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Long litigated plans for a new shopping center near the Toms River/ Manchester border on Route 37 have just been given a major boost forward.

Back in 2004, Jaylin Holdings, the name of the developer formed by Jay and Linda Grunin commenced plans to construct an approximate 200,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter on the border between the towns, on the eastbound side of Route 37.

The initial proposal called for a main store of 208,433 square feet, a 20,000 square foot garden center, parking to accommodate almost 1,200 vehicles, plus two outparcels to be reserved for future use.

The property is located in the coastal zone of the Pinelands National Reserve. Within 500 meters of the proposed development is an unnamed tributary of the Sunken Branch stream. The property was initially determined by DEP to possess a mix of wetland habitats having intermediate or exceptional resource value. Accordingly, the developers applied for a CAFRA Individual Permit and a Freshwater Wetland Transition Area Waiver for their proposed development of the land.

The project faced heavy opposition and litigation. Environmentalists from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and New Jersey Sierra Club pointed to what they said was environmentally sensitive land that is pineland snake habitat. Opposition also came from Perlmutter Shoprite.

Subsequently, based on more recent information on threatened and endangered species on the property, DEP amended its determination to consider all the property's wetlands to be of exceptional resource value.

Ultimately, the project to bring a Walmart to this site was scrapped.

After fifteen years of administrative review and an appeal in 2014, Jaylin substantially reduced the footprint to an 81,275 square foot retail building, a 4,800 square foot restaurant, a 9,322 square foot retail building, with 570 parking spaces. Jaylin submitted a Stormwater Management Report and CAFRA Individual Permit Report with its application, which noted the proposed development was more than 400 feet away from the stream encroachment line and the finished floor elevation was set more than 6 feet above the 100-year flood elevation.

On February 12, 2020, Jaylin's application was found to be administratively complete and proceeded to public comment.

On September 2, 2020, DEP issued Jaylin a CAFRA Individual Permit and TAW.

The environmentalist groups appealed on various grounds. Rather they toss the permits, the courts directed that a new thirty-day public comment period be held. This was completed on May 20, 2021.

On May 31, 2022, DEP issued a reauthorization of Jaylin's CAFRA Individual Permit and TAW.

The environmentalist groups again appealed this permit to the New Jersey Appellate Division, contending that DEP (1) acted erroneously and arbitrarily in ignoring the required Flood Hazard Area (FHA) and Riparian Zone (RZ) verifications based on an outdated permit and a generalized finding that Jaylin's proposed development was far enough from those protected areas; (2) failed to include the FHA and RZ in its calculation of the applicable impervious coverage limits; (3) erroneously permitted Jaylin's proposed modified transition area to encroach upon the FHA and RZ; and (4) arbitrarily ignored the Pinelands Commission's determination that Jaylin's proposed development is inconsistent with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

In a written ruling just released, Appellate Division Judges Gilson and Berdote Byrne disagreed.

"Having reviewed the record and applicable law, we discern nothing arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable in DEP's reauthorization of the CAFRA Individual Permit and Freshwater Transition Area Waiver to Jaylin," the judges wrote.

The opposition team has 45 days to file a petition to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Even if they seek their listening ear, the court only agrees to hear less than 10% of cases which seek their attention.

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