MANCHESTER – The Manchester Environmental Commission recently reviewed two redevelopment proposals which will soon go before the governing body.
Redevelopment areas are properties that already had something built on them at one point. Often, a new builder takes a look at the property, and begins talking with the town about what could be built here. Negotiations would follow before the builder made a formal application to the planning board.
On July 1, the Environmental Commission held a special virtual meeting to discuss the two sets of plans which Commission member Bill Cook called a “concept plan. What is allowed, what could be allowed, setting up some boundaries that supersede the zoning ordinance.”
Commission member Bill Foor said this is one step in a 10-step process. He noted that the plans submitted must have council and planning board approval and the next step after that should be the site plan.
Chairwoman Peggy Middaugh said that of the two proposals on the table the first concerned a development on Route 37 known as “the Asphalt plant site” while the second plan was for the Whiting Landfill off Route 70.
The asphalt plant was operated by the Thomas Nicol Asphalt Company from 1966 until 1981, when it was leased to the South Brunswick Asphalt Company.
In 1987, it was discovered that the property was leaching contaminants into the Pine Lake Park community ground water supply. The following year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) installed and sampled 11 monitoring wells on the property, revealing the presence of trichloroethane, benzene, toluene, dichloroethylene, dichloroethane, and trichloroethylene.
The Thomas Nicol Asphalt Company entered into a contract of sale in November 2000 with Davies Consultants, Inc., which was completed in January 2006. The principal structures associated with the asphalt manufacturing process were removed between 2010 and 2012. With the closure of the business, the property suffered serious neglect, with extensive visible evidence of structural dilapidation, lack of maintenance and unsafe conditions.
The property was declared a Non-Condemnation Area in need of redevelopment by the Township Council in July 2019. The area to be redeveloped has approximately 1,500 feet of street frontage along Route 37, containing approximately 45.5 acres in area.
The site contains two structures located toward the front of the property as well as storage containers, a radio antenna, construction debris, and monitoring wells.
Middaugh said the proposal shows the potential of what could be put there which Cook said he was surprised to see the wide scope of which included options for town houses, commercial use and residential. “I didn’t expect to see that breadth as to what would be an option at this point.”
“They talk about gas stations, two different kinds of town houses, a solar parking lot, passive and active recreation space and storage units. These are only potential things they may not actually put them in the development,” Middaugh added.
“The one that bothered me was the wind farm,” Cook said. He cited a principal use for renewable energy source he said two statutes were cited in the proposal one was for a wind farm the second was for solar.”
“I’m not too thrilled about a wind farm anywhere on Route 37,” Foor added.
He was joined by other members of the commission in not supporting a wind farm as the best use of that property. A wind farm exclusion was recommended by the commission for that proposal.
Also recommended was that the most recent State Department of Environmental Protection regulations related to storm water management should be required by the time of approval of the final landscape plan. The shortness of setbacks proposed was also questioned by the panel.
Middaugh asked if there was a remediation plan for the waste cleanup at the site and who would be monitoring any leaching wells at the site once it was developed.
Regarding the second plan, the Ocean County Landfill, as it was known at the time, began operations at the location along State Route 70 in Whiting in 1958. The landfill property was accessed by Sam Pitts Road. Landfill operations ceased in 1985 after 27 years in operation, due to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan requiring the immediate closure of existing municipal landfills.
Currently, the site is owned and operated by Manchester Township as the Whiting Recycling Center, a composting facility, municipal salt shed, and a firearms training range operated by the Manchester Township Police Department.
It is bounded to the north and east by privately owned vacant and wooded property containing one single-family dwelling, Route 70 to the south, and vacant and wooded property which is part of the Joint Base – McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst to the west.
The Manchester Public Works Facility and the Cedar Glen Lakes residential community are located just east of the property and across Route 70. The Whiting Landfill site was declared a Non-Condemnation Area in need of redevelopment in November 2019.
Middaugh said that the proposal appears to be “putting up an entire solar facility close to where the current recycling facility is on Route 70 but behind it.”
She said there is a lot of trees there right now. The whole area at one time was cleared but has now grown back. She also suggested that the commission be granted a site visit.
It was noted that the landfill was never properly capped and the township had to do it.
The Township’s most recent Master Plan Reexamination Report was adopted by the Planning Board on Aug. 7, 2017. It does not specifically identify the Redevelopment Plan area but recommends several amendments including a maximum building height of three stories, increasing the maximum building height from 35 feet to 40 feet, and permitting shopping plazas, shopping centers, and neighborhood shopping centers in the zone.