Manchester Approves “City in The Pines” Redevelopment Plan

In a 3-2 vote, the Manchester Township Council approved the ordinance authorizing the Manchester Town Square redevelopment plan for the Heritage Minerals site Monday night.

At the contentious council meeting, not a single resident spoke in favor of the project, with residents speaking for over two hours against the project in a lengthy public comment session.

Reasons for and against the plan have already been exhaustively documented here and in previous videos.

Last week, the Manchester planning board favorably recommended the plan after a presentation by the township’s professionals. State land use law gives the final say to the township governing body, which accepted the plan as recommended by planning board. At that meeting, residents shared concerns about the project ranging from a lack of demand for current residential & commercial property in the township, to the increased demand for police, fire, EMS and school services that will inevitably come with a project of this size.

The plan calls for:

  • 6543 new housing units

  • 1 million square feet of commercial space

  • 1 million square feet of industrial space

Planning Board Member: Concerned Seniors Will Be Dead By The Time Project Is Built

At the last Manchester council meeting,  planning board member Steve Bates offered what was perhaps the most “creative” reason in support of the project, as he brushed off the concerns of  “some of the more seasoned adults” who spoke in opposition to the project by reassuring them that they will probably be dead by the time the project is fully built out. Seriously! 

Manchester Planning Board member Steve Bates

Manchester Planning Board member Steve Bates

His comments from the last council meeting did not sit well with one resident, who publicly called for Bates’ resignation. The resident argued that the planning board member’s judgement was shown to be compromised – revealing a bias against the needs of senior citizens – as a result of his statement, which he later claimed was just a joke. The retired corrections officer later apologized for offending any senior citizens at last week’s meeting, attributing his comment to him being “rough around the edges,” and emphasizing that he is new to the planning board. You can view a video of the resident’s comments and Mr. Bates’ response here.

From the onset, environmental groups have stood in opposition to the project, which they say would radically transform sleepy Manchester Township into an urban community uncharacteristic of the Pine Barrens.

Plans for the Manchester Town Square redevelopment plan

Plans for the Manchester Town Square redevelopment plan

“This project will have tremendous environmental impacts ranging from water pollution to over-pumping the aquifer to destruction of open space and air pollution,” said the New Jersey Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel Monday night.

“By the time the project is complete we would have a city bigger than New Brunswick or Perth Amboy right in the middle of the Pinelands.”

While the township has given its blessing to the project, this is certainly not the final chapter in the ongoing controversy surrounding the Heritage Minerals site and the redevelopment plan. The developer will still have to obtain outside approvals from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Pinelands Commision due to portions of the site falling within the jurisdiction of those agencies.

Either of those agencies could place additional restrictions or conditions on their respective approvals, and environmental groups could intervene with litigation, which is a likely possibility given statements made by the attorney representing the Pinelands Preservation Alliance at previous meetings.


Gavin Rozzi

Gavin Rozzi is the editor of Ocean County Politics and a lifelong Ocean County resident, residing in Lacey Township. Gavin's work centers on the intersection of money and politics in Ocean County, with a focus on public corruption. In 2017 he created New Jersey's first statewide freedom of information portal, He can be reached via email at or via phone at (732)-504-3636 ext. 1 or on encrypted phone / text app Signal.

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13 Responses

  1. bb3 says:

    Never once mentioned word Dead, and never once mentioned word joke.
    I just did not articulate my point right , this is totally being misconstrued
    The facts are this is an idea that will be in litigation for years and the numbers will never be approved. But,different ideas to help reduce the tax burden for All our residents has to be pursued. If opposing groups would tell the whole story when sending out literature,residents would understand it better and not come to meetings angry

    • llewellynh says:

      Build away but if you think that is going to reduce your tax burden, you are nuts. With all of this comes the need for more civil servants and services that are in NJ beyond expensive. Might need a hospital.

