Massive Pinelands Development Denied by DEP
Site has been in controversy since the early 1990s, when Hovsons tried to build an even bigger development on the site.
By Pinelands Preservation AllianceOctober 18, 2018
In a victory for the Pinelands and Barnegat Bay, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) has denied a massive development application for the Heritage Minerals site in Manchester Township, Ocean County. Hovsons, Inc. had applied for permits to build 3,682 housing units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space on 930 acres in the Pinelands National Reserve and watershed of Barnegat Bay. The key environmental protections that NJ DEP found would be violated by the development are water quality, ground water recharge, air quality, and threatened and endangered wildlife and plant protections.
“We are grateful to the Department of Environmental Protection for enforcing these critical natural resource protections, especially where the developer simply wants to disregard its own prior commitments to build a smaller development on this site,” said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
“The bigger the development, the greater the harm to Barnegat Bay through contaminated runoff, to the aquifers through pumping for water supply, and to Pine Barrens habitats that are home to many rare and characteristic animals and plants. That’s why it is so important for the state to implement its environmental rules consistently, as it has done in this case,” stated Britta
Wenzel, executive director of Save Barnegat Bay.
“We are grateful to the Department of Environmental Protection for enforcing these critical natural resource protections.”Carleton Montgomery
This site has been in controversy since the early 1990s, when Hovsons tried to build an even bigger development on the site. Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) intervened to support the NJ DEP in rejecting the proposal for violating numerous Pinelands and coastal environmental protection rules.
Going Back on Their Word
In 2004, all the parties reached agreement on a settlement that would protect natural resources while allowing Hovsons to build 2,450 housing units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space in exchange for permanently protecting more than 6,000 acres of Pine Barrens habitat around the development. Even though Hovsons signed this agreement, it has never applied for permits consistent with the settlement agreement. Instead, it has consistently tried to get bigger developments approved by NJ DEP and the township.
“The struggle is not over, however,” said Mr. Montgomery. “Hovsons is likely to go back to court in an effort to intimidate the state into caving on its permit decision. We expect that effort to fail and will be there to support the Department of Environmental Protection in holding the line. The public needs to stay tuned in and be ready to add their voices as well.”
During this process, Save Barnegat Bay joined PPA and EDF in defending the limited terms of the settlement agreement against the developers’ efforts to expand the project. Working together, they have informed the public about proposals and helped people have their voices heard. In 2016, Manchester residents turned out by the hundreds to persuade their mayor to veto zoning changes the town council had approved to allow a development even bigger than the one NJ DEP just rejected. Throughout the many years of work on this issue, PPA, EDF and Save Barnegat Bay have provided expert scientific and legal analyses, community organizing, and a clear vision of the need to limit the development of this site by enforcing long-standing Pinelands and coastal regulations.