Updated: Mar 28, 2019
Dear SMILE Supporters,
Happy New Year! We at SMILE wish for you and your families a healthy and prosperous 2015!
This letter is to give you an update about the planned construction of our building project being executed by Atkins Companies. As you know the construction of our group home, community center, and primary office space has been donated to us by the Atkins Company. This donation is BASED UPON an exchange for low income housing credits (COAH) afforded by SMILE to enable Atkins to construct a development of prime properties (30+ units) on property they own on Lake Hopatcong near the Hopatcong State Park.
Atkins has been working on their project for seven years now and was excited to finally be moving forward while complying with all county and town rules and regulations. They were literally at the final zoning board meeting to wrap up the details when the news broke about a bald eagles’ nest being built on their lake property.
Environmental consultants from Atkins had specialists go out to the site who confirmed that, indeed, two bald eagles had recently started building a nest in a tree located in the middle of the property.
Over the past couple of months, Atkins has had continuous conversations with all of their consultants as to what can be done given the restrictions surrounding the bald eagle as such a highly protected federal species. They have been working with both the US Fish and Wildlife and the DEP to acquire a permit to proceed with the construction of their project.
Currently, they have a draft permit application submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife to grant them permission to construct their project under certain guidelines as to protect the eagles during their most critical times. They should hear back regarding this permit within a few months. Until then, the Smile project is in a holding pattern as the two projects are linked together.
If unable to continue their project, all parties will lose something. Atkins will lose a lot of money, the SMILE building project will need to find another way, and Hopatcong Borough will lose tax revenues.