MANCHESTER – It’s thousands of acres, owned by Hovsons, and what will become of it is a question that has dragged on for more than a decade. Most recently, plans to redevelop the Heritage Minerals tract had been up in the air after a June veto by the mayor.
But late 2016 Hovsons and Manchester officials met in executive session to discuss the Heritage Minerals tract, a parcel of more than a thousand acres that could possible see thousands of homes.
The tract, also known as Sarco, stretches from Route 37 into Whiting and the border of Berkeley and Toms River.
Though the November 28 discussion was behind closed doors, it marks the next step in what would be presented for the Heritage Minerals tract. The matter was labeled for executive session due to contract negotiation.
A township official told The Manchester Times that Hovsons is proposing 3,700 homes on the original 1,000 acres, a mix of single family homes, age-restricted homes.
Hovsons, the developer of the Heritage Minerals site, has been trying to develop that tract of land for decades. With Mayor Kenneth Palmer, they created a “Heritage Minerals Working Group” to brainstorm and finally present an idea for developing that land.
The developer already has the approval to build 2,400 age-restricted homes. But there is a surplus of senior housing existing in Manchester, and the housing crash in 2008, sent Hovsons back to the drawing board years ago. They abandoned those plans in hopes of creating a “town center” with townhomes, single-family homes and stores.
That redevelopment plan proposed 6,543 housing units, which neither Hovons nor the township thought would be approved by the state. However, they aimed high in the hopes that even a portion of those numbers would be approved.
The plan met with fierce opposition from the public, who packed planning board meetings to protest it. While the plan passed both the planning board and council, although not at council unanimously, that plan was vetoed by Palmer and withdrawn from the council.
“As promised, since the Council’s approval of the Redevelopment Plan, we have sought input from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). They have indicated development beyond the 2004 settlement agreement’s 1,000 acre ‘footprint’ would be extremely difficult given the various environmental issues, permit requirements, and effects on threatened and endangered species,” said Palmer, in explaining his veto back in June.
Officials publicly have been quiet about the Heritage Minerals site since then, only saying that they have to meet with Hovsons to negotiate a new plan.
Previously, township officials said they would like to see that land developed, to offset some of the heavy tax burden on residents. However, opponents of the site plans say it will cost the taxpayers more for schools, police, and public works.