Stafford Recognizes Forsythe’s 80th, Moves to Ban Recreational Pot, Declares Opposition to Sanctuary State

Residents Complain of Speeders on Lighthouse, Never-Ending Construction on Mill Creek
By VICTORIA FORD | Apr 10, 2019

As Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge marks its 80th anniversary this year, Stafford Township Mayor Greg Myhre presented a proclamation to refuge manager Virginia Rettig, recognizing the preserved natural space as a treasure.

Established as Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge in 1939 and combined with the Barnegat NWR in 1984, today’s Forsythe Refuge spans 14 municipalities, encompasses 48,000 acres, and offers critical habitat for salt marsh birds and beach nesting birds, especially the piping plover. The scenic drive draws 150,000 visitors a year for birdwatching and photography. The 50-mile-long refuge has many trails for its six priority public uses: wildlife observation, photography, hunting, fishing, interpretation and education.

Rettig noted the Cedar Bonnet Island unit, newly opened along the Causeway, is a proud addition.

“We are getting so much use there, and it’s very exciting,” she said.

Rettig also announced the refuge has just released a draft compatibility determination plan for some important changes and additions. The refuge is undergoing review of all uses and proposing updates and some modifications to public use areas for the purpose of engagement in four of the refuge system’s priority public uses: wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education and interpretation.

Of the 22 areas in question, those located in Ocean County include Graveling Point in Little Egg Harbor Township; Holgate Front Beach and Clamming Trail; Dock Street Parking and Crabbing Area in Little Egg Harbor; Cedar Bonnet Island Trail in Stafford; Loveladies Kayak Area; Barnegat Boardwalk and Overlook; Middle Branch Trailhead and Eno’s Pond, both in Lacey Township; and Good Luck Point Trail in Berkeley Township, to be opened in the future.

The 52-page document is available at the Forsythe website for public review and comment for 30 calendar days ending on April 30, and will be presented to the public in detail at the Stafford Branch of the Ocean County Library on April 24 at 6:30 p.m.

In other town business, the governing body unanimously adopted on first reading a proposed new ordinance banning the sale, cultivation, manufacture and recreational use of marijuana within the township. A public hearing on second reading can be expected at the meeting of April 16.

In response to a question from Joe Mangino of Beach Haven West, who asked how the proposed ordinance would impact medicinal users and how it might pertain to the use of CBD (cannabidiol) oils, Myhre said the town’s ordinance would not impact users with a state-approved enrollment card.

If a resident has undergone a registered physician’s marijuana evaluation, received recommendations, and obtained marijuana legally from one of New Jersey’s 12 licensed dispensaries, “we’re certainly not standing in the way of that,” Myhre said. “That’s their business.” (In December the state Department of Health announced it was doubling its medical marijuana program, adding six new dispensaries throughout the state. Heretofore, from Parkway Exit 63, the nearest facility has been a 45-minute drive to Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Township. Two new dispensaries are due to open in Galloway and Atlantic City.)

Officials also passed a resolution of interest on the consent agenda, declaring Stafford Township’s opposition to New Jersey’s becoming a sanctuary state and resolving that the town will “never become a sanctuary city.”

In passing the resolution, Stafford aims to be consistent with federal law, Myhre explained. The township disagrees with Gov. Phil Murphy’s desire for New Jersey to become a sanctuary state modeled after California. When Pennsylvania Avenue resident Barbara Reynolds asked Myhre how the resolution would impact Stafford Township, Myhre said he thinks “it will make it a better place.”

In his council report, Councilman Michael Pfancook said he discussed with Department of Public Works Superintendent George Yockachonis the feasibility of adding playground equipment at the Jennifer Lane bay beach, but equipment approval costs are prohibitive at $10,000 to $30,000. They will look into the possibility of grant assistance. Either way, the beach will be cleaned up in April and ready to enjoy before Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, at the Neptune Basin, Pfancook reported, the road crew has cut a new spillway in an effort to resolve flooding problems that have plagued the adjacent residential streets for years, but the project’s effectiveness won’t be measurable until fall leaves come into play. The spillway was a $1,400 job, he said; if it works, it will have been a bargain.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Rob Mihalenko of Lighthouse Drive, on behalf of neighbors, beseeched the mayor and council to crack down on speeders on the Manahawkin-to-Barnegat thoroughfare. The posted speed limit is 35, but motorists’ excessive speed, illegal passing and general carelessness is “unacceptable,” he said – in particular, failure to stop for school buses is “a huge problem” that places children in danger. He’s witnessed it dozens of times.

“The township must do something about it,” Mihalenko said. “The mindset of the travelers on the road must be changed.” But without a police presence, he said, motorists can do as they please.

Since 2006, his mailbox has been taken out three times, he said One of those times a car drove up onto his front yard. As a result, he doesn’t let his Intermediate School-age daughter play in the front yard at all anymore. On March 18, he said, a driver who didn’t stop for a school bus almost caused a crash that could have killed her.

The traffic study presently being conducted is not enough, he said. Immediate help and change is needed.

To bring his point home, Mihalenko had his daughter come to the microphone and plead for officials to put a stop to the irresponsible driving.

Joy Road resident Lynn Hoffmeister has a different problem: Due to the nonstop public works activity that takes place at the site of the former Mill Creek Community Center (and future Mill Creek Pavilion), he said his home directly across the lagoon has lost value. Having rebuilt and been reassessed after Superstorm Sandy, he said his taxes went from $3,800 to $10,200. Two years ago, he decided to put the house on the market, but “nobody will touch it,” he said, because of the eyesore across the water.

“It’s been a construction site for four years,” according to Hofmeister.

He said he and his wife are the only ones who have had to endure beeping trucks and equipment deliveries during the week, as his neighbors are secondary homeowners.

Pfancook assured him the pavilion construction is on schedule to be finished by May.

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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