We've recently learned that a developer has proposed building 147 new homes on the site of the former Prickett Nursery in Sewell. As shown in the "bird's eye" picture, this property is on the southern border of Tall Pines State Preserve in Mantua Township. While there are currently other homes immediately adjacent to the park, this proposal would create wall-to-wall homes on 0.15 acre lots a stone's throw away from the Perimeter Trail. As you will see below, supporters of the park have a chance to stop this plan in its tracks!
How did this happen? Prickett's Nursery, a Sewell institution for over 125 years, closed a couple of years ago. The owner decided to sell the property, and several potential buyers submitted bids. The winning bidder, a housing developer, does not want to accept the current zoning of the property, which mandates average 3-acre lot sizes. Instead, they want Mantua Township to grant them a variance to pack in up to 12 times as many homes, spaced as little as 20 feet apart from one another.
Why would this affect the park? The Mantua side of Tall Pines was actually part of the original Prickett Nursery property, prior to the golf course's expansion to 18 holes in 1965. While much of the nursery property has remained forested (as you can see from the picture), the Tall Pines side was mostly a manicured lawn for 40 of the past 50 years. Now that Tall Pines is evolving back into a natural meadow, it would be a tragic setback if the Prickett's side became a big, deforested lawn dotted with closely-spaced houses, concrete patios, and asphalt roads.
Is the housing development a done deal? NO!! The developer must receive a variance from Mantua Township to move forward and purchase the property. This is NOT just a formality, and citizens DO have a chance to oppose their plan. That chance is coming on Tuesday, July 18th, at 7:00 PM at the Mantua Township Municipal Building, 401 Main Street in Mantua. You do not need to be a resident of Mantua Township to attend or to express an opinion at the meeting.
What is a zoning hearing like? In some ways, it is like a court hearing. The developer's representatives are sworn in, and give their "opening argument" as to why their application should be approved. Then they answer questions from the zoning board's attorney, engineer, planner, and board members. Finally, the public is given a chance to weigh in. Persons speaking may be sworn in as well, and usually have a limited time to ask their question of the applicant, or to express their opinion on the application. Finally, the public portion ends, and the board members vote on the application.
What can we do? Attend the zoning hearing on July 18th. The most effective way we can defend Tall Pines and express our opposition to this unwise development proposal is to demonstrate by our presence and our voices that we care about the integrity of Tall Pines State Preserve and urge our public officials to act in the best long term interest of both the Preserve and the community.
To learn more about the development proposal: click on the image below to view the developer's full plan. You will need to zoom in to see the individual house lots and other text.