MANCHESTER – Members of the Township Council, Planning Board and Environmental Commission were each looking at issues of development and the environment during recent meetings.
Township Councilman Robert Hudak reported that the Planning Board held a special meeting on January 21 to review and approve “a site plan for a short-term acute care facility.”
That application was the subject of a redevelopment plan at 2132 Route 37 near Pine Lake Park. Hudak, who serves as liaison between the Council and the Planning Board, noted that the application had been “approved unanimously by the board.”
Manchester Environmental Commissioner Peggy Middaugh told The Manchester Times, “the acute care facility that we reviewed is on Route 37 next to the golf course. We received concerns from a couple of residents on the abutting lots and sent an interoffice memo to the Planning Board asking that the mature trees along the residential property line be preserved.”
She said the development had made some changes and that the applicant had spoken to neighbors near the site “about trying to make it better for them.”
Middaugh previously served as the chair of the Manchester Environmental Commission. During the panel’s reorganization meeting held last month, Commissioner Rory Wells took over that role. The new Vice Chair is Commissioner Bill Cook.
During that meeting “we discussed new goals and objectives for 2021,” Middaugh said. Among those goals were to develop a closer relationship with the Zoning Board similar to the Commission’s rapport with the Township Planning Board.
The Commission also plans to focus on green infrastructure, particularly stormwater measures and work with the Green Team toward silver Sustainable Jersey certification.
Back in 2009, the Sustainable Jersey program was created to empower New Jersey municipalities to build a better world for future generations with the tools, training, and financial incentives necessary to pursue critical sustainability initiatives. Currently, there are over 455 communities in New Jersey registered under the program.
“Sustainable Jersey towns and cities implement practices that lead to cost savings in energy, water and garbage bills. The program helps communities improve efficiency, cut waste and stimulate their local economies. Registered towns get special priority access and notification of incentives and grants, and are eligible for the Sustainable Jersey Grants Program, which has provided over $5.6 million for community-based initiatives across New Jersey,” Sustainable Jersey states on their website. “Sustainable Jersey delivers the research, best practices and technical assistance you need to implement sustainable solutions for your community. Regular training workshops, webinars and regional hub meetings provide your town with connections to the leading experts in important municipal sustainability issues.”
Middaugh said the Commission is also planning to have a speaker series on topics of interest and to prepare/education residents and businesses for statewide plastics ban.
The Commission had previously noted the buildup of water and some debris on property at 420 Lacey Road in Whiting near a Wendy’s restaurant which is slated for medical office building project.
Environmental Commission member Cook said “they are handling drainage on this property according to the new stormwater management rules. There will be two recharge ponds.”
Middaugh confirmed at the time that the lot next to Wendy’s was flooded and had a “lot of wetlands and plants.”
“The applicant is asking for a variance to not have as many shade trees. They said there isn’t vegetation, but there is. The way it is being described is different from the way it actually is,” Middaugh said.
Former Township Environmental Commission member Mary Demarest-Paraan previously said the site had been neglected and needed attention and that it had previously been used as a junkyard.
She told The Manchester Times that the she wasn’t “too concerned about the standing water or the trash. Both of those items will be eliminated upon completion of the construction.”
“The site is collecting water because it has not been graded or improved and was likely used to stage materials during construction of the other parts of the shopping center. It is normal for water to collect there since it is a low spot that has been waiting to be developed.”
Paraan added, “the engineering plans that were submitted, specifically the utilities plan, shows the site piping plan. There will be three new bioretention basins around the outer perimeter that connect to each other and to the large basin that already exists.”
“The property management should keep the site free of trash until construction begins,” Paraan said.
Regarding environmental interests in the township, Councilman James Vaccaro discussed further the need for an energy master plan during a Manchester Council meeting.
“I would like to encourage and ask council to discuss and implement a 10-year energy master plan for Manchester Township that encompasses the use of renewable energy of wind, geothermal and more uses of solar energy applications.”
“There are solar generators that provide power for our parking lots and recreational areas. Most importantly, electric cars with high-speed charging stations are also needed. We need to plan for high-speed charging station sites that will be needed in the near future, especially in Manchester Township,” Councilman Vaccaro added.
Councilman Vaccaro also reported to residents and his fellow council members that he had attended a recent call-in format Pinelands Municipal Council meeting held in Bass River. The subject of that meeting was the status of the pilot funding for the Garden State Preservation Trust Fund.
“At this time there has been no gubernatorial senate or assembly resolution on the matter,” Vaccaro said. He added the next Pinelands Municipal Council meeting will be March 9 and will include the installation of Pineland Municipal executive officers.