Solar project on former landfill approved

New Jersey Commissioner Bob Martin has approved an application by Stafford Township to remove a 48 acre landfill from the Green Acres inventory of open space so the land can be used for a solar energy project that is an important component of a major redevelopment project.

The Commissioner’s decision will be reviewed by the State House Commission, which has final authority to approve Green Acres land diversions.

The Stafford Business Park is a 370-acre brownfield redevelopment project located in the Pinelands of Ocean County. The site contained a 24 acre unlicensed landfill and a 55 acre licensed landfill, neither of which had been closed in accordance with state law or the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan.

The township’s redeveloper, the Walters Group, completed landfill remediation and closure activities last year and is currently working on residential and commercial development of the property.

Walters removed the entire contents of the unlicensed landfill, approximately 500,000 cubic yards of municipal waste and construction and demolitions debris, and consolidated it in the licensed landfill, completing this phase of the project in early 2009.

Since then, Walters has completed 112 units of affordable housing and approximately 400,000 square feet of retail space. The redeveloper is working toward a goal of 677 residential units, 650,000 square feet of commercial space, and 100,000 square feet of office space.

The Walters Group projects that it can provide 70 percent of the project’s electricity through renewable energy. It has already installed solar panels on stores that have been constructed, meeting about 30 percent of the stores’ energy needs, and is looking to construct more than 1,000 solar panels on the landfill site.

A 2006 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among the township, the Pinelands Commission and Ocean County allowed the redevelopment project to move ahead. It required the township to purchase or deed restrict 645 acres of ecologically important areas to mitigate project impacts.

The MOA also required Stafford Township to record a conservation easement on the former municipal landfill, preserving this land as open space under the Green Acres program. This is the land that is now subject to the Commissioner’s decision.

The Commissioner’s action only covers solar phases of the project. The developer is also considering constructing wind turbines on the site. This will require a separate review process.