Heritage Minerals Site
For over 20 years, a developer has been trying to build a massive development on over 7,000 acres of Pinelands habitat in Manchester Township. This area is valuable for threatened and endangered species as well as protecting Barnegat Bay’s water quality. In 2004, the state and developer, with PPA as a participating party, entered a settlement agreement that limits the amount of development that could occur on the property.
There is a development application pending before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The proposed development includes 4,000 units, which is significantly more than the 2,450 stipulated in the settlement agreement. This in turn would increase water withdrawals from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer and could stress the sewer system in Manchester. Further, the proposal includes over 100 acres of impervious cover as roadways within the development, which would decrease the amount of water able to re-enter the aquifer during rain events.
There was a public hearing in February during which hundreds of residents spoke out against this development. After the public hearing, NJDEP requested more information from the applicant. The applicant has since provided that information, and NJDEP could make a decision at any time.
Even if NJDEP approves the permit application, there is another opportunity to stop this at the Township level. Manchester officials have said they will not act until NJDEP takes action.
In 1978, by Federal legislation, approximately one million acres of land in Southern New Jersey was designated as the “Pinelands National Reserve”, but in 1979 when the New Jersey Legislature enacted the Pinelands Protection Act about 221,000 acres were not included with the boundaries of the “Pinelands Area”. This area which is not under the protection of the State Pinelands Commission is considered the Pinelands/CAFRA overlap area. This Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) area is regulated by the DEP-Land Use Regulations. These coastal regulations, known as "CAFRA" regulations, are supposed to respect and be consistent with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan standards.
In the late 1990s, the landowner and development, Hovsons, proposed a truly vast development plan for this site. Under pressure from PPA, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and the public, Hovsons eventually agreed in 2004 to a settlement that allowed 2,450 housing units on about 930 acres. The balance of the land, about 6,000 acres of highly valuable Pine Barrens habitats, was to be turned over to the State for conservation in phases as the development proceeded.
But Hovsons never started building. More than a decade passed. Then in 2017, the developer submitted a new development plan to the Township, which included 4,000 housing units -- far more than the 2,450 stipulated in the 2004 settlement agreement -- spread out over an area about twice the size agreed to in 2004. This in turn would increase water withdrawals from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer and could stress the sewer system in Manchester. Further, the proposal includes over 100 acres of impervious cover as roadways within the development, which would decrease the amount of water able to re-enter the aquifer during rain events. Finally, it included a new access road through rare wildlife species habitats.
PPA informed residents of the new proposal, and they turned out in the hundreds to oppose the new plan.
Manchester's council actually approved this great expansion, but under pressure from residents, the Mayor vetoed the zoning changes required for the new plan.
Hovsons has now presneted a proposal to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection that stays within the 930-acre area but includes an increase in the number of housing units. The new proposal also goes back to the agreed road layout from 2004. PPA has some concerns regarding the newest plan. So does the Department of Environmental Protection, which has required more information from the developer before considering its CAFRA application. PPA anticipates informing the public and submitting comments once the applicaition is deemed complete and we see the final development plans.
Hovnanian Industries owns 7,173 acres of land in Manchester Township, purchased in 1984, called the Heritages Minerals Site. Approximately 3,087 acres are north of the Conrail Tracks, and within the Pinelands Protection Area, any development has to meet all the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) regulations. The remaining 4,085 acres are within the Pinelands/CAFRA overlap area and needs to meet DEP Coastal Regulations for development.
The Pinelands Commission assigned land management designations to both the Pinelands Protection Area and the Pinelands/CAFRA overlap area. The Heritage Mineral Site was assigned a “Forest Area” management to the 4,085 acre overlap portion of the site. Under the CMP this would allow for 1 house for every 15.8 acres of land.
In 1995, Hovnanian Industries applied for a CAFRA permit to build 838 single family homes and 12,000 square feet of commercial development on 398 acres of the land they owned adjacent the Manchester Township High School. This number exceeded the density set by the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan.
During the review process the Pinelands Preservation Alliance strongly pushed to have the more stringent Pinelands CMP regulations apply to any and all development of the site. These regulations would protect the water quality and quantity of this large area and ensure protection of threatened and endangered species and their habitat.
On April 26, 1996, CAFRA denied this application on 14 major grounds which the applicant had not meet CAFRA regulations. Hovnanian filed an appeal the following month and litigation continued for many years.
In 2003, DEP Land Use Regulation, New Jersey Pinelands Commission and Hovnanian Industries reached a settlement to the ongoing litigation. Click here to read attached points of settlement agreement. Click here to review a map of the developable portions of the site under the agreement. Under the settlement agreement 6,178 acres are to be deed restricted (click here to view map).
In 2004, Hovson, Inc. the State, Pinelands Commission and Manchester all agreed to a scaled-down development plan for 2,450 homes and 20,000 square feet of commercial development to be built on 900 acres. About 6,400 acres would be dedicated as open space.
The Manchester Planning Board and Council in July of 2014, designated the entire 4,087 acres of the site located in the CAFRA portion, as an area in need of redevelopment. This 4,087 acres goes beyond the 900 acres mapped out in the 2003 settlement agreement by NJ Pinelands, DEP and Hovson's.
Map of the Town Center concept (when viewing - green are development areas):
HMWG - Plan - 5.4MB
Manchester, Hertitage Town Center Framework Plan - November 2, 2015
The full Manchester Heritage town Center Redevelopment Plan document can be found on the Township web site at:
Since June of 2015, under the direction of Mayor Kenneth Palmer, the township put together a Heritage Minerals Working Group, made up of political and community leaders to steer and review the redevelopment plan now envisioned by the developer. The new plan being presented includes 6,543 homes proposed and currently 1 million square feet of commercial space and 1 million square feet of industrial space.
Manchester Township and Hovnanian Industries completed a Fiscal Impact Analysis report. PPA believes the report is not realistic, but has been artificially manipulated to make it look like the town's taxpayers won't be hit with big increases to provide all the service this huge development would actually require. Below are the documents:
Below are the minutes of the meetings.
In June of 2015 the Working Group was presented with a power point presentation by David G. Roberts.
HMWG - Presentation - 1.4MB
Presented June 15, 2015 to the Manchester Redevelopment Subcommittee