BERKELEY – How could a boat yard be operating in the middle of the woods?
That’s what Scott Estate residents wondered when a bunch of trees got cut down and boat racks went up. They took The Berkeley Times to look at the boat yard visible from their homes.
The area is between Scott Drive and Browning Avenue.
The boat yard is being used by NJ Outboard. A call to that business was not returned by press time.
The neighbors’ complaints were many: Acres of trees were cut down. The trees were buried on the property, so they will eventually break down and cause whatever’s on top to come crashing down. The racks weren’t installed tightly, and can come apart easily.
The fill might not have been tested, so it is unknown where it came from and if it’s safe. There is asphalt in the fill, which is leading to oil leaking on the site. The fill has eroded and filled in nearby environmentally sensitive wetlands. Any water visible has an oily sheen on it. The wetlands there feed into the Mill Creek and then into the Barnegat Bay.
There’s no protective fencing, so kids can enter the property. As one resident said: “No one will do anything until someone gets hurt or killed and then they’ll say ‘Oh, we should have done something.’”
There’s no dedicated entrance for it from Route 9, so boats are towed out of an area across from Wawa and Sonata Bay. Now that the woods are cleared residents can hear Route 9.
There was also a pipe leading from the site directly into the woods but the neighbors suspect that it is actually coming from a different business.
And one of their biggest complaints of all: Why hasn’t the town stopped this?
“It’s stupid what he’s getting away with,” said Tom Prosser, a local contractor who has been speaking on behalf of the neighborhood. “It’s a disaster and nobody’s doing anything. How can you clear 8 acres for an illegal boat yard with no permits?”
He shared a story of one of the neighbors putting in a shed. The town wanted him to get three engineers, so he gave up. So, he said, it doesn’t pay to do things the right way. Instead, you can just do something illegal and the town won’t stop you.
However, they did say that the town forced NJ Outboard to take boats off the uninspected racks.
At the most recent Township Council meeting, Mayor Carmen Amato said that the property owner has received 6 violations from the construction department and 4 from code enforcement.
Business Administrator John Camera said that the property owner has put in an application for the boat yard to go before the Planning Board. The Planning Board is the governing body that approves or denies construction plans.
He said that the process for a planning board application requires public comment and assured the residents that they’ll have their chance to have their voices heard.
Officials said that the fines got the owner into court and now due process has to take over.
Prosser said that it’s too little, too late. The township should have stopped this when it started. Now, the property owner will profit all summer while only paying a few fines.
He mentioned that the owner of the Beachwood Mall was fined $1,000 a day to force them to knock it down.
Council President Keith Buscio said he visited the site about six months ago, and saw all the things they talked about.
“I’m embarrassed for the town that this is still going on,” he said.
Councilman Thomas Grosse asked if the town can file an injunction and Township Attorney Lauren Staiger recommended that.