Resident concerned with effects of development

Typing Letter to the Editor for the Opinion page.

The proposed 125-acre demolition of open space and land, the Manalapan Crossing development, has received preliminary Manalapan Planning Board approval. The board received the green light to move ahead on this development as soon as the Manalapan governing body, our elected local officials, adopted an ordinance authorizing this development a while ago.

The elected officials rationalize their action by continually stating the proposed development will go toward Manalapan’s affordable housing obligation. Everyone knows that due to the Mount Laurel Supreme Court case decades ago, affordable housing became a local mandate statewide.

But proposed developments by any municipality also need to incorporate constraints and parameters for a development to proceed; not just cosmetic changes, but real substantive, meaningful parameters in allowing for rational development and not monstrosity-like over-development.

A locality should be ensuring that a proportionate amount of land be saved in relation to the amount of land being developed at a proposed development site. Manalapan Crossing decimates the land to pure development.

Municipalities have the right and power to place constraints on development as they should not act as the hand-maidens of developers, but as the protector of the community at large; its top priority should focus on the citizens’ right to a good quality of life, without overbearing traffic, the subsidization of infrastructure maintenance costs by residential taxpayers, and the potentially deleterious effects on public safety (police and fire services) that over-development catalyzes.

In this instance, the Manalapan governing body is the nemesis of the problem. I will not forget that the prior mayor said this “development” (Manalapan Crossing) is going to happen; in essence, the message is the citizens’ input (the second time around) was not going to be heeded, but the interests of the developer would be.

So far, the plan presented to the Planning Board for Manalapan Crossing offers nothing but an eyesore for the southern part of Manalapan with military barracks style architecture, over 1,000 parking spots and commercial leasing that makes no economic sense at a time when we see big box stores and other retailers going out of business.

The only thing that could possibly interfere with (developer) Vito Cardinale’s cookie-cutter, monstrous development plan is a poor economic climate. If a predicted recession in 2019 or 2020 ends up occurring, where would development financing emanate from under such a scenario?

Who would lease space in hard economic times? Who would consume or buy goods with stable or shrinking incomes and inflated costs of living? These are real considerations.

The Planning Board has another chance of showing it is not a developer’s rubber stamp by requiring more substantive changes in this development plan for the good of all, not just the few.

Deborah K. Smarth