Developer Joe Spano seems to be resigned that the property he owns at the corner of Route 33 and Millhurst Road will remain a farm, after being thwarted in numerous attempts over the last thirteen years to get an acceptable development approved by the Manalapan Township Committee.  But soy beans and corn crops are not coming close to covering expenses and providing a fair return on the roughly $20 million Spano says has been invested in the property through his former company, Manalapan Retail Realty Partners, and his current company, Village at Manalapan Properties.

Spano is in discussions with one of the nation’s largest pork producers which is looking to increase their distribution on the east coast. He presented plans on Friday to Manalapan’s Zoning Officer and its Board of Health today for a pig farm on the property.  Spano has also been in touch with the Monmouth County Planning Department for their input and guidance.

“We are in preliminary discussions,” Spano said in a phone interview. “We want to do this professionally and to make sure we’re in compliance with all the various rules and regulations. It is not a change of use, so there should be no variances required.  There has been very little new livestock farming in Manalapan or Monmouth County for many years. Some of the rules have changed and many have been forgotten.  We’re going to take our time and do this right.”

Spano said that the current crop of soy beans which are on the property will be harvested in October.  He hopes to be able to place a small herd of pigs–which won’t require a permanent structure — along Route 33 before the end of September.  Such a small herd is governed by Manalapan’s Right to Farm ordinance and New Jersey’s Right to Farm statutes and will be managed by a local farmer.  “We’ll start off small but expect to grow rapidly,” Spano said.

Separately, Spano has filed and been accepted as an intervener in Manalapan’s affordable housing planning in Monmouth County Superior Court, but that litigation could take years to resolve.

By the time the soy crop is harvested in October, Spano hopes that all the Board of Health and State permits are in place.  At that point a swine barn and a feed tower will be erected along Millhurst Road.  The farm area will be approximately 100 acres of the 123 acre property and will have a sounder of thousands of swine being raised for market.

Over the years the property has been known as the Probasco Farm, Village of Manalapan and most recently Manalapan Crossing.  Spano said that the township has given two approvals for development of the property since 2003; a 500,000 square foot retail development about ten years ago which proved not to be commercially viable and a general development plan which was approved several years later, but which has also proven not to be commercially viable.

“Almost every developer that has looked at the property, and there has been about one hundred, says a residential component is necessary to make a development economically viable,” Spano said. “The township does not want homes on the property. So we seem to be stuck with a farm.  I need a farm that generates more income than soy beans or corn can provide.”

The property is now zoned for 500,000 square feet of commercial/retail.  The historic farm use is a grandfathered permitted use.

The most recent commercial development attempted was known as Manalapan Crossing.  It was proposed by Vito Cardinale of Cardinale Enterprises in Jackson.  The development as first proposed would have had 500,000 square feet of retail stores with roughly 900 high-end residential rental units, a hotel, affordable housing units for veterans and a medical research facility.  Cardinale, the principal benefactor of the Multiple Sclerosis Center named for his late wife Linda, designed the development to be a perpetual source of funding for the MS research center he wanted included in the development.   Cardinale was twice rebuffed by the Township Committee on rezoning proposals; once last November after the development became an issue in the local elections and again in January after downsizing the proposal to approximