DEP Denies Lakewood’s Bid for Designation as Regional Center

Tom Johnson | April 24, 2018 | Energy & Environment
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection blocks huge development project for second time, citing failure to address water-supply needs

Lakewood clock
The state once again has blocked a huge development project in Lakewood, denying the township designation as a regional center because the municipality has failed to adequately address water-supply needs.

In a notice in the New Jersey Register, the Department of Environmental Protection rejected the State Planning Commission’s approval of parts of Lakewood as a regional coastal center and other growth area, a proposal critics said would have effectively doubled the community’s population.

Essentially, the state agency, while acknowledging that Lakewood had largely complied with many aspects of the coastal regulations overseen by the DEP, failed to demonstrate it had planned to ensure an adequate public water supply within the community.

The township is located in a critical water-supply area established by the DEP, which authorizes special measures to ensure the integrity and viability of local water supplies. In addition, the state decided the designation is inconsistent with rules governing impervious cover limits and vegetative cover requirements in coastal area projects.

Conservationists have long criticized the coastal law, dubbed the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, for failing to rein in development along the coast, leading to runoff that has worsened water quality problems in Barnegat Bay.

The designation as a regional center would have allowed Lakewood to move forward with a new downtown regional center that included mixed-used development involving retail shops, restaurants, and a variety of housing types, some as dense as 30 units per acre.

“The DEP stood up for the environment and good planning by rejecting Lakewood’s coastal zone amendment that would have doubled the town’s population in an overdeveloped community,’’ 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 runoff,’’ he added.

The DEP action follows up on last August’s decision to deny coastal and other permits for a 1,800 multi-housing unit and retail development on a golf course in Lakewood on a tract of land near the Pinelands National Reserve.