Manchester Watching Future Development

(Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

MANCHESTER – A demographic study completed for the Manchester Township Board of Education is of interest to the township, as well as Hovsons, the group responsible for the Heritage Minerals redevelopment.

The study was done in February by Statistical Forecasting LLC, a Boston-area based company that has completed such studies for hundreds of districts, including many in the New York/New Jersey metro region.

“This study was extremely helpful in getting a better grasp on Manchester’s ability to grow with and without having any impact on our classroom capacity,” Mayor Kenneth T. Palmer told The Manchester Times. “I appreciate and applaud Superintendent (David) Trethaway and the School Board’s initiative in completing the study.”

There are five buildings projects going on in town right now: Presidential Gardens, MDG project on 571, Autumn Ridge, continued development in Pine Lake Park, and of course the proposed Heritage Minerals redevelopment. The study focused on only the next five years of enrollment trends, from the 2018-19 school year to 2022-23 year, and Heritage Minerals, if it finally gets the green light from all the entities that must give their blessing, will not even start groundbreaking in that five-year span.

Enrollment numbers continue a downward trend with low birth counts one contributing factor. While only Whiting School is at capacity, the other schools have “surplus seating” into the 2022-23 projections, even including students gained in high school from Lakehurst Elementary School, a K-8 district.

In total, 2,065 public school children (K-12) are projected to be generated from the new housing developments. Due to the unavailability of the bedroom distributions for many of the developments and the uncertainty of whether the proposed residential developments will get constructed, as well as the timeline of occupation, the baseline enrollment projections were not adjusted for the additional children anticipated from the new housing developments. In addition, Heritage Minerals Tract, if constructed, would likely only begin construction in five years with occupation to follow later, which is outside of the enrollment projection time frame of five years, Richard S. Grip, Ed.D., of Statistical Forecasting, said.

The Heritage Minerals redevelopment is back yet again under review by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The project seeks to build 4,000 homes on a buildable 1,000 acres, although no one involved believes that number of homes will be approved. Of those homes, 2,300 single-family units and 290 affordable housing units are proposed. The remaining 1,400 units are proposed age-restricted and wouldn’t impact the school district.

The township will pay $5,000 to the school district out of a Hovsons escrow account for the study.