Wal-Mart willing to relocate reptile to build store
Posted by Miqe on July 12, 2007
TOMS RIVER — A pine snake may not stop a Wal-Mart Supercenter from coming here after all.
Last June, the state Department of Environmental Protection denied a permit to the retail giant to build a 228,000-square-foot store on Route 37 on the boundary with Manchester.
A Coastal Area Facility Review Act, or CAFRA, permit was denied after a male northern pine snake was determined to have spent the winter in a den on the property and the site was deemed to be a pine snake habitat.
However, the DEP confirmed Wednesday that it and Wal-Mart are negotiating the future of the 43-acre site.
Wal-Mart requested an “alternate dispute resolution,” DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura said.
“Often when an application is denied, they will request this type of negotiation to see if there is any flexibility at all, so this is routine,” she said.
Makatura said she could not comment on the negotiating itself, which is confidential, but did say that the parties had one meeting recently.
“I heard the negotiations were going on and they were very promising,” Manchester Mayor Michael Fressola said Wednesday. “We have set aside a piece of property behind the site where the snake can be moved. This property will allow for them to track the movement of the snake through the area. We are proposing that property for mitigation.”
The parties are discussing mitigation and Wal-Mart has to come up with a plan for an “environmentally friendly store,” Toms River Mayor Paul C. Brush said when asked what he knows of the talks.
Brush said he heard if Wal-Mart built a “green store” with solar panels and proper landscaping, DEP would consider mitigation of the snake.
Both mayors, who had lashed out at the DEP after the permit was originally denied, have said that the combination retail store and supermarket would bring a needed addition to the tax base in their towns.
“This would get us ratables at a time when our expenses are increasing at a dramatic rate,” Fressola said.
Brush said, “I have always supported it right from the very beginning.”
“It is on the highway, on the western part of town, which means it will divert traffic from coming further into Toms River,” he said.
The Sierra Club of Ocean County remains opposed to the application, said Chairman Gregory Auriemma.
Making the proposed Wal-Mart an environmentally friendly building would amount to “green washing,” he said. He said that term refers to “trying to put a green friendly face on top of something that is not really green.”
Selling environmentally friendly consumer products does not make it acceptable to “pave over sections that are normally going to have runoff into the streams of our county,” Auriemma said.
He said the proposed building could bring with it traffic problems as well as threaten the habitats of other species besides the pine snake.
The attorney representing Wal-Mart could not be reached for comment.
From Asbury Park Press