Lafayette pond falls victim to standoff

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:44

Longtime fishing hole is drained to avert dam repairs, By Tom Hoffman Lafayette - A 10-acre pond near the border of Lafayette and Sparta townships that had been a popular fishing spot since the 1930s is in the process of being drained, the victim of a face-off between township officials and developers. In 2004, Sparta-based Nouvelle Associates purchased a 100-acre property off Father John’s Lane in Lafayette. The land, which was later sold to Toll Brothers, is located in Sparta, while the pond is located in Lafayette, according to Luciano Bruni, a principal for Nouvelle Associates. Toll Brothers has been developing 34 housing units on the Sparta site since 2006, Bruni added. The dam used for the pond is also situated in Sparta, he said. According to minutes of a special meeting of the Lafayette Township Committee and Open Space Advisory Committee held on Aug. 26, 2008, Peter D’Antonio of Nouvelle Associates said the company wanted to decommission the dam since they were unable to carry the liability associated with the pond or to police the pond. During that meeting, Nouvelle Associates offered to donate the pond to both Sparta and Lafayette Townships but officials from both townships rejected the offer. “The pond is in Lafayette, so we didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to accept the donation since the pond isn’t in our town,” said Sparta Township Manager Henry Underhill, when reached by telephone last week. Plus, if Sparta were to have accepted the donation, the town would have taken on the responsibility and cost to maintain and repair the dam there, said Underhill. Not up to par According to the August 2008 meeting minutes, Chris Adams, president of Stockholm-based Civil Dynamics Inc., said the dam didn’t meet state standards and would cost $500,000 to $800,000 to rehabilitate. Adams also testified that the dam appeared to have been built without state approval and is not listed in the state’s database. John D’Angeli, a Lafayette Township Committeeman, said the township rejected Nouvelle Associates’ offer to donate the pond to the town because he didn’t think the town should be responsible for fixing the dam. “Why should we pay to have the dam repaired? They (Nouvelle) owned that,” said D’Angeli. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gave Nouvelle Associates permission to breach the dam and drain the pond. Nouvelle is draining the pond following recommendations by the DEP and the New Jersey Division of Dam Safety to do so, said Bruni. “They’re very much in favor of seeing this being decommissioned and brought back to its natural state,” said Bruni, adding that a creek that feeds the pond was once used by local farmers for irrigation. “There was no other option than to drain the pond.” As of June 6, the pond was in the process of being drained. All of the fish that had inhabited the pond were removed by state agencies and relocated to other ponds and lakes, said Bruni. He said he wasn’t sure where the fish were relocated.