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January 14, 2004

Judge overturns approval of Holland Twp. subdivision


Staff Writer

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP - A state Superior Court judge has overturned the Planning board's preliminary approval for a 90-acre subdivision of 15 homes on Shire Road.

Judge John Coyle, sitting in Warren County, ruled the original application by developer William Scopetto of Hunterdon Capital LLC was not complete. The court also ruled Friday that the Planning Board did not insist the developer prove that he met requirements for placing 3-acre lots in a protected 5-acre zone.

The ruling was a victory for the Friends of Holland Highlands, a citizens group, and the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. Friends of Holland Highlands filed a lawsuit in January 2003 to throw out the preliminary approval, given in October 2002.

"Our Citizens group is very pleased that the court agreed that the Holland Township Planning Board treated us shabbily and violated their own ordinances in approving this inappropriate subdivision," Michael Keady, president of the Friends of Holland HIghlands, said in a prepared statement.

"now the board will get a second chance to do the right thing and protect property," Keady said.

Keady said the property includes a trout production stream and a state-designated protection area around a public well, which serves hundreds of residents and the township's elementary school. The stream has received a state designation giving it the highest level of environmental sensitivity and protection.

The court also ordered the Planning Board to hold a public hearing, where Scopetto must offer proof his plan meets requirements for employing 'lot averaging." That would allow Scopetto to place 3-acre lots along the ridge of Musconetcong Mountain in return for creating a larger lot on which a suburban homeowner could partake in agriculture.

Coyle said he wanted a decision within 90 days on the issues remanded to the Planning Board.

Planning Board attorney Donald Morrow and Planning Board Chairman Michael Miller did not return phone calls for comment. Scopetto did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Pamela Sroka can be reached at (908) 782-2300 or [email protected]

Copyright 2004 The Courier News