Holmdel officials reject settlement for natural gas regulator station

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Members of the Holmdel Township Committee have unanimously rejected a proposed settlement agreement which would have, if approved, permitted New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) to construct a regulator station at 970 Holmdel Road.

During a meeting on Dec. 10, Mayor Eric Hinds, Deputy Mayor Michael Nikolis, Committeeman Greg Buontempo, Committeeman Tom Critelli and Committeeman Rocco Pascucci voted “no” when the settlement came before them.

The committee’s vote to kill the proposed settlement was the latest chapter in a case that began when NJNG sought variances from the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment to construct a regulator station on a 16-acre site at 970 Holmdel Road where the proposed use is not permitted.

Testimony regarding the regulator station was most recently presented to the zoning board in 2018. Board members denied the company’s application for the infrastructure.

During public hearings, zoning board members and residents expressed apprehension about the company’s request to build a regulator station on what residents called a scenic byway.

Residents said the regulator station would impact their quality of life, damage the environment and reduce the value of nearby properties.

Representatives of NJNG asserted that the regulator station was necessary to reduce gas pressure between the transmission system that is currently in place. A temporary regulator station is currently underground at the Vonage property in Holmdel.

A similar application from NJNG was denied by the zoning board in 2016.

According to the settlement agreement that was rejected by the committee members on Dec. 10, NJNG filed a petition with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on Nov. 29, 2018 which appealed the zoning board’s decision. The BPU eventually authorized NJNG to construct the facility at 970 Holmdel Road.

However, Hinds, Nikolis, Buontempo, Critelli and Pascucci declined to authorize the settlement.

Before casting his vote, Nikolis said, “I believe we should work with the owners of the (Vonage) property to keep (the regulator station) where it is … I believe the proposed regulator station poses a safety hazard for residents in the area … The proposed site has been the scene of numerous motor vehicle accidents.”

Nikolis said the proposed regulator station fails to comply with Holmdel’s master plan. He said the master plan deems the property at 970 Holmdel Road to be a bucolic area. Nikolis said the proposed infrastructure “proposes unnecessary environmental hazards.”

Residents in attendance at the Dec. 10 meeting applauded the governing body’s decision to reject the settlement agreement.

On Dec. 12, Kevin Roberts, corporate communications representative and NJNG spokesman, said, “NJNG will continue pursuing our pending appeals with the Board of Public Utilities on siting this project. Those appeals of the zoning board’s denials were filed in January 2017 and November 2018.”