EDISON – A new law authorizes the governing bodies of Edison Township, Metuchen Borough and South Plainfield Borough to adopt resolutions establishing a special commission to protect and preserve the Dismal Swamp.
The bill became law on Oct. 1.
“What we have here are privately and publicly owned parcels of land within three municipalities, each with its own planning and zoning authority, so decisions on development within the area are often made without a coherent plan,” said Assemblyman Peter Barnes III (D-Middlesex). “This commission can go a long way toward preserving the Dismal Swamp’s ecological and historic value and ensuring development occurs under a coherent, regional plan.”
“The Dismal Swamp is one of the last remaining wetland ecosystems in a highly urbanized environment in New Jersey, and protecting and preserving it is vital for Middlesex County,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “With this new law, we can provide comprehensive planning for the Dismal Swamp with a primary focus on protecting and preserving its ecological, historical, and recreational value.”
Diegnan and Barnes noted the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area in Middlesex County is about 660 acres of freshwater wetlands, forested uplands and meadows in a densely populated, highly developed central part of the state, offering unique natural habitats that include federal priority wetlands.
More than 175 different bird species have been spotted in the area, including the threatened and endangered grasshopper sparrow and yellow-crowned night-heron. Also, 25 mammals and more than a dozen reptile and amphibian species have been sighted in the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area.
Meanwhile, archeological digs in the area have uncovered at least five significant archeological sites, including one at least 10,000 years old.
Under the bill (A-3072):
• The commission would only be formed if all three municipalities adopt resolutions authorizing its creation.
• The Commission would consist of nine members, as follows: two residents of Edison Township; two residents of Metuchen Borough; two residents of South Plainfield Borough; two elected officials from Middlesex County; and one representative of the Edison Wetlands Association.
• Upon adoption of authorizing resolutions by the three municipalities, the commission would be charged with regulatory authority and regional planning for the area known as the Dismal Swamp.
• The commission would be required to review and approve, reject, or modify applications for development that impact on the area.
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