Oakland, Bergen County, NJ
views from Todd Hill; Todd Lake
Camp Todd was an old Boy Scout Camp, originally owned by the Alexander Hamilton Council of Hudson County, NJ.
A developer intends to put 24 mansions on top of a mountain in Oakland, in the Highlands. We are trying to stop it.
LMK Associates proposes to build 24 two-acre luxury homes on the 73 mountaintop acres of the former Camp Todd in Oakland. The property is adjacent to the Ramapo Mountain State Forest and the former Camps Glen Gray and Tamarack, both now County parkland. The heavily wooded site has rock outcrops throughout and significant steep slopes.
Two streams traverse the site - one is a Category 1 Trout Production waterway with wetlands of 'exceptional' quality. Todd Lake, which is pristine (but not C1), is situated at the property's westernmost corner.
In a 1991 consent agreement, LMK agreed to build in accordance with Oakland's steep slope ordinance. When LMK first presented its plan to the Planning B oard in 2002, 18 houses were found to require steep slope variances. LMK then went back to the drawing board and, in
spring 2003, offered a revised plan with houses and driveways repositioned. Six houses now require variances for steep slope disturbances.
Some talking points:
- Camp Todd is environmentally sensitive property that should be permanently protected; it contains steep slopes, at least two vernal pools, two streams (one designated Category 1 Trout
Production), wetlands (with one area of exceptional quality), the pristine Todd Lake, as well as wildlife and habitat.
- A Category 1 Trout Production stream traverses the site. When the new stormwater rules take effect, C1 waterways will require 300-foot buffers, which is likely to have an impact on this
- The application should be denied on grounds of noncompliance with Oakland's steep slope ordinance, as evidenced by LMK's request for variances for six houses. Under a 1991 consent agreement, LMK agreed to abide by the st eep slope ordinance.
- Camp Todd could be acquired for preservation using funds from the County open space trust fund, NJ DEP Green Acres and private land trusts.
- The application should be denied on grounds of noncompliance with Oakland's steep slope ordinance, as evidenced by the need for variances for six houses. In 1991, LMK agreed to abide by the steep slope ordinance.
- Camp Todd is located in the Ramapo River watershed which, according to the US EPA, is already under severe stress from existing development. Its water quality barely meets EPA standards. Non-point source pollution from the development will degrade the streams, wetlands and Todd Lake and further degrade Ramapo River and its tributaries.
- Developing Camp Todd will adversely affect regional water supplies; replacing forest cover with impervious surfaces (houses, roads, driveways, etc.) will block rainwater absorption, further deplete our groundwater and increase the risk of area flooding from surface
- Camp Todd is adjacent to County and State parkland. Developing Camp Todd will fragment this forest and reduce its wilderness, habitat, recreational and aesthetic values; it will also undermine the efforts of the State and Bergen County to create an expanse of undisturbed open space in the Ramapo Mountains.
- Camp Todd is in the NJ Highlands, which Gov. McGreevey, NJ's US Senators and the entire NJ Congressional delegation all call to protect to safeguard drinking water for over four million New Jerseyans. The Governor recently established a Highlands Task Force to devise a master plan to conserve the region's natural resources and protect water supplies.
For more information:
Sierra Club North Jersey Group
Siera Club, North Jersey Group
Sunday, November 16, 2003
By BRIAN ABERBACK, STAFF WRITER
OAKLAND - A divided Planning Board has approved a housing development on a 73-acre former Boy Scout camp atop the Ramapo Mountain ridge line. The board voted 4-3 to approve LMK Associates' plan for 22 luxury homes on the property known as Camp Todd after the developer agreed at the last minute to withdraw two of its five steep-slope variance requests.
All hope may not be lost in preserving Camp Todd, which sits in the Highlands. The county and state have expressed interest in acquiring the land as open space. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said the agency has made an offer on the property, but couldn't provide any details.
John Schepisi, attorney for LMK, said the company isn't interested in selling Camp Todd but would entertain offers. Schepisi said the property is worth $10 million to $12 million. He said he's aware of the state's interest but added that there's no deal pending. "If the state wants to make an offer my client can't refuse, then I'm sure we'll consider it," Schepisi said Friday.
Board members Thomas Buonocore, John Morris, Thomas Potash, and Mayor Robert Piccoli voted for the development following 18 months of hearings. Elaine Rowin, Jeffrey Levine, and Councilwoman Donna Kurdock voted against it.
Schepisi agreed just before the vote to eliminate requests for variances to allow half of two homes to be built into steep slopes. The builder could still appear before the zoning board in the future to try to build the two homes with less intrusion into the steep slopes.
Those who voted in favor of the project said the three remaining variance requests weren't significant enough to deny the application. Those variances asked that 5 percent of one home and some transitional grading be allowed to encroach on steep slopes.
"The rest of the lots really do conform," Piccoli said. He added that LMK gave the borough at no cost Lake Todd and the land surrounding it, which accounts for about 45 of the 73 acres.
"The Planning Board did an outstanding job of dealing with a tough application," Piccoli said.
Potash also emphasized that LMK worked with the board to minimize the project's impact. "We've forced the developer to move homes and roadways [away from the ridge line]," Potash said. "We've protected the steep slopes, in my opinion."
Kurdock countered that the development agreement between the borough and LMK called for the project to be built within existing ordinances, and that the developer should have been held to that contract.
Those opposed to the development cite it as a classic example of suburban sprawl and note that building on steep slopes can result in soil erosion and excess runoff.
Camp Todd sits above the Ramapo River Reserve, a 400-unit development whose
construction on steep slopes may have contributed to a mudslide during Tropical
Storm Floyd that damaged several homes.
Opponents also fear that building and blasting on the property will disturb nearby wetlands, streams, groundwater, and animal habitats.
"It still remains a high-risk project," Rowin said. "I'm concerned about the destruction of one of Oakland's beautiful natural resources - the mountain."
Environmentalists at the meeting Thursday were dismayed by what they saw as a
decision that contradicts Governor McGreevey and other officials' calls to stop
sprawl and preserve open space in the Highlands, a series of ridges that
stretches through New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
"It's right in the heart of the Ramapos," said Dennis Schvejda, conservation director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Tonight, another piece of the Highlands died."
The tract is regarded as an ideal location for preservation. It sits between Camps Tamarack and Glen Gray, which account for more than 900 acres of county-owned open space.
Copyright © 2003 North Jersey Media Group Inc.