The would-be developer of the former Doremus estate in Fair Haven wants to give the adjoining Schwenker’s Pond to the borough.
He may soon be advised to go jump in a lake.
“The pond is a mess, frankly,” says Mayor Michael Halfacre. “So the feelings are mixed. It would increase the borough’s open space, but it’s in pretty bad shape.”
Owner David Carr, a borough resident, and his partners have an application before the Planning Board to subdivide the former Doremus property of about three acres on River Road into three buildableand oversizedlots. Two hearings on the development plan have already been held, with a third scheduled for Feb. 13.
Carr also wants to break off the 1.5-acre pond and a strip of surrounding land and donate it to the town, a proposal that will go before the Borough Council next Monday night.
Already, though, some borough officials have voiced reservations. Council President Tom Gilmour “has said ‘no way, no how,’ and he’s a pretty levelheaded guy,” says borough Environmental Commission Chairman Edward Pitts. (redbankgreen hasn’t yet heard back from Gilmour on a request for comment.)
Carr’s reasons for wanting to off-load the pond aren’t surprising. “First of all, I don’t think a homeowner today wants to have the responsibility of a pond,” says Carr’s attorney, Peter Falvo. He cites the financial burdens of cleaning up the pond, which is heavily silted over, and potential legal liabilites.
As for Fair Haven, Falvo says he’s been “perplexed” by the resistance Carr has encountered.
“We just figured it would fit in with their open space,” says Falvo, who skated on the pond while growing up on the former John Toolan estate on Hance Road, where his father was the gardener. “Quite honestly, we thought we were doing them a favor.”
The pond is part of a watershed that extends as far west as Tower Hill in Red Bank, and the borough has four storm-sewer pipes draining into the pond, which has contributed to the extensive silting condition that exists there, Falvo says. It would be unfair to saddle the future homeowners at the site with the burden of cleaning it up, he says.
Borough officials, though, say they’re are already short of money to maintain McCarter Pond on Fair Haven Road, and for years the town has rebuffed requests that it take over Shippee’s Pond, into which Schwenker’s Pond flows.
Pitts, though, favors the deal. He agrees that Schwenker’s is “a mess,” but says the subdivision plan, if approved, would put it into the hands of three separate property owners who “would have little incentive but to do what Mrs. Doremus did,” which was little or nothing in the way of maintenance. Olga Schwenker Doremus died in March, 2004.
And unlike municipalities, private owners of bodies of water such as the pond “have very, very few sources of funds to ameliorate, restore or improve them,” says Pitts.