The Barnegat Township Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that a 140-acre industrical site on West Bay Avenue be designated an area in need of redevelopment.
"I would like to see the land developed, but with reservations," said member Jack Leonardo, as he voted along with the other eight members of the board to recommend the area for redevelopment Tuesday night.
The main part of the recommended area was once home to a sand and gravel contracting and mining operation, Shoreline Sand And Gravel. But the recommended area included some surrounding sites, as well.
Shoreline Sand and Gravel, LLC declared bankruptcy in 2010.
The no-longer-operational mine and the surrounding areas in question are located within the Pinelands Regional Growth Area and border several sensitive wetland zones the township aims to protect, planning board officials said.
A study of the site done for the Planning Board by Birdsall Engineering found buildings in a state of disrepair, environmental violations, potentially contaminated soil, obsolete fuel storage tanks, unmaintained drive lanes with large potholes and washed-out areas and other conditions that "combine to create a significant detriment to the safety, health and welfare of the community."
The board's recommendation will next move to the Township Committee, which can then make the decision to formally designate the site as an area in need of redevelopment. According to a report by Birdsall Engineering, the law does not require a public hearing for this portion of the process.
If the committee agrees with the board's recommendation, Planning Board will prepare a redevelopment plan for the area to go back to the committee for consideration.
"You would (potentially) enable a developer to come in and do additional
things with that property, and usually develop it into something valuable, whoever would have the finances and could demonstrate that they would be a suitable developer for that property," said Peter Van Den Kooy, a professional planner with Birdsall Engineering, who presented the consulting firm's recommendations to the board last evening.
"It creates incentives for the property owner to redevelop the property and also gives them some financial benefits and opportunities that they would
normally not have," said John Hess, engineer with Birdsall.
Even though the bankrupt company was supposed to cease all operations, residents have noted and expressed concern over some activity at the site.
"Over the last few years there is a possibility that contaminated substances have been dropped off there," Leonardo said.
"And who's gonna pay for the study?" he asked. "I don’t want to recommend to the township that we use the taxpayers' dollars to pay for the study so some owner could later redevelop [the property.] The costs of contamination cleanup could be through the roof."
"One of the best-funded efforts in the state right now is for the remediation of brownfields," Van Den Kooy replied. "If environmental contamination is found at the site, there would be a substantial pool of money [from the state] that could be applied toward this."
"But if we don’t recommend it to be redeveloped, we would not be eligible for these grants," said Planning Board Member Dorothy Ryan.
"The fact that they’re dumping there shows there is a lack of enforcement in the first place," said Planning Board Chairman Ralph Dawes. "We need to do something about the property."