New Jersey American Water withdraws water tower proposal

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 The property at 1316-1318 Stagecoach Road where New Jersey American Water had proposed building a water tower. The property at 1316-1318 Stagecoach Road where New Jersey American Water had proposed building a water tower.

PALERMO – New Jersey American Water Company has withdrawn its application to the Upper Township Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance to build a water tower on Stagecoach Road.

The company sent a letter to township zoning officer Shelley Lea on Monday, Feb. 27 saying that the application was being withdrawn, but said it may bring the application back in the future.

“At this time, the company is performing additional due diligence and may re-file its application for the described site,” read the letter from attorney Enid L. Hyberg.

Mayor Richard Palombo said the letter marked the end of the controversial proposal, at least for now. He said that will allow him to meet with officials from New Jersey American Water Company to discuss other sites for the water tower.

“When it was before the zoning board, I had to step back because I didn’t want there to be a conflict of interest,” said Palombo. “Now that the application has been withdrawn I think we can sit down and talk about different sites for the tower. It’s been a volatile issue, the community was very opposed to it, so I’m glad (New Jersey American Water) is reconsidering.

The water company proposed building a 158-foot tall water tower at 1316-1318 Stagecoach Road in Palermo. The company had purchased the property conditionally, pending approval of variances by the zoning board.

Palombo said the company may have been reticent to lose its deposit on the property, but said it was clear there were better locations for the water tower.

“I’ve said before it could be an icon and not an eyesore,” he said.

Residents in Palermo and elsewhere vocally opposed the water tower. They put up lawn signs against the proposal and hired professionals to help them fight the request for variances at the zoning board.

New Jersey American Water sought a preliminary and final major site plan approval, a height variance and conditional use approval since the lot is in a residential zone. The company would also need a variance for a six-foot high chain link fence with three strands of barbed wire.

Height limits on homes in the 1300 block of Stagecoach Road is 35 feet in the residential zone. The proposed height of the water tower, at 156 feet tall, would have been more than four times as tall as zoning allows.

The zoning board never met to discuss the issue. It was first scheduled to meet in January on the water tower, but that hearing was postponed to February and then March.

Kevin Barr, who lives next door to the property where the water tower would rise, was one of the first to come out against the water tower. He started a Facebook page called “Topple the Tower.”

Former committeeman Frank Conrad said in February that a group of residents had identified four other sites in Marmora and Seaville where the water tower would be better situated. Three of the four sites don’t have residents within 2,000 feet, he said.

The proposed water tank would provide the area with improved fire flow, maintain water pressure in the summer months, and increase normal water pressure, according to Richard G. Barnes, external affairs manager for New Jersey American Water. Upper Township does not have any water storage facilities at the current time.

The water tower would have also provided pressure for potential future expansion of water lines in Seaville and Palermo. New Jersey American Water has installed new water lines along Stagecoach Road.

New Jersey American Water serves approximately 2.5 million people in 17 counties in the state, and has about 61,000 accounts serving approximately 180,000 people in Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to the company’s website.

The company is currently seeking an increase in water rates to pay for $300 million in infrastructure projects. In July, it made a request to the state Board of Public Utilities to increase its rates. A decision is expected this year.



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