Some may see progress in gaining Coastal Areas Review Act permits (CAFRA) to build a Super Walmart on the Toms River/Manchester Border as a victory for creating jobs and tax ratables into Ocean County but the Pinelands Preservation Alliance see’s it much differently.

Alliance Executive Director Carlton Montgomery believes this case is about so much more than just another Big Box Store. Montgomery says “one of the reasons this case is very important for the entire State is that it represents an approach to getting around environmental rules by saying; we’ll destroy known resources here but we’re going to say it’s okay because we’re going to try and make other places better for nature than they are now.”

He’s referring to the Department of Environmental Protection’s settlement with the Big Box store calling for walling off an area to protect the den of an endangered snake. Montgomery says “we’ve seen this in the past where developer’s propose wall and fences to try to cabin rare species of wildlife into narrow areas so they can develop the rest of their habitat and it has consistently failed in the past.”

He adds that they had hoped that DEP would use its authority to encourage Walmart to select an alternative site. So the question is why would developers of the super store reject constructing the facility on any one of the many abandoned stores along the Route 37 corridor? Montgomery seems to think it’s a matter of money. “It’s always cheaper to build on a forest than on a already developed area, even if it’s been abandoned.” He also says a much smaller development on the parcel would be okay instead of the proposed nearly 190-thousand-square-foot facility.

Montgomery says “we’re going to be filing comments in opposition to the proposed settlement as we have done in the past and hope that the weight of evidence and scientific opinion as well as existing legal protections will persuade the DEP to back off of this settlement.”