Critical Areas for Preservation
The most critical areas in Mountain Lakes for species diversity, population sizes, critical habitat, and migration habitat for birds, are the largest wooded tracts. These include Frederick and Wilcox Parks, Tower Hill, and the Yorke Road woodlands. Also important, and not as protected or secure, are the vernal pond complexes present near St. Catherine’s Church on Pocono Road; the vernal ponds in woods near the municipal building; and vernal ponds in scattered small woodlots in several areas of the town. Vernal ponds are a habitat that has only recently come into consideration in preservation efforts, and they are not widely familiar to the general public. An effort should be made to map all vernal ponds in the Borough, and to consider their importance in future planning decisions.
Efforts at Neighborhood Conservation
One characteristic that makes Mountain Lakes unique is the degree to which its 4200 some residents know one another. The town has always been very social and there are numerous opportunities to make friends such as school sporting activities, joining one of the many volunteer run organizations, joining the Borough’s Country Club, to simply spending time at one of the public beaches. Early on, residents wanted to ensure that neighbors did not retreat behind high fences. Ordinances exist restricting fencing on individual property and this has contributed to fostering a welcoming and neighborly feel within the Borough. In 2011, there are 22 distinct neighborhoods as designated by the Centennial Committee. Neighborhoods boundaries were created and as part of the year-long Centennial celebration, neighbors were encouraged to choose a mascot and compete in various “Neighborhood Challenges”. Each neighborhood was also encouraged to have a picnic reminiscent of the famous photo of the clambake at the Luellen’s.
Another attempt to preserve gracious neighborhoods was the passing of two ordinances that restricted the size of new development or home renovations. During the 1980’s, residents became concerned as Mountain Lakes witnessed the construction of “McMansions” squeezed onto lots. Trees were removed, houses grew ever larger and the open and spacious feel of neighborhoods was increasingly threatened. The Council passed a Floor Area Ratio limitation that ensured houses were properly sized for their lots and a second ordinance to increase minimum required set backs from neighboring property. Residents who wish to develop in violation of these ordinances must go before the Zoning Board for a variance. Today, the average residential density per acre is 1.8 dwellings.
Borough Land Use
As detailed below, Mountain Lakes consists of single-family homes with some 1330 households (2000 census) occupying 37% of total acreage and only 6% devoted to business purposes. It is a mature town with 97% of it either developed or, thanks to the foresight of former residents, held in conservation as public lands or waters.