By Frank Zammataro, Guest Author and re-publish from the Across the Watershed newsletter, Great Swamp Watershed Association
Community Organizes to Create the Mendham Alliance for Preservation and Conservation
What do you do when you hit a brick wall at Town Hall? “You get organized!” says Frank Zammataro, Co-founder of the Mendham
Alliance for Preservation and Conservation (MAPC). And that’s exactly what happened late last year in Mendham Township!
The impetus started in October 2021 when a “200 Foot” notice was distributed to residents of Mendham Borough and Township as well as bordering residents in Bernardsville. The notice stated that the former equestrian Irene Spring Tree Farm, encompassing 16, ten-acre lots was being rezoned to 5 acre lots, potentially adding 10 additional lots to the development. After pleas from the community to delay the vote to further study the impact on the headwaters of the Passaic River and connective wildlife habitat, the Township Committee
dismissed a formal protest petition signed by over 50 residents and voted 4 to 1 to proceed with the 5 acre ordinance. Over time, it became clear that COVID reduced the community’s ability to stay diligently involved with township planning board and committee activities including pivotal changes to the Township’s Master Plan.
In response, the MAPC was officially formed as a charitable, not-for profit corporation, on February 22, 2022 and designated by the IRS to accept tax-exempt donations.
The MAPC mission is to provide non-partisan support, advocacy and balance for sustainable land conservation, preservation and stewardship. This includes:
• Helping to ensure the preservation of the rural qualities of the Mendhams;
• The preservation and conservation of the most sensitive areas outlined in the August 2004 Highlands Act;
• Identification of contiguous space that can be preserved in perpetuity;
• Development of new conservation zoning categories which will limit non-restrictive rezoning in the Township and Borough and create valuable sustainable attributes;
• Retain legal, environmental and engineering talent in support of the conservation and preservation goals;
• Seek support from all residents of the Mendhams, as well as neighboring communities that benefit from the Raritan, Passaic and Whippany Rivers, which originate in the Mendhams;
• Establish a guide which can serve as an aid to incorporate more sustainable qualities in the Mendhams. So for now, the MAPC is actively monitoring the Spring Tree development with the hope to minimize density and maximize preservation, finding a good balance with the priority to “vigorously” protect the headwaters and critical habitat on and around the properties.
The MAPC has recently established a website https://savemendham.org and is seeking to meet with more neighbors who cherish the qualities of the towns and seek to limit un-restrictive development. The main activities of the MAPC will be to identify projects which need organizational and expert support to balance potential growth activities.
In addition, the MAPC wants to provide “sustainable thought leadership”, educating all residents and leadership about the best practices emerging across the United States to create sustainable communities. The website will highlight its “Nature Corners”, local residents with an eye for photography, illustrating the unique and in some cases endangered species in the backyards and woods of the Mendhams. Two founders of the MAPC are leading the way with their contributions: Marta Longo, a township resident and amateur photographer snapped a photo of a “flying lobster!” Who knew this even existed, let alone here in Mendham. You can see more at: www.savemendham.org/marta-longo
And an endangered red-shouldered hawk fledgling smiled for Chris Neff, professional photographer and NJ Audubon Communications Director, in Mendham Borough recently. You can see more at: www.savemendham.org/chris-neff So what do you do when you hit a brick wall at Town Hall? Frank says “You make lemonade from lemons and rise to the occasion!” The time is now to save the Mendhams, not from growth, but from ignorance. Simply growing any town’s housing without fully addressing the preservation and conservation of its natural resources sets a bad precedent for the future. The MAPC goal is to save the Mendhams for future generations whose “thank you” will never be heard! Think about it!
Frank Zammataro is a renewable energy entrepreneur with a passion for the environment and sustainability. He serves as the President of the MAPC. Since 2017, he and his wife, Jeannie have operated a small retirement horse farm in Mendham Township.