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State Court Sides With Developer, DEP in Toms River Walmart Case

Case centered on habitat for the northern pine snake, a threatened species in New Jersey

Map: Pinelands Preservation Alliance
Map: Pinelands Preservation Alliance
The state Superior Court Appellate Division issued a ruling on Tuesday that sided with the developer of a proposed Walmart Supercenter and the state Department of Environmental Protection in a case that centers around the northern pine snake, a threatened species in New Jersey.

A slew of environmental groups, as well as Shop-Rite owner Michael Perlmutter, joined together in a lawsuit against Jaylin Holdings, the developer of the Walmart, as well as the state DEP, which granted Jaylin a permit to build.

Jaylin has proposed a 203,091 square foot Walmart retail store, a 19,884 square foot garden center, 1049 parking spaces, three stormwater basins and access roads, while reserving two outparcels for future use, according to court documents. The store would be located in both Toms River and Manchester townships.

The latest legal battle in the years-long spate of litigation over the Walmart store's construction focused on the presence of the northern pine snake, a species considered threatened in New Jersey. Environmental groups have long held that the presence of snake dens at the site proposed for the Walmart should be enough to stop the retail shopping center from being constructed, while Jaylin and the DEP had reached a settlement to physically move the snakes to a new location and preserve habitat elsewhere to make up for what would be lost at the Walmart site.

The court ultimately upheld the DEP's decision to allow the project to move forward, which came in 2012, a reversal of previous decisions by the same agency that disallowed the shopping center's construction.

Some have accused Walmart of hiring politically connected attorneys to help the approval process move forward in favor of the retail giant.

Jeff Tittel, Director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey, said Tuesday's decision "opens up a loophole big enough to drive a bulldozer right over endangered species habitat and the species themselves."

"This court case isn’t an environmental disaster waiting to happen," said Tittel, in an e-mail to Patch. "We could potentially lose a tremendous amount of important, environmentally sensitive lands to development.  Through this decision we have created an open season on threatened and endangered species.  Under this decision you can move species or make up fake habitats somewhere else and then pave over valuable habitat and species."

Tittel said his group would explore a possible appeal of the court's decision.

Representatives for Walmart, contacted by Patch, said the company will continue the permitting process in hopes of building.

“We will continue to seek a final resolution that will allow us to serve customers and the community,” spokesman Bill Wertz said.
marcy June 04, 2014 at 08:44 PM
Who needs that tacky store. How about a Whole foods!!!
letsgetreal June 05, 2014 at 06:50 AM
Marcy the biggest problem is getting someone to convince the Whole Foods corp to come to TR....and with all the over regulations here to build (i.e. Pine Snake, the 13 year battle to build Shop Rite) why would any corp wanna spend that much capital in courts when other communities will welcome them with open arms...we are DOOMED here...politics is choking the development of TR.
kimberlee b June 05, 2014 at 06:57 AM
I'll take tacky over Whole paycheck any day.
Mac June 05, 2014 at 10:56 AM
it's only proper that Gilmore's WalMart government has several locations for deposits around the community - who cares about the pine snake when we have so many sandflea snakes from Seaside successfully polluting everything from our ocean beaches to the South Toms River circle of life dump with more and more life support welfare payments - if the GOP is lucky, the Chinese manufacturers will sell them better genes so they can stand up occasionally on their own
Chucky June 07, 2014 at 01:43 AM
Just what toms river needs another Walmart/grocery store like ther isn't enough in this town. Although I'd like to see it for the jobs it provide

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