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Walmart Proposal Setback

A major setback for a proposed Super Walmart slated for construction on acreage that straddles the Toms River-Manchester border off Route 37.

Appellate judges reversed the project’s Department of Environmental (DEP) permits and Manchester Planning Board approvals saying that the decision processes were flawed. But New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said the biggest concern was the huge loophole the DEP created in our endangered species rules.

“If you can just take endangered species habitat and the species themselves and build on top of them, in exchange for open space six miles away, then there really is hardly any endangered species protections left,” said Tittel.

Tittel said the Sierra Club is considering filing another appeal because we don’t believe the appellate court went far enough in examining the NJDEP’s decision.

“My bigger concern right now is this puts a target on all endangered species and open space lands anywhere in the state.”

However, Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher said there are always two sides to an issue. “Environmentalists can say that it’s bad for the environment, it’s not right covering the soil and disturbing the snakes and everything and the other side of it, it’s good for the economy. It’s going to make a lot of jobs for people,” said Kelaher.

Tittel said they’re not against economic growth; They just don’t think it should be done at the expense of open space and endangered species.

“I mean, who would say that Toms River needs more sprawl. I think there are places that could be redeveloped of existing shopping centers that are closed or are pretty much closed where they could have built this instead.”

The proposal is headed back the DEP and the Manchester Planning Board for more scrutiny, carefully reviewing the laws and guidelines in place before giving permits for such projects.

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