DEP TO SEEK NEW APPRAISALS IN RESPONSE TO INSPECTOR
GENERAL REPORT ON PROPOSED WETLANDS SETTLEMENT
In response to recommendations by the state Inspector General (IG) and
other public comments, the state Department of Environmental Protection
(DEP) will acquire two independent, formal appraisals of open space to
be transferred to the state as part of a proposed settlement of wetlands
violations involving A. R. DeMarco Enterprises Inc.
"The department will take steps consistent with the IG's recommendations
to acquire two independent formal appraisals of the value of the 73 acres
to be transferred to the state, as well as the value of the conservation
easement to be placed on the 591 acres in Tabernacle Township," said DEP
Chief of Staff Gary Sondermeyer.
As recommended by the IG, DEP will create a senior committee to review
the proposed settlement in light of the new appraisals, consider the issues
raised in the IG's report and in the public comments, and revise the terms
of the Administrative Consent Order (ACO) as necessary to ensure public
confidence in the outcome and to address any public misconceptions in
this matter. The department will take any additional time necessary to
obtain new data, and we will not finalize the proposed settlement until
a review is complete stated Sondermeyer.
"We're pleased that the Inspector General's fact findings concur with
the department's position that there was no undue influence or impropriety
in the A.R. DeMarco matter," said Sondermeyer. "To quote his report, 'The
fact finding review did not find any evidence that political influence
played any part in the settlement terms.' The IG conducted a thorough
review of the matter, and we agree that some issues need to be revisited."
DEP Assistant Commissioner Raymond E. Cantor noted that, independent
of the Inspector General's investigation, the department has subjected
this case to an extensive public review process. DEP followed existing
procedures which resulted in full disclosure of the settlement terms and
an opportunity for public scrutiny and comment prior to any finalization
of the document. Under existing department procedures, the proposed settlement
will not become final until after the public comment period, which closed
November 13. DEP initially provided a 30-day comment period, then subsequently
extended the deadline to afford additional time for public comment and
to give ample time for the IG to submit his findings into the public record.
DEP has 15 days from the closure of the comment period to notify the company
if the department will revise the document.