LAKEWOOD – There was barely a seat left open in the Jackson Memorial High School auditorium on Tuesday night, as Lakewood residents crowded the room for a public hearing on a proposed project to build 936 residential housing units and a retail facility on the Eagle Ridge Golf Course.
The public hearing was run by a dais of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) members, as the applicant would need to fill 14,941 square feet of freshwater wetlands in order to develop on the land as is.
Residents overwhelmingly urged the NJDEP to reject the application from the developer, GDMS Holdings, arguing that it is one of the last pieces of open space left in Lakewood for residents to enjoy. They also cited added traffic and congestion on one- and two-lane roads, decreasing home values and environmental threats the development might cause.
Many of the residents who spoke at the hearing live in the Fairways at Lake Ridge, a 55 and over community that backs up to the Eagle Ridge Golf Course. The community has hired an attorney and environmental expert in light of the project.
Susan Baehny has lived in Lakewood for 55 years, moving from Spruce Street to the Fairways for retirement. She said her backyard faces the golf course and makes every day feel like heaven. She and other residents worry that if the decision to move forward with the project ends up in the hands of the Lakewood planning board, it will be approved. “The planning board has got to learn to say no and digest what we have now,” she said.
Some other residents were not so kind. Dave Mack suggested that Lakewood officials do prison time for abusing their power. “If it goes to the Lakewood planning board, it will get approved, because they’ll just change ordinances to make it fit,” he said, adding, “They want to put as much as they can into a five pound bag.”
Bill Hobday, who has lived in the Fairways for 18 years, has seen the population in Lakewood nearly double over the past eight years, but worries there is not enough open space to match it. He said only one park was built in the last five years, and only one was refurbished eight years ago. “What are people to do? Where is the open space, where is the green? Where can people go for recreation?”
Anyone unable to attend the hearing can submit written comments until May 24 to project environment scientist Lindsey Logan at firstname.lastname@example.org.