NEGOTIATES SMART GROWTH SETTLEMENT FOR HERITAGE MINERALS
Agreement Allows Limited Development Meeting High Environmental
(03/122) TRENTON --- The New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced
a conceptual development agreement for the Heritage Minerals
property in Manchester Township that will settle outstanding
litigation brought by H. Hovnanian developers. The agreement,
employing smart growth principles, allows clustered construction
of 2,450 units on 1,000 previously disturbed acres, while
protecting over 6,300 acres - including sensitive endangered
species habitat - from future development.
"This agreement demonstrates a significant
commitment to minimize environmental impacts and shows how
limited, focused development can embrace smart growth -
protecting New Jersey's natural resources while accommodating
our growing population," said DEP Commissioner Bradley
Since 1989, H. Hovnanian has been seeking
to develop the Heritage tract, which includes a former mining
site and straddles the Pinelands management area and the
area regulated under Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA).
The company's original proposal called for a six-phase development
on the 7,000-acre site including as many as 15,000 residential
units, 2,000,000 square feet of commercial development and
a 160-acre golf course. Over the past fourteen years, DEP
has reviewed permit applications for the first two phases,
denying them for failure to be consistent with Pinelands
rules and with DEP's coastal zone management rules.
In 1996, H. Hovnanian requested a hearing
with an Administrative Law Judge in the Office of Administrative
Law over the DEP's denial of the permit application for
the first phase of development. While the judge ruled in
favor of the DEP, the DEP offered the company another opportunity
to prove that its application was consistent with Pinelands
rules. DEP subsequently denied the application again and
H. Hovnanian again requested a hearing with the Office of
Administrative Law. In 2000, the company also filed suit
in federal court.
The agreement announced today would settle
all outstanding litigation between the developer, the DEP,
and the Pinelands Commission.
As part of the proposed settlement, H.
Hovnanian has agreed to retain all stormwater onsite, discharging
it into the ground to help recharge natural aquifers and
to eliminate harmful runoff that can pollute surface water
and wetlands. The company also has agreed to connect to
existing wastewater infrastructure, thereby avoiding discharge
of residential sewage into groundwater or surrounding surface
In addition, H. Hovnanian will develop
habitat conservation plans to protect endangered species
during and after construction through a combination of habitat
enhancement and preservation. Concerns about impacts on
the pine snake, a threatened species in New Jersey, will
be addressed through construction of a bridge and a series
of culverts along the site's main access road to allow the
snakes to travel between preserved forested areas.
The company has agreed to maintain buffers
ranging from 150 to 300 feet around existing wetlands to
minimize impacts to these sensitive areas. Lakes located
on the property will have minimum development buffers of
75 feet and the use of the lakes will be limited to passive
forms of recreation that do not use gas-powered boats.
"The final agreement is a sensible
balance of environmental and economic interests," added
Campbell. "Not only will strict environmental standards
in developed areas help protect groundwater, surface water,
endangered species habitat and wetlands, but several thousand
acres will be preserved from development as well."
6,000 acres of the site - 3,000 in the
Pinelands and 3,000 in the CAFRA area - will be protected
through a conservation restriction on the deed and conveyance
of the property to the state and/or a conservation group.
In addition to the land on the Heritage
tract, H. Hovnanian has agreed as part of this settlement
to protect 360 acres on another property in Berkeley Township
from future development. This 360-acre parcel is the last
unprotected part of the 3,000-acre "Berkeley Triangle"
area that is an undeveloped, significant pine snake habitat,
which the state has been working to preserve.
All of the development on the Heritage
tract will be limited to the approximately 1,000-acre brownfield
area previously disturbed by mining. This area has radioactive
sand and groundwater contamination that will require H.
Hovnanian to perform all DEP-required remediation prior
to the commencement of any new construction. Except for
needed access roads, none of the development will occur
in the Pinelands portion of the site or in forested areas.
The settlement announced today does not
authorize any development, nor does it provide guaranteed
approvals of any permits. Instead, it provides a framework
for the long-term process of permit applications, with ample
opportunities for public comment.