Brick officials have signed off on the plan to construct a sports dome and retail complex at the former Foodtown property off Route 70, but a slew of mandated approvals that must be obtained from state and county agencies could push back construction into 2020.
Mayor John Ducey said Tuesday night that new information from the two developers on the project – Peter Tasca, who will develop the sports dome, and Jack Morris, who will build a retail and restaurant complex in front of it – indicate a lengthy number of steps before shovels can hit the ground. The process is indicative of New Jersey’s heavy regulatory environment in coastal areas.
“We were finally able to sit down and get some information,” said Ducey.
Both aspects of the project will have to first gain approval from the Ocean County Soil Conservation District, Ducey said. An engineer representing both developers has submitted an application and is waiting on a response. After that approval is received, the NJDEP Division of Land Use Regulation must examine the project’s impact on wetlands. The third step is receiving approval from the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority, while the fourth hurdle is gaining approval from the Ocean County Planning Board.
Finally – only after all other approvals are in hand – the developers can apply for a CAFRA (Coastal Areas Facilities Review Act) permit from the DEP, a required environmental permit to build in most coastal areas of the state. Historically, the CAFRA permitting process takes several months to complete.
“They have to go through all these hoops, but they’re obviously there for protection,” said Ducey, noting that soil testing and the project’s impact on water quality will be examined.
Still, the mounds of paperwork, engineering efforts and the resulting dependence on the wheels of government to turn smoothly could produce delays.
“The sports dome is what’s important and we’re hoping we can soon get it back before this council for final approval,” said Ducey.
Ducey said Morris’ company likely would not mind waiting a more extended period of time to build his portion of the complex. Tasca, however, is eager to get the business up and running as soon as possible.
Once all approvals are in hand, both developers will write checks for $2.5 million each ($5 million total) to purchase the property outright from the township, its current owner.
“Hopefully at this time next year [the sports dome] will be under construction,” Ducey said.