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Cilu Holmdel
May 08, 2018

Holmdel Residents Unhappy About Selling Land

Cilu Holmdel

Citizens for Informed Land Use (CILU) kicked off its 20th anniversary year on Friday, April 13 with a potluck supper/annual meeting at the Holmdel Community Center. The well-attended event included current and founding members, as well as past associates. The wonderful food and friendship were accompanied by a special photographic presentation created by board members Karen and Steve Strickland about CILU’s twenty-year history of protecting Holmdel’s open space and watershed.

The CILU story began April 1998 at Holmdel’s Planning Board meeting. The audience section was empty except for Russell Dronne, Holmdel Environmental Commission Chairman, with his young daughter sleeping on his lap. At close to midnight, Planning Board members proposed changing southern Holmdel’s designation in the State Plan from environmentally-sensitive (PA5) to a Village Center (P2), thus allowing for sewer installation and its subsequent mass development. A 416-acre section of the area, owned by Chase Manhattan Bank, was part of the Swimming River Reservoir watershed. The new designation would impact the quantity and quality of drinking water for more than 250,000 Monmouth County residents.

Dronne objected to the designation change and its potential impact on Holmdel’s bucolic character. When he was rejected, he began notifying his neighbors and friends who shared his concerns. Soon after Citizens for Informed Land Use was formed. Members spent the next three months circulating petitions, educating residents, and speaking at township and county meetings against the proposed re-designation. This public outcry forced the TC to withdraw a letter to the Monmouth County Planning Board supporting this Village Center designation.

That August, CILU learned of plans to build a densely-populated retirement community with sewers on the environmentally-sensitive Chase Tract. CILU members spent long hours educating residents about impervious coverage, the ratables chase, septic systems, and other environmental issues. The council agreed to survey residents regarding development of the Chase Tract. The majority of respondents favored open space over other uses for the land and opposed sewering southern Holmdel.

Late in 1999, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation joined forces with CILU and a consortium of public and private entities to preserve the Chase Tract. By 2000, the Chase Tract was preserved as farmland and open space.

CILU members continued their work by limiting Big Box stores on Route 35 and petitioning to preserve the DePalma Farm on Centerville Road. In 2005, CILU worked with Holmdel mayor and CILU founding member Larry Fink, to preserve the 93-acre F&F Nursery. Later, CILU in conjunction with Friends of Holmdel Open Space (FOHOS), preserved the Neil Waackaack Nature Preserve in northern Holmdel, where open space is at a premium.

CILU continues to focus on its core mission of preserving Holmdel’s rural character and protecting its natural resources. CILU and FOHOS successfully prevented the municipality from selling part of Cross Farm to balance its budget. When a developer planned a commercial sports complex for Main Street in 2016, CILU collaborated with the newly formed Save Holmdel Village (SHV) and Colts Neck residents to prevail upon the developer to rescind his plan. They also fought a plan for synthetic sports fields at Cross Farms. To learn more or become a member, visit.holmdel-cilu.org.

Credit goes to Jeff Gollin for his early article on the formation of CILU.