MANCHESTER – How does the town’s plans align with that of the state? Lengthy studies should tell the Township Council whether they match up. At stake is money for grants and other help.
In his presentation before the council, Township Planner Nick Dickerson explained the self-assessment report “is part of the planned endorsement process and what that is, is the alignment of the township’s plans and land use regulations with those of the state and regional entities and county. It tries to streamline this planning and in return the state offers incentives for communities who seek to do this including technical assistance, priority of grants, low interest loans and it also allows for a center designation which would help for the township’s efforts concerning economic development and creating a walkable downtown center for this area.”
Dickerson added, “this is a fairly lengthy process,” noting the 121-page report. “This is only step three in the process and there are 10 steps total.
“There will be a lot of work between the township and the state to identify what steps need to be done on the part of the township and where to achieve plan endorsement,” Dickerson said. He noted that future work for step 4 would involve “a community vision which would involve a great deal of community input, a consistency review of various ordinances and plans, an action plan…and then endorsement by the state planning commission followed by the actual monitoring of and implementation of the agreement that would be signed as part of this process.”
Council President Sam Fusaro asked what his “guesstimate on how long it would take for the next seven steps? Ballpark?”
“I would say well over a year because each step has a certain number of days where the state has to act,” Dickerson said.
“A year is good. I was thinking with the state it would be well over a decade,” Fusaro said.
“What the township is tasked to do through this report is to identify existing conditions throughout the township. The report covers certain trends in demographics, housing trends, population trends and it looks at the existing efforts done by the township in terms of plans and identifying which master plan has been adopted and various elements that have been adopted and also to see consistency between the township and Pinelands comprehensive master plans …and to see what the township has taken efforts already to be in alignment with the state redevelopment plan which was last adopted by the state in 2001.”
He added that while reference had been made about town center designation along the Route 70 corridor, it was removed due to the traffic concerns. It was still in the report but that will be removed before it is submitted to the state. A zoning map adopted in 2018 would replace an older map that was in the report.
Councilman Craig Wallis said “the next meeting is the one where we’d approve it or not approve it and all those changes would be made by then.” He asked about the step involved in identifying the vision of the township. “This report is the part of the process of us looking back to see what we are and what we have.”
“Exactly, this is just a snapshot of Manchester of what is taking place so they have a better idea of what they are working with,” Dickerson responded.
“It is the beginning of the trip not the end and there is plenty of time for public input,” Councilman Robert A. Hudak said.
During the public comment period that followed, resident Karen Argenti came forward with concerns that the report did not include crucial environmental information that she felt was necessary for the report to include before it is approved and sent to the state.
Argenti said the township was “not ready to submit this proposal as information needed is incomplete. The town does not have an updated Natural Resources Inventory, Stormwater Management Plan, Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, Tree Ordinance, or a local Resilience Strategy and Ordinance, etc. On page 2 of the Report it states: “The purpose of this report is to review the existing conditions, demographic trends, and inventory of resources in Manchester Township and assess the consistency of the municipal planning and zoning documents with the State Plan.”
The resident said that the 2005 Natural Resources Inventory is being updated, the 2018 Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan is the last one filed; it should be filed May 15 of the next year; and it has many documents that are dated 2004 or 2005, the Stormwater Management Plan is dated 2005, the 2013 Tree Ordinance does not require trees to be deeded or listed as with a Shade Tree Committee would do.”
“There is no Resiliency Strategy that identifies and addresses flooding and other vulnerable areas in a comprehensive fashion, including climate change assessment. We need to promote Low Impact Development, Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services. Please consider
my comments before you vote to approve this study and considerable cost to the taxpayers.”
The council voted to adopt the report with the recommended changes that Dickerson had listed.
Argenti said after the meeting that she was disappointed that the council had not considered adding the items she had recommended before voting to adopt the report. She added that she hoped the township would consider what she presented as it moved forward with development in the future.