Independent opinion on Broadmoor wetlands sought

Planning Board hires environmental scientist

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Despite a seal of approval issued on the Broadmoor properties by the state DEP, Rumson’s Planning Board has unanimously voted to hire its own environmental expert to investigate the land.

"I don’t trust or believe or have confidence in what any government agency says," said board Chairman John Doremus at Monday night’s meeting. "I want to know that someone who has no connection to the applicant or the opposition looked at the property. I want to use an outside source."

The controversy began in May when Stephen DePalma, the principal of Broadmoor Properties and co-owner of the engineering and planning firm Schoor DePalma, proposed to clear existing trees on an area commonly known as Widgeons Point. DePalma wanted to construct a 20,000-square-foot mansion and two smaller residential structures on the two-lot, 16.4-acre land, which is bounded by Broadmoor Drive and the Shrewsbury River and inlet.

DePalma is seeking variances and completeness waivers to subdivide the two lots into three new lots and construct bulkheads on the lots with roughly 20,000 truckloads of fill.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has attested to the area being free of highly sensitive freshwater wetlands and granted the applicant all necessary permits. The applicant’s environmental scientist, Steven Ewing, of Schoor DePalma, also testified that the property is ecologically appropriate to build upon.

Widgeons Point residents, who agreed to cover the cost of the independent environmental study, said the construction would destroy the pristine property and annihilate the area’s already fragile flood ties.

Pointing to the fact that Ewing is testifying on behalf of his employer and the applicant has prohibited objectors from sending an environmental expert to investigate the property, attorney Ron Gasiorowski indicated DePalma may be not be telling the whole truth.

"There is definitely freshwater wetlands on that property," Gasiorowski said. "It makes the most sense to have an individual evaluation of this property."

The applicant’s attorney, John Giunco, said the board does not have the jurisdiction to overturn DEP approvals.

"We have a permit, we have a ratification and we have another ratification," Giunco said. "I don’t understand how you can hire someone because of the objectors. You don’t have legal authority to do that."

Board officials said the inde­pendent contractor’s findings will go on the record.

According to Planning Board Attorney Michael Leckstein, find­ing freshwater wetlands on the property is not enough to reject the application.

"The applicant already has the approvals, rightfully or wrong­fully," he said.

The next hearings on the Broadmoor properties application will be held Jan. 5 and 19 at 7 p.m.