Manchester: 2017 A Look Back

The local community fills Pine Belt Arena on July 26 for a public hearing on the Southern Reliability Link natural gas pipeline. (Photo by Sara Grillo)

MANCHESTER – Development continued to be a major concern among residents. This is reflected in articles that have to do with utilities and plans for construction. Below are the some of the most biggest stories of 2017:

 Controversial Gas Pipeline

The Pinelands Commission approved the Southern Reliability Link in September. This is a gas line that would join up at a source in Chesterfield and head through various towns for 30 miles. It would end in Manchester. Environmentalists protested about how dangerous and unnecessary they said the pipeline would be. They also believed it would lead to more development in the area, and that the claim of it being for reliability was false.

Those in favor of the pipeline said it would provide another source of gas for the area (reliability), and would be necessary in case of a disaster or incident that damaged the existing pipeline.

Walmart Gave Up On New Store

Walmart officials said in an emailed statement that “after consideration of several business factors, we have made the difficult decision not to move forward with building another Walmart store in Toms River.”

The property borders Toms River and Manchester, so both towns had to sign off on it. The plan was originally heard in 2004.

Jaylin Holdings, the name of the developing company formed by Jay and Linda Grunin, originally proposed a main store of 203,091 square feet, with a 19,884 square-foot garden center and 1,049 parking spaces. In 2010, the plan was scaled down to 189,797 square feet of retail space, a 5,703 square-foot garden center and 833 parking spaces.

Seen as a victory by environmentalists, due to the impact it would have on nearby habitats, officials from both towns would have welcomed the added tax ratable.

(Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

Heritage Pitch

The owner of the Heritage Minerals tract, Hovsons, Inc., met with Manchester officials in August with a plan for more homes on the former mining site. The settlement more than a decade ago was for 2,200 homes. They wanted more in this recent round, but the township’s officials said no to that plan.

 Opioid Epidemic

Heroin, often mixed with fentanyl, has become an epidemic in Ocean County. Hundreds of people have died of overdoses, and hundreds more have had their lives saved by Narcan sprays administered by first responders.

Local police have combatted the problem by increasing drug education in schools and cracking down even harder on dealers.

They are also differentiating between the crimes of dealing drugs and possessing drugs. Those who are caught up in addiction are being given another chance by coming into certain police departments and being evaluated for free rehab. They turn in all their drugs and they don’t face any charges under the Blue HART (Heroin Addiction Recovery Treatment) program. Brick, Manchester, Stafford, Lacey, and Ocean Gate are now part of this program.

The root cause to the epidemic is addiction to prescription painkillers, police said. That’s why there are places to drop off unused medications for the police to burn and keep it out of the hands of addicts. Also, Toms River, Brick and Lacey have joined a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies to recoup costs from dealing with this epidemic, and to force those companies to change the way they market their medicines to everyone.

Performing Arts Academy

Dance students train in many forms of dance. (Photo courtesy of OCVTS)

A new Performing Arts Academy building for the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School was announced. Currently, the Performing Arts Academy is housed in Hangar 1 of the Joint Base-McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst. Its lease will be expiring soon. Additionally, with added security regulations, parents and staff have said that location is not as convenient as it once was.

Students will select from four majors: theater, vocal, dance and audio engineering. This would be in addition to its academic curriculum. The 60,000-square-foot building is expected to open in 2019. It will be located on the campus of Ocean County College. The goal is to create a continuity of education, so that OCC classes can be taught to high school students. The high school and the college students would be able to share facilities, although not at the same time.

The Ocean County Freeholders created a $27 million bond to pay for the school. They committed $8 million of its total cost. The state of New Jersey will be paying 40 percent of the project, or $10.6 million. The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation has pledged $8 million.