      1,000,000 sq. feet for commercial space when that is a dying business – check out the Toms River Mall for just one example. People aren’t shopping the way they used to because times are very tough and to that, internet shopping has crushed retail businesses all over this nation. And 1,000,000 square feet for industrial use. Where exactly are the tenants going to come from? We are in a recession/depression and there is no light at the end of the tunnel because automation via robotics, and AI are right around the corner and a spot in the Pine Barrens is not exactly where those installations will be built. Too far away from the major transportation hubs and that includes water as well as land. And robots don’t pay taxes or buy houses.

      And that quiet area called Manchester will be steamrollered so that it will never be the same again.

      Just hope those who work to preserve the Pine Barrens will take this on full blast. Unicorn time out there and wonder who is benefitting from this pipe dream.

  2. Manchester Resident says:

    Ken Palmer must be voted out for this. I have never seen more contempt for our residents from these town officials. Sick of the bogus explanations from their “professionals”

    • bob m says:

      Voted out for what? This plan was in the works long before this Mayor took office
      , why not look at all possibilities? Nothing is set in stone, they haven’t broke ground or even proposed breaking any ground yet. Why not let the process play out?

  3. George says:

    If anyone thinks that developments are over in NJ they sure do need to think back. The township and its neighbors have offered the public a place to live cheaper and more quiet then the cities they came from. But society never stops and just stays as is! we develop, we expand, we create places where our children can settle in a little better surroundings then where we are now and we want that close enough so they don’t need to move to PA or VA or NC in order to get that. Build as you need and keep tight control on the zoning and space issues. Create an area to be proud of and stop apologizing to the environmentalists who want us to live like pilgrims planting our own corn and going back to horse and carriage. The pine lands can handle a little 2016-2018 development without turning into a super city with smog and super highways. And at the same time the town will get the benefit of a few new stores and some income

  4. Frank Rizzo says:

    So many vacant houses in the county and state yet we build 6500 more….who will live there….who will pay for the extra town workers…firehouses…who is even going to live there in the middle of nowhere

  5. John Pine says:

    An absolutely TERRIBLE plan. Now we have some real “winners” when it comes to our elected officials here on Long Island but this takes the cake. Manchester just thumbed their nose at it’s residents. One can only hope that they will be voted out in November, and the new body will undo this plan. Their vote was illegal, as it violated the 2003 agreement. Then we have the abuse of power issues with the Township PD patrolling the property to keep environmentalists out. Ken Palmer better have his resume ready, because he’s about to be fired along with the rest of the town board.

  6. Joe. Smoo says:

    W hats missing in this plan is an explaination of the developers statement about “capping” an area of this parcel which is. Needed to meet acceptable radiation levels for unrestricted use of this land.
    This property has a sorriest history,apparently prior mining operations here left as a byproduct radioactive waste with levels of radiation measuring 2mR/hr as measured by the NRC. This was back in the 90s and apparently this cleanup has not been completed by the developer,Hovnovians.
    These facts once brought to the light of day will leave this developer with a lot of empty homes , given the low demand of housing as we are not growing in the area
    Not surprising.
    Manchester official should be more concerned about the health of existing residents as well as new residents in the future,they already have aqua fire contamination from naval station at lahehurst that has not been resolved, what can they be thinking???

  7. Joe. Smoo says:

    NJDEP news release step 2003:

    “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.”

    So, has Hovsons performed this remediation?

    NRC measured radiation levels of 2 mR/hr when this problem was first discovered,
    ThiS is equivalent to 20uSv/ hr. Which is 100 times the normal background radiation level measured in this area, i.e. .14 Sv/hr is what I get next door in holiday city,Berkeley township.

    The NRC publishes a chart of radiation levels and danger of exposure, a level of 20uSv/hr is listed as Dangerous and states sickness likely result of exposure. So we have a site known to be dangerous that a developer wishes to build over 6000 homes on that possibly over 10000 new residents, the developer states in their plans that an area will “be capped” I assume with concrete,much like steps taken at Chernobyl after that neuclear disaster.

    So the question begs to be asked by the planning board, what will be the background level of radiation at this site, today and after Hovsons caps the site.???

    As I stated before Surrounding towns have a typical level of .14 uSv/hr background radiation level, (Berkeley,toms river) please provide what the radiation levels these new residents will be exposed to??

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