Citing fears that significant proposed changes to the Wastewater Management Plan for Monmouth County could be destructive for Holmdel's open spaces, quality of life and the area's drinking water, dozens of township officials and residents turned out to protest at a state Departmant of Environmental Protection public hearing at the Manalapan library headquarters Monday night.
Frustrated residents bracing for a fight or hoping for explanations soon found there was only one member of the NJDEP present to represent the state agency, and he was there just to listen and take testimony.
For more than two hours speakers took turns at the microphone to explain why they thought the agency's recent plan to include Lucent tract, the NJ Highway / Arts Center property and Holmdel's parks in the sewer service area was unacceptable. About 75 people attended.
Assistant Planning Director of the Monmouth County Planning Board, Bonnie Goldschlag, said the NJDEP's new proposed plan was contrary to that of the township, the county and even NJDEP's own original position on the three sites. She said the Planning Board recommended it be reconsidered.
Petitions opposing the changes to the county plan, one representing the signatures of over 900 Holmdel residents, and another that arrived with 100 more just before the meeting ended, were submitted by Citizens for Informed Land Use, said the organization's President C. Anthony Cooper.
Just one person spoke out in favor of the proposed wastewater management plan. William Parkinson, an Alcatel-Lucent real estate manager, said "We strongly support that mapping. Any other result would be unjust, unlawful, and bad regional planning policy." Parkinson said that back in 1992, Holmdel Township knew, and agreed, that the whole Bell Labs property would be included in sewage service area -- not just the building's footprint. Alcatel-Lucent owns a 473-acre property on Crawfords Corner Rd, and the 43-acre property on Holmdel Rd.
Two township officials who served at that time, former Mayor Ernest Cote of Asbury Park and Deputy Mayor Carole Balmer of Holmdel, took the podium to say that was not true.
During the session, Township Attorney Duane Davison outlined several legal issues with the DEPs procedures on the wastewater management plan changes. "I do intend to have further discussion, relative to these legal issues, with the legal representative for DEP."
Ed Broberg, a township resident and the township's engineer for over 35 years, said that Holmdel is a very well-planned community, with purposeful acquisition of open spaces balanced with low and multi-family housing. "We are concerned that if these areas are sewered, that changes can be made, will be made, that no only affect the physical environment, but the quality of life environment, in our town."
Several more speakers pointed out environmental concerns to water supply, alleged "procedural errors" in the NJDEP's process, and puzzlement over who, actually, was behind this proposal and why the change, now, after the state had always supported the township's plan to keep certain tracts of undeveloped land out of sewer service.
Mayor Patrick Impreveduto left the meeting "cautiously optimistic" that the DEP would reconsider its proposal to move the sections of town into sewer service areas. He expressed pride at the quality of the arguments presented by township residents. "People in Holmdel are very bright and they do their homework," he said. "I always warn people."
An NJDEP spokesman, Larry Ragonese, said public comment process will continue for another 15 days, "We'll consider the comments coming in, we'll continue dialogue with the county and we'll come up with a final plan."
Comments are due by June 21 to DEP's Office of Land Use Planning, Attention: WQM Program Docket, PO Box 420, 410 East State St., Trenton NJ 08625.
Members of CILU are still circulating petitions opposing sewers on the Lucent tract, the Arts Center, Holmdel Parks and other town parks, and residential areas known as the Eastern and Western Amendments. For more information or to sign a petition, visit holmdel-cilu.org.