Parkside gains final site plan approval in Millville

Millville Town Seal

Seal of the Town of Millville

Trees — old trees, new trees and trees yet to be planted — were the subject of a Millville Town Council meeting this week that was somewhat heated, both literally and figuratively.

With final site plan approval on the line, Ron Sutton of Civil Engineering Associates addressed concerns from the council and from residents about a proposed 50-home development, Parkside, that would abut Bishop’s Landing.

Residents of Bishop’s Landing, including Council Member Joseph Parent, quizzed Sutton about plans for the development, known as “the Toomey property” but recently sold to the developer the Christopher Companies.

The project received preliminary approval in 2022, and the Millville Planning & Zoning Commission had voted 4-0 to recommend approval of the final subdivision site plan.

With approval now before the council, trees topped the list of concerns for Parent, whose career was spent in landscaping. He was particularly concerned that the land to be developed included 3 to 4 acres of 100-year-old forest.

Parent questioned the fate of one tree in particular — a “specimen” loblolly pine he estimated to be about 100 to 150 years old.

“You’re taking away 4 acres of forest and replacing it with 56 street trees and 40 other shrubs, right?” Parent asked. “Is that a fair swap?”

Parent added that in his experience, “street trees” often are not properly chosen for the spaces in which they are planted.

“I think that builders have a responsibility to not just clear the environment but also to work on sustaining the environment.”

Sutton said the tree, because of its proximity to areas where digging will need to be done, could possibly be lost.

“I can’t make any guarantees that that tree will stay,” Sutton said.

Code & Building Official Eric Evans agreed.

“If a bulldozer gets within 20 feet of that tree, it’s going to die,” Evans generalized.

Bishop’s Landing resident Mary Leslie said she had concerns about the proximity of the new development’s pool to residences on Rockwood Road.

“Folks on Rockwood are going to look right into that pool,” she said. “There should be trees between Bishop’s Landing and that property.”

Sutton said there would be fencing around the pool.

The Toomey property was annexed into the town in 2002, Evans said, and Town Engineer Andrew J. Lyons Jr. noted that 2 acres were annexed in as commercially zoned, while the remainder were annexed with a Residential Planned Community zoning designation.

Sutton said the developer has not determined how the commercial space will be used.

“We’ll come up with a site plan for that once we figure out what we want to do there,” he said.

Addressing the concern about loss of trees, Sutton said, “We’ll try to leave as much vegetation as we can.”

Sutton pointed out that Millville does not have any code regarding tree requirements, to which Parent responded, “We’re working on that.” He said he has received the council’s blessing to come up with a plan for addressing tree placement in the town.

At this week’s meeting the council unanimously approved the plans, with the condition that the developer add trees to the back of the development.

After that approval, the council heard a presentation from a resident of the Parkside community who is spearheading a move to replace 130 street trees originally planned for placement in individual yards with trees in open areas of the development.

Scott Freedman told the council that he is the landscaping manager for Sea Colony and that he has advised the Parkside Homeowners Association on the change in tree placement. He said the new plan would have several benefits, including stabilizing the stormwater management area, increasing the “urban canopy” of trees, avoiding negative impacts to infrastructure and increasing the “overall aesthetic” of the community.

The new plan also includes adding native trees to the landscape of the development.

Street trees — particularly certain types — are known to cause issues, as their roots can damage nearby sidewalks and other infrastructure. Freedman said five of the seven species of the trees planned as “street trees” by the developer are “no longer recommended” for such use.

As Freedman called the Parkside move the “right and appropriate thing to do,” Parent nodded in agreement. The council approved the Parkside plan 4-1, with Council Member Robert Wisgirda abstaining.

With the air conditioning apparently malfunctioning in the council meeting room and the temperature reaching 91 in the room before the meeting ended, Town Manager Eileen Scerra announced the upcoming concert in Evans Park and joked, “I hope it’s cooler than it is in here.” She said after the meeting that the air conditioning had been functioning fine earlier in the afternoon.

In other business, the council this week approved a clarification for its participation in the state’s County & Municipal Pension Plan by adding the stipulation that existing employees can opt out of the plan. The council also approved releasing a performance bond for the Egret Shores West Side Recreational Amenity.

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