WCAS Opposes BMS Zoning Change in Hopewell

Washington Crossing Audubon Society (WCAS) opposes the zoning change to allow high density housing on the Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) Hopewell Campus. WCAS supports extending the open space easement to the 75 acres designated as F, G and H in the Open Space Easement agreement between BMS and Hopewell Township.  These fields are an important buffer between the BMS developed area and the Stony Brook.

The Stony Brook is an essential wildlife corridor between the Stony Brook Millstone Watersheds, Mercer Meadows, Rosedale Lake, Curlis Lake, and Baldwin Lake. The corridor is essential for gene flow between the preserves since none of the preserves are large enough to support viable breeding populations of the larger species that move between them. The New Jersey breeding endangered Bald Eagle pair that nest nearby   use the Stony Brook corridor both to fish and to move between the lakes.   High density development in this area would impair the ability of these eagles to feed themselves and raise young. The NJ threatened American Kestrel has been confirmed breeding at the Pole Farm and has been reported at the Watersheds and BMS in non-breeding and breeding seasons.

A total of 235 bird species are listed in eBird in the preserves connected by the Stony Brook Corridor. This includes twelve birds on the New Jersey Threatened and Endangered list and twenty-three species on the NJ Special Concerns list. Table #1 lists the species, their status, and the year last recorded in eBird.

The Stony Brook bordering the affected area is a C-1 stream. Developing the adjacent fields would cause runoff that would degrade the stream and cause a loss of sensitive species that require clean water.   Since the zoning change will affect a C-1 stream and the fishing grounds of an endangered species, a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required to assess the potential environmental effect of the proposed development.   The EIS should include a thorough on the ground, year round study of the Stony Brook between Rosedale Park and the Watersheds. Considering the environmental sensitivity of the impacted area, the zoning change should not have been considered without an EIS.

The 2005 Open Space Easement agreement between BMS and Hopewell Township was designed to protect the Stony Brook corridor. To protect the Stony Brook and the animals that depend on it, this agreement should not be changed and the 75 acres bordering the Stony Brook Corridor should be given permanent protection. BMS has been a good steward and treated the fields as if they were under permanent protection but the ownership will be changing and the protection should be formalized.

After considering the environmental suitability of various township locations and consulting with the township environmental commission, the original Hopewell Township master plan confined high density development to the less environmentally sensitive southern tier of the township with more protection given to the highlands, Baldpate and the Sourlands, and the Hopewell Valley, including the Stony Brook Corridor, which are critical areas for preserving biodiversity and protecting water quality for the township. This was an environmentally sound plan which has been modified for political reasons. The environmental impact was not considered in the recent changes. WCAS requests that Hopewell Township reconsiders high density housing adjacent to the environmentally sensitive Stony Brook Corridor and instead build the housing at the alternate Zaitz site, a significantly less environmentally sensitive location.

 

Table #1: New Jersey Threatened, Endangered, and Species of Conservation Concern along Stony Brook Corridor

Species T&E Code Year
Bald Eagle E BR 2017
Bald Eagle T NB 2017
Peregrine Falcon E BR 2017
Northern Harrier E BR 2017
Northern Harrier SC NB 2017
Red-shouldered Hawk E BR 2015
Red-shouldered Hawk SC NB 2017
Bobolink T BR 2017
American Kestrel T BR 2017
American Kestrel T NB 2017
Osprey T BR 2016
Barred Owl T 2017
Long-eared Owl T 2016
Grasshopper Sparrow T BR 2017
Savannah Sparrow T BR 2017
Red-headed Woodpecker T BR 2017
Red-headed Woodpecker T NB 2017
American Bittern SC 2014
Black-billed Cuckoo SC BR 2017
Brown Thrasher SC BR 2017
Cattle Egret SC NB 2016
Cerulean Warbler SC NB 2017
Cliff Swallow SC BR 2015
Common Nighthawk SC BR 2016
Common Nighthawk SC NB 2017
Cooper’s Hawk SC BR 2017
Eastern Meadowlark SC BR 2017
Eastern Meadowlark SC NB 2017
Golden-winged Warbler SC NB 2012
Gray-cheeked Thrush SC NB 2016
Great-blue Heron SC BR 2017
Horned Lark SC NB 2017
Kentucky Warbler SC NB 2006
Little Blue Heron SC 2016
Northern Goshawk SC NB 2016
Pied-billed Grebe SC NB 2017
Sharp-shinned Hawk SC 2017
Saw-whet Owl SC NB 2017
Veery SC BR 2017
Vesper Sparrow SC NB 2017
Wood Thrush SC BR 2017
Yellow-breasted Chat SC BR 2017

Key to Table:

T&E Code:

E endangered

T threatened

SC special concern

BR breeding

NB non-breeding

Year: year of most recent sighting in eBird

Notes on Table:

URL address for eBird bar graph for Stony Brook corridor connecting Mercer Meadows to Stony Brook Millstone Watersheds Association:

http://ebird.org/ebird/barchart?byr=1900&eyr=2017&bmo=1&emo=12&r=L269347,L268294,L251091,L258194,L275985

The bar graph, generated November 30, 2017, shows 235 species. The bar graph was generated from eBird using the Stony Brook Millstone Watersheds Preserve, Baldwin Lake, Curlis Woods Nature Preserve, Pole Farm, and Rosedale Park eBird public locations. EBird does not allow public and private locations to be combined in generating the bar graphs so the private locations along the Stony Brook are not included in the bar graph.

The map icon to the right of the species name shows all locations, private and public. Clicking on the balloon icon shows individual records for that location.

The BMS property is closed to the public and accessible only to employees. Several BMS employees have recorded sightings of T&E species at BMS, including the Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, and Northern Harrier.

The Old Mill Road Greenway borders the Stony Brook downstream from BMS. The property is designated an ecological district by Mercer County and is open to the public but requires bushwhacking as there are no trails.