COMMISSIONER MARTIN APPROVES APPLICATION TO ALLOW SOLAR
PROJECT ON FORMER STAFFORD LANDFILL
(10/P126) TRENTON - Commissioner Bob Martin has approved an application by Stafford Township to remove a 48-acre landfill from the Green Acres inventory of open space so the land can be used for a solar energy project that is an important component of a major redevelopment project.
“This model green energy project will create jobs and clean energy, and is consistent with Governor Christie’s commitment to developing more solar projects on landfills,” Commissioner Martin said. “At the end of the day, this will be a great project for the state. We certainly want to see it move forward.”
The Commissioner’s decision will be reviewed by the State House Commission, which has final authority to approve Green Acres land diversions.
The Stafford Business Park is a 370-acre brownfield redevelopment project located in the Pinelands of Ocean County. The site contained a 24-acre unlicensed landfill and a 55-acre licensed landfill, neither of which had been closed in accordance with state law or the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan.
The township’s redeveloper, the Walters Group, completed landfill remediation and closure activities last year and is currently working on residential and commercial development of the property.
Walters removed the entire contents of the unlicensed landfill, approximately 500,000 cubic yards of municipal waste and construction and demolitions debris, and consolidated it in the licensed landfill, completing this phase of the project in early 2009.
Since then, Walters has completed 112 units of affordable housing and approximately 400,000 square feet of retail space. The redeveloper is working toward a goal of 677 residential units, 650,000 square feet of commercial space, and 100,000 square feet of office space.
The Walters Group projects that it can provide 70 percent of the project’s electricity through renewable energy. It has already installed solar panels on stores that have been constructed, meeting about 30 percent of the stores’ energy needs, and is looking to construct more than 1,000 solar panels on the landfill site.
A 2006 Memorandum of Agreement among the township, the Pinelands Commission and Ocean County allowed the redevelopment project to move ahead. It required the township to purchase or deed restrict 645 acres of ecologically important areas to mitigate project impacts.
The MOA also required Stafford Township to record a conservation easement on the former municipal landfill, preserving this land as open space under the Green Acres program. This is the land that is now subject to the Commissioner’s decision.
The township, county and developer, meanwhile, have worked closely with the DEP and Pinelands Commission to reduce the project’s environmental impacts. Stafford Township and Ocean County have preserved more than 1,000 acres as offsets for environmental impacts, exceeding the 645 acres required by the MOA.
The developer also has installed a series of bio-retention basins that remove suspended solids from stormwater before it filters into the ground, constructed a system that allows clean rainwater from rooftops to recharge wetlands, and developed habitat for tree frogs and pine snakes. The developer is also working to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for the project.
The Commissioner’s action only covers solar phases of the project. The developer is also considering constructing wind turbines on the site. This will require a separate review process.
In addition to the Green Acres diversion now subject to State House Commission review, a separate approval by the Commissioner is required to partially release the recorded deed of conservation restriction as required by the MOA. The DEP conditionally approved the release in a letter to the township in August and anticipates final approval contingent on State House Commission approval.
Last month, staff for the Pinelands Commission made a recommendation that the Pinelands Commission amend a 2006 Memorandum of Agreement to allow the project’s developer, the Walters Group to erect the solar panels atop the landfill.
A subcommittee for the Pinelands Commission has also unanimously approved releasing the amendment for a vote by the full Commission. The Commission is expected to meet this Friday to consider the amendment.