Pequannock Taxpayers Billed for Badanco Spite

Pequannock Valley Park - Paddleboats & Kayaks
Pequannock PV Park, one of North Jersey's
most attractive chemical and pesticide
free swim lakes.
(Photo credit: Christopher Lotito)
By Christopher Lotito

In the Summer of 2013, Pequannock residents are facing yet another hefty bill for damage done to a local wildlife refuge by former Metrostars Developer Mounir Badaan.  After a conflict with local zoning laws, Badaan has systematically destroyed the ecology at his Pequannock flood-zone development site, making the once safe haven for geese, ducks, swan, and fox an unwelcome home for anything.

Now, Pequannock residents may have to pick up a $12,000.00* bill for Badaan's spite, paying to have geese removed from the township's swim lake which has become a health hazard after the deforestation of Badanco's adjacent property.

In 2012, Pequannock Valley Park, a small man-made swimming lake funded by taxpayer dollars, was closed on the hottest weekend of the year as a health hazard due to accumulated fecal matter from displaced geese entering the water there.  That closure generated a loss in revenue of thousands of dollars** used to defray taxpayer fees and resulted in the swim lake being regarded as unfit for use by swim teams throughout the region who refused to compete at the site.

Spite Houses and Gardens

Currently, Pequannock's zoning laws do not govern the removal of privately owned trees on privately owned property, usually a good thing except when a developer like Mounir Badaan or the adjacent Edwards Engineering site opts to defoliate their property to an extreme some residents have called "reminiscent of Southern Vietnam."

In the real estate world, a "spite house" is defined as a structure constructed with the main purpose being to do harm to neighbors or others in the vicinity.  A famous spite house is the Richardson Spite House at Lexington Avenue in New York City, which was constructed in 1882 at 104 feet tall, but only 5 feet deep, as a way to get back at the neighbor who had tried to purchase the land with a lowball bid.  Spite fences and spite gardening are also common, with the Badanco site on Alexander Ave being an example of the latter.

In 2002, Mounir Badaan unsuccessfully attempted to gain permits to construct a stadium for the Jets on the then heavily wooded site in the heart of the flood zone (and with two lakes of its own on the property), but was rebuffed by local officials.  Without having ever put a shovel in the ground, Badaan still opted to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars to remove nearly every tree from his site, despite lacking any of the permits necessary to begin any construction several years back, making this a prime example of North Jersey spite gardening.
Once forested, Badaco's site is now a morass of
compressed mud and tire tracks littered with stumps
and flood refuge, inhospitable to the local
wildlife.

At present, due to the site's exposed nature, most wildlife have abandoned their safe and natural habitat at the Badaan site for the nearby PV Park swim lake and Woodland Lake, where they are forced to contend with human hazards, pumping machinery, and other dangers.  Pequannock officials recently received an estimate of some $6,000.00 for a kite expert to harass and intimidate geese at the lake with his eagle kite, a process which even if effective would likely have to be completed several times annually.  Pequannock officials are currently considering a geese cull at the site, with the help of a local wildlife management expert who will donate his time free of charge to help control the population.

Attempts to donate the meat to a local food pantry have been met with concerns that the meat may be not fit for human consumption.

Widely regarded as the best option, return of the wildlife to their natural habitat at the Badaan site is deemed unlikely so long at the developer continues to own the property.  That property, once a private swim club, has decreased in value rapidly over the past decade as it has become nearly entirely unbuildable as a result of frequent flooding.  Badaan's best hope may be for a buyout, not by State groups who are unlikely to show interesting in acquiring already vacant floodway property, but by private charitable organizations such as the Open Space Institute which recently spent $2.2 million to purchase 702 acres of undeveloped lands in Woodbury New York for the purchases of conservation.

Best Option for a Failing Real Estate Developer

If conserved, the Badanco site could once again serve as a valuable natural resource providing a buffer between humans and animals in a residential community where sheltered lakes and ponds can be few and far between.  Such a buyout could be a win-win for the township as well as the much beleaguered Badanco which announced in 2012 that due to failed business dealings, it would need to triple the occupancy of its Argonne Woods development in Butler from 69 residential units to 180 rental units.  Whether or not the stretched-thin company will survive long enough to see such a potential solution, remains to be seen.

*Officials recently evaluated kite based, dog based, and sound and light based geese deterrent services.  Kite based geese removal starts at $6,000.00, all options would require multiple applications.
**PV Park remained closed for 3 days in a row over the hottest weekend of 2012, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost gate-fees that weekend alone and unknown loss in concession revenues, not to mention an unnecessary blow to consumer confidence.

Christopher Lotito is the author of "Craigslist for Heroes, Rogues, and Middle Management," a comprehensive manual for building and growing businesses with the use the web-based classified advertising.
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