michael Halfacre and Scire in his response, the environmental commission did not conduct its November meeting because of a lack of a quorum, and would not have been able to discuss it.
In Scire’s letter, obtained through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to the borough clerk’s office, the property owner alleged “the violations of the Local Government Ethics Law on the issue of conflict of interest” from the objectors.
In response to Scire’s accusation, Halfacre in late December said borough officials had sent DEP’s Turner a letter indicating Huff’s letter “was not an official response of the Fair Haven Environmental Commission.”
Another letter was sent to Huff admonishing him for his action, Halfacre said, noting the commission would probably address the application at its next meeting, “and may or may not choose to send a letter of consensus at that time.”
“As far as I’m concerned, the matter’s closed,” Halfacre said. But he added, he understands that residents have a right to voice concerns to the state. And, according to the DEP spokesman Hajna, those responses will be given consideration when the application is evaluated.
“Personally, I don’t have any problem with the guy developing his property the way he wants,” Halfacre added.
Scire currently lives in the Locust section of Middletown. And as Halfacre understands it, Scire plans to live at the Hance Road site and would like to extend the dock for his private use.
Local boards do not have jurisdiction on this proposal; the final decision would rest with the DEP, according to Halfacre (who is a lawyer). The local planning board and environmental commission, however, under state statute are permitted to offer its views for consideration, Halfacre said.
Wyndrum sits on the planning board, as well; but as a neighboring property owner he would have to recuse himself should it come before the board, Halfacre said.