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STAFFORD TWP., NJ-The New Jersey Pinelands Commission approved a master plan for a 361-acre former landfill that the Walters Group proposes to turn into a massive mixed-use village center. That approval, in the form of a detailed memorandum of agreement, paves the way for a formal agreement between Walters, Stafford Township and Ocean County to cap the landfill and redevelop the site.

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission is a state agency charged with overseeing planning and development within the one-million-acre Pine Barrens region of South Jersey. The Stafford site itself is within a Pinelands Regional Growth Area approved for development by the commission some 15 years ago. It’s just south of Route 72 at Exit 63 of the Garden State Parkway.

“It is difficult to put into words how pleased we are to see the end of the tunnel and to be looking at a bright future,” says Joseph Del Duca, a partner of the Barnegat-based Walters Group. As reported by GlobeSt.com, his firm has been pursuing development of the site for a number of years and has had to deal with such issues as capping the landfill, which closed in 1983, along with other environmental concerns such as storm water, threatened species, traffic and costs to the township.

“Betty Wilson, the chairperson of the Pinelands Commission, said that she believed this was the most scrutinized application ever to come before the commission,” Del Duca relates. “If it wasn’t, it has to be close to the top of the list, and that makes the commission’s approval all the more special.”

The focal point of Stafford Park, as the project is being called, will be a 650,000-sf retail complex in a town center configuration. The Walters plan calls for three big-box anchor stores, boutiques and restaurants and a recreation area with a 71,000-sf twin ice skating rink. The plan approved by the commission also calls for 565 age-restricted housing units, 112 affordable housing units, 25,000 sf of office space and municipal public works facilities.

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