Members of the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment have shot down an application that proposed the construction of a New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) regulator station at 960 Holmdel Road.
NJNG was seeking variances to construct the regulator station on the 16.51-acre site where that proposed use is not permitted. A similar application from NJNG was denied by the zoning board in 2016.
Months of hearings concluded on Oct. 25 following final testimony from professionals who represented NJNG and from residents who opposed the application.
A motion to deny the application was made by board member Louis Lo Presti. Voting “yes” on the motion to deny the use variance were board Chairwoman Valerie Avrin-Marchiano and board members Don Hern, Anthony Pesce, D.J. Luccarelli, Chris Briamonte and Lo Presti.
Prior to voting, board members said they remained unclear as to the need for the proposed regulator station and said they were weary of some of the testimony that had been presented by professionals who represented the applicant.
Several board members said they were skeptical of professionals who testified there would be no negative environmental impact or fiscal impact in Holmdel if the utility’s infrastructure was constructed.
Testimony on the application wrapped up with professional planner Christine Cofone, who testified on behalf of NJNG, summarizing testimony that had been provided by other witnesses. Cofone said the proposed regulator station was an essential piece of infrastructure that would benefit the public.
NJNG representatives previously said the regulator station was necessary to reduce gas pressure between the transmission system that is currently in place. They said the temporary system “is not sustainable in the long run.”
In her closing statement, attorney Nancy Skidmore, who represented the utility, said natural gas that is used to heat water and homes is a necessity. She said the approval of the application would be in the public’s best interest.
During a discussion among board members, Briamonte said, “It has been mentioned several times that there would be no substantial detrimental effects to our community. I disagree with that wholeheartedly.”
Briamonte said the perception of the facility that was proposed had been on the receiving end of criticism from residents. Asking Jeffrey Otteau, a real estate appraiser who testified on behalf of NJNG, if perceptions of the station could affect the property market in Holmdel, Briamonte reported that Otteau had responded “yes.”
“There is clearly a negative perception as to how allowing this (facility) to come in could affect our community,” Briamonte said.
Avrin-Marchiano also took issue with Otteau’s testimony. He had testified that the regulator station would not have a negative impact on residential or commercial property values if it was constructed in Holmdel.
“I don’t think it supports the conclusion the applicant wants us to reach,” Avrin-Marchiano said. “I have a concern there would be an economic impact on the community.”
Pesce said he had concerns about approving a use variance and allowing a use on the Holmdel Road property that is not permitted in the zoning ordinance.
Several months of testimony concluded with the board’s vote, followed by applause from residents who had expressed apprehension as the application was being heard.
“I will never complain about a shed application again,” Pesce said, referring to the type of application the zoning board hears more often than a utility company’s proposal for large infrastructure.