Ole Hansen & Son Inc., owners of the Blue Heron Pines East tract, recently filed to rezone the failed golf course from age-restricted to all-ages housing, a potential 944-home development.

Edward Lea

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The developer looking to build more than 900 homes on the former Blue Heron Pines East golf course said its new plan is a better zoning and planning alternative for what it considers the most desirable property in the township.

“The nature of our request is a very simple one — to allow on this site not only active-adult housing, which is permitted today, but to allow market-rate housing that today under the ordinance is not permitted,” said Stephen R. Nehmad, of Nehmad, Perillo and Davis, an attorney for project applicant Ole Hansen and Sons Inc.

Officials gathered Thursday evening for an informal meeting with the township’s Master Plan Subcommittee to discuss the developer’s newest plan to build 944 homes on what was once the Blue Heron Pines East championship golf course.

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The company’s proposal of an all-ages development with a price tag of $233.2 million is a 10- to 20-year project from an optimistic viewpoint, Nehmad said.

Last month, a Planning Board meeting was postponed and property owner David M. Goddard, president and CEO of Ole Hansen and Sons Inc., said there were no plans to make a presentation of the project.

Thursday night, another Planning Board meeting where the project was expected to be discussed was canceled and replaced with the Master Plan Subcommittee meeting.

The developers of the project believe the 410-acre tract where the project is proposed is one of the most desirable undeveloped tracts in the community due to its location, infrastructure and position in a Pinelands regional growth area. The tract is off Tilton Road near Pomona Road and Aloe Street. The property is assessed at $18.3 million and in 2012 had a $258,605 tax liability.

The Planning Board could approve rezoning the tract from an age-restricted development to all-ages. The area was previously approved for the developer to build 944 age-restricted homes — 566 single family homes, 236 semi-detached units and 142 apartments.

That project halted as the economy declined and desire for age-restricted homes faded.

“There have been many things that happened since 2006, when this was first approved. We fell into the worst economic depression in 80 years, and this impacted the active adult-community housing market,” Nehmad said.

Richard P. Reading, of Richard P. Reading Associates, Princeton, read from a fiscal analysis that stressed the project would increase the township’s population of 39,050 by 2,587 people. That increase would include 248 grade-school children and 117 high school-age children.

The local school district is already losing about 80 students per year, even as the township population has increased during the last 10 years, according to the report prepared for the developer.

With the addition of this development, a lot of empty seats could be filled with little or no cost, Reading said Thursday evening.

Nehmad told the committee that the area needs an economic shot in the arm.

Reading said there needs to be development in the western portion of the township first to have commercial properties follow. The project, which would be a magnet for commercial projects, would bring construction jobs and sales connected to building, and new residents will become consumers in the local economy, Reading said.

Township Planner Tiffany Cuviello and Nehmad spoke at length regarding legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Sarlo D-Bergen, that was adopted by the state Senate in 2009 that permits developers to convert age-restricted development projects to all-age projects provided they set aside a portion of the units for affordable housing.

Cuviello told the committee it has to seriously consider the possibility of the conversion under legislation, although the alternate path for the project — voting to approve a zoning change — would make for a better development plan for the township.

The project’s initial approval in 2006 makes it eligible to fall under the terms of the legislation, Cuviello said. Ole Hansen and Sons Inc., would be required to come before the Planning Board and show they meet the requirements of the legislation, Cuviello said.

“Going in with a zoning change to the current ordinance gives a better development plan for the township, but could take longer, because they would have to come in and receive new approvals from the board,” she said.

Mayor Don Purdy, a member of the committee, said the Planning Board has a lot of decisions to make and the township should be concerned about the idea of conversion under the Sarlo legislation.

“Without doing the zoning change, we have no say moving forward. You don’t know what’s going to happen, so the Planning Board needs to put restrictions on it,” Purdy said.

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