MANCHESTER – Members of the governing body gave their opinion of the proposed development plan for the Heritage Minerals site, and it wasn’t a very positive one.
To be clear, the township agreed to a settlement with Hovsons, the Pinelands Commission, and the DEP in 2004 for 2,200 homes. The township’s open space plan includes 6,179.7 acres in that land that would be preserved (The other 995.4 would be developed).
However, Hovsons has a new plan for 4,000 homes with recreation, a clubhouse, and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. Since it’s a new plan, the developer has to go through the same environmental hearings that it went to before the 2004 settlement.
The State Department of Environmental Protection held a hearing, and offered a chance for any local government officials to speak before the residents. Council members were at the hearing, but did not speak before the residents. At the following Township Council meeting, they gave their opinions.
“I heard the people’s voices loud and clear,” Councilwoman Joan Brush said. “People aren’t happy.”
Councilman Charles Frattini summed up what he heard from residents: “Hovsons has already raped the Earth. They have polluted our lakes…They want to destroy a town by building within a town.”
Councilman Sam Fusaro said he spoke to engineers, attorneys, and other professionals familiar with development of this nature who informed him that Gov. Phil Murphy’s choice to head the Department of Environmental Protection, Catherine McCabe, will have a more strict environmental position than the previous administration.
“Based on what I’ve heard about the new commissioner, I think it’s going to be a long, uphill battle” for the developer, he said.
Council President Craig Wallis said that the residents wanted answers from the DEP, but that was not the forum for a question and answer period. The DEP was just there to field comments.
He said the builder has the right to ask for anything, but there are controls in place. The DEP is a very significant hurdle, but it’s not the only one. Even if the DEP approves the proposal, the final decider is the township’s own land use board.