Web site rallies against planned Rte. 33 project


MILLSTONE — A small group of residents that opposes the township’s affordable housing plan has created a Web site about the issue.

The site, www.preserve33.com, takes issue with the plan the township recently submitted to the state to fulfill its Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligation. The plan is for the creation of 85 COAH units on a 32.8-acre site at Bergen Mills Road and Route 33, which would credit the township with 129 units at no cost. However, the development would also have commercial uses and would require the development of a gray/black pipe cyclet enclosed wastewater system, which some residents believe would open the township up to similar development in the future.

Township officials had to submit a COAH plan to the state by Dec. 31. Those who voted in favor of the plan said they did so reluctantly. The township is also involved in a legal action to challenge the methodology for determining its new COAH obligation.

Brian Lourenco, one of the residents behind the new Web site, said, “We created the site because we strongly oppose the COAH plan submitted by Millstone. It is our hope to get the word out to the entire community before it is too late to do anything about it.”

Lourenco said the site takes issue with the creation of the sewage treatment plant, as it would threaten Millstone’s high-quality water resources and noted that the township is the home of the head of five watersheds that provide water to many towns in central New Jersey. He also said the site opposes the high-density housing in the project, as it could destroy Millstone’s rural character, which the township outlines as its No. 1 priority in the master plan. The site also rants against the commercial component of the project for the same reasons, according to Lourenco.

“The Planning Board approved a plan that will allow all three of these things very quickly and relatively quietly,” Lourenco said. “All that the general public knew was that the town had to meet some COAH deadline, but didn’t realize that the township officials were agreeing to allow three things that this community has always been against.”

Lourenco said he hopes that by getting the word out about the project the rest of the community will join in opposition to it in order to protect the rural look and feel of Millstone and its environmentally sensitive areas.

When asked if he has any hope that the Route 33 development won’t have to come to fruition now that the plan has been submitted, Lourenco said, “Our hope was that the town would present an alternate plan to consider before submitting the plan containing the Route 33 development, or that the state would extend the [COAH plan submission] deadline. Unfortunately, the plan was submitted with no alternative offered, and now it is on record that our governing body voted for a plan allowing for these three things, and that can never be undone.”

Lourenco said he is still optimistic about stopping the creation of the sewage treatment facility.

“We are hopeful that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Office of Smart Growth will not go against the standards they have set to preserve sensitive areas such as this, and that they are unable to be swayed by the powers that be whether it’s Millstone’s officials or the developers of the project,” he said.

When asked if he has any faith that the COAH lawsuit will move forward, let alone that the court would render Millstone’s obligation flawed, Lourenco said, “I believe the COAH lawsuit will move forward.”

He continued, “Our only hopes at this point are that COAH rejects the plan as submitted, or the state DEP and Office of Smart Growth do not give in to the influence to go against their own rules that were put in place to preserve environmentally sensitive areas.”

The Web site also offers a message board, which is filled with resident opinions both in agreement and disagreement with the project.