BARNEGAT – Residents in Barnegat Township have been shocked seeing the landscape that used to be home to hundreds of trees that’s now been entirely cleared for another new development in the town.
The Township has been receiving backlash the past couple years over the increase in developed communities in the area. Recently the Compass Point development has caused controversy within the town.
Around one year ago, the Township planning board approved the first phase of “The Cottages at Compass Point” which would be an age-restricted housing development built by Chris Vernon, owner of Mercer Management and Development. Vernon has built many other structures in the area such as Bonnet Island Estate, the Mallard Island Yacht Club and the Holiday Inn, all in Stafford Township, as well as Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom.
According to the resolution, 777 detached senior homes were approved to be built. The new development is set to have an indoor and outdoor pool, pickleball and tennis courts, and passive recreational walking and biking paths.
Concerns rose when residents discovered the development would actually be mobile homes, which would be different from other upscale senior communities in the area.
“Generally, you try to stay with the flavor of what’s in the area, you don’t go and push something that’s totally unlike the rest of the buildings that surround it,” said Barnegat resident Charles Cunliffe, who also ran for township committee in 2020. “Another concern people are having is since it’s a mobile home park, they will not pay the kind of property taxes that other residents in Barnegat pay.”
About a year ago, before the Planning Board’s approval, a petition was created that opposed development adjacent to Cloverdale Farm County Park. Many were concerned with the development not only being built right next to the park, but also too close to the park’s entrance.
“Those of us who enjoy Cloverdale Park are upset because the approval that was granted requires the shut down of the county road that goes to Cloverdale Park. Those of us who want to visit the park now have to enter through that community and then there’s going to be a back road entrance that will get you into the park. There won’t be a separate road anymore for Cloverdale Park,” Cunliffe said. “Of course, everyone is upset with all those trees being gone. He (Vernon) just went in there and clear cut the place, and people knew about it but until they saw all those trees gone, now they really understand the true level of what’s being built there.”
A continuous concern within the town is the amount of development that’s been growing in the past couple of years.
“You have Barnegat 67 with Phase 1 & 2, Phase 3 is in proposal which includes more apartments, condominiums, a hotel and more. They just approved more condominiums across the street. So, all in the dense area, there’s going to be thousands of units in a small foot print and that’s another thing people are concerned about that it’s too much, too concentrated, too dense in one area,” Cunliffe said.
As a Barnegat resident for almost eight years, the former Lakewood Committeeman gave his opinion on the ongoing high-development in the area.
“The reason my wife and I chose Barnegat is because we looked at other shore towns and we were amazed at how uncongested and the lack of traffic there was in Barnegat. But now we hear all kinds of traffic that we didn’t hear before and we can tell West Bay Ave. is more crowded then when we first moved here. I can only imagine how it’s going to be when the rest of what they have planned to build gets approved,” Cunliffe said.
Chris Vernon, Mayor Albert Bille and Deputy Mayor Alfonso Cirulli could not be reached for comments by publication time.