DEP Denies Permits for 1,800-Unit Housing Development in Lakewood

Tom Johnson | August 9, 2017 | Energy & Environment
Chosen site, a former golf course, would wind up with 70 percent impervious cover once project was complete — markedly increasing stormwater runoff

Lakewood clock
The state has denied coastal and other permits for a 1,800 multi-housing and retail development on a golf course in Lakewood on a tract of land near the Pinelands National Reserve.

The rejection of the proposal by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in one of the state’s fastest-growing communities effectively blocks the development proposed by GDMS Holdings, LLC.

In denying the permits, the state said the project failed to comply with land-use requirements mandated by regulations under the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, a law created decades ago to monitor building along the coast.

Environmentalists, local residents, and neighboring towns had opposed the project, saying it would increase flooding from stormwater, exacerbate traffic problems, and cut down trees on 41 acres of conservation deed-restricted land.

“If we keep overdeveloping this area, Lakewood could become a New York City by the sea,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “There would be more impervious cover added to the Barnegat Bay Watershed that cannot handle the additional stormwater runoff.’’

The coastal law has long been criticized as failing to rein in development along the coast, helping to worsen runoff problems that have worried advocates and others that Barnegat Bay may be dying.

In a 17-page letter denying the permits from the DEP’s Division of Land Use Regulation, the agency noted the project, once completed, would result in 70 percent impervious cover on the golf course property — based on calculations by the developer’s own attorney. The limit for that location is 5 percent under the state’s regulations.

In addition, the state said the applicant’s proposal failed to meet the requirements of the agency’s stormwater management rules, saying the measures suggested by the developer did not achieve water-quantity, groundwater-recharge and water-quality standards.

Finally, the department concluded the applicant failed to demonstrate its project would avoid or minimize impacts to suitable habitat for red-headed woodpeckers, a threatened bird in the state.

Under the proposal, the project would have included a total of 1,872 residential units, five community centers, a retail facility, and a clubhouse on the existing 175-acre Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Lakewood.