By Vincent Ferrer |HOMDEL – The Zoning Board met Wednesday, Oct. 10 at Holmdel’s Town Hall to hear from experts and residents on a controversial utilities development project.Following a failed application nearly two years ago, New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) has applied to the Zoning Board for 12 variances to permit a natural gas regulator station at 960 Holmdel Road in the southern part of the township. The station – a 16.51-acre site owned by Holmdel Venture LLC – is currently zoned for office/laboratory use, but more concerning to Holmdel residents is the proximity to residential homes, offices, preserved farmland and the nearby Village School.The greatest point of contention came after a real estate valuation expert for NJNG testified that the station would have no impact on local real estate values. The expert drew this conclusion from a study that observed the impact of similar stations built in Colts Neck, Lincroft, Wall Township, Aberdeen, and Morris County.Residents took issue with the real estate study, which excluded any quantitative effect on more than 400 acres of nearby farmland. The study was limited to “dominant land uses” – specifically residential uses, building lots and office space – and disregarded land encumbered by use restrictions.Anthony Sposaro, Esq., who appeared on behalf of the Casola family and Fox Hollow Vineyards in Holmdel, along with a dozen other residents, voiced their concerns over the study’s accuracy. NJNG was represented by Nancy Skidmore of Connell Foley LLP.Board member Chris Briamonte called attention to the fact the highest valued homes sold in the study were neither in close proximity to a station nor over $1 million. A recently constructed housing development in Holmdel containing several homes valued in excess of $1 million is located near where the station will potentially exist.Briamonte cited a correlation in the study between pricing and proximity to a station. “In most cases, as I get closer to your station, my price gets significantly lower,” he said. Board chairperson Valerie Avrin-Marchiano asked for NJNG to supply the data used in creating the study.Richard Reading, a Princeton-based economic consultant who also appeared on behalf of NJNG, testified that the new station would only cost the town an additional $5 per year.Opponents of the construction say the proposed regulator station is unnecessary given Holmdel’s population and a lack of substantial power outages. Yet NJNG argues the current and future needs of the utilities network, to which Holmdel is just one part, call for an upgraded station.The Holmdel Zoning Board will be voting next month on whether or not to grant the variances.This article was first published in the Oct. 18-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.