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RANDOLPH TOWNSHIP, NJ-It's taken him nearly six years to finally get city council approval to develop a partial of land and now the Democrats are putting up a fight to rescind the settlement agreement. Frank Nitti Jr. owns a 159-acre tract of land in Randolph Township and wants to subdivide half the portion to be developed into houses on 2.5 acre plots or bigger. According to the settlement Nitti will sell 77 acres of the land to the township to be preserved as open space. On the remaining parcel, Nitti is permitted to build 25 houses. "I'm not money-hungry, but I'm also not stupid," told Nitti to LASN. "There's no other political issue in town. If they're willing to give me fair market value for the rest of the land, I'll listen." The land is environmentally sensitive as it overlooks Mill Brook, a source of drinking water. Some residents said development could pollute the stream Nitti said runoff into the stream would become less severe because his lots will be designed by a landscape architect who will take all environmental factors into consideration. Nitti said due to substantial medical bills in the family, he needs to build on the land his dad bought in the 1960s. Nitti plans on developing the remaining portion of the tract with great care for the environment. "A landscape architect is going to review each lot case by case in order to protect the specimen trees," said Nitti about the heavily wooded area. "We'll put the house on lots where it makes the most environmental sense." Nitti had a lawsuit pending about a previous zoning ordinance the kept the parcels to a minimum of five acres each. Randolph Township Council's Republican majority approved a settlement with Nitti on Sept. 16, putting an end to a decade old zoning suit. Development will start at the top of the ridge line with houses built above. Nitti has spoken to some developers about trying to reduce the visual impact of the development to the rest of the community. "I remain very much involved in this project so that I can help minimize the environmental damage," said Nitti. "I'll pursue developing it immediately, but the timelines will be market driven." Developer will custom build houses one at a time on lots ranging from two to five acres. Nitti has discussed with planners, engineers and landscape architects how to develop the land. "The Democrats have scared a number of people around, even though we have a landscape architect consulting on the project," said Nitti. "Based on the topography the best roads will be put in. Once the lots are completed the landscape architect will become more involved." No other ordinance in Randolph Township had required a conservation easement, but Nitti's property now needs to be overseen by a landscape architect. "It's a little unfair for me to be portrayed as this giant evil developer," said Nitti. "I'm just the opposite, taking pains not to damage the environment."

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August 25, 2019, 5:46 am PDT

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