Sewer Service Stunting Growth

by:  Katharine A. Muscalino

If the economy and local land use regulations didn’t make development hard enough, some counties and municipalities have discovered the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s June 2009 Water Quality Management Rules as another technique to inhibit growth and property development in New Jersey. The Water Quality Management Rules require counties, and some municipalities, to closely examine sewer service within their borders, and limit expansion of that service when possible. Counties have applied the DEP’s rules to remove undeveloped properties from the sewer service areas in their wastewater management plans, and to limit demand from sewered properties to the gallonage they currently produce.

Holmdel has taken the Water Quality Management Rules a step farther in its attempts to limit the possibilities for the redevelopment of the Alcotel-Lucent corporate campus, by arguing that the campus should not only be limited to its existing gallonage, but that sewer service should be limited to the existing corporate buildings’ footprints. This limitation would not only cap the size of the future development and its sewer service demand, but would also significantly limit the potential for new uses, and particularly residential use, on the site. If Holmdel succeeds in this aggressive wastewater management planning, it will have serious ramifications for the future of the property and its marketability.


To add insult to injury, the existing sewer infrastructure that would continue to service the Alcotel-Lucent site was originally installed at the expense of AT&T, Alcotel-Lucent’s predecessor. Indeed, AT&T spent $5.7 million to construct two pump stations and run almost four miles of sewer lines. In addition to the Alcotel-Lucent (formerly AT&T) property, the PNC Bank Arts Center and Holmdel’s municipal complex enjoy the benefits of this infrastructure for their own sewer connections. To limit sewer service to the existing buildings’ footprints on the Alcotel-Lucent corporate campus now would not only deprive it of the fruits of its own investment, but will serve to discourage future private developers from building such infrastructure improvements going forward.

NJDEP rules permit property owners to appeal the sewer service designations imposed by counties and municipalities, but the process is arduous and expensive. Alcotel-Lucent has a long fight ahead of them.

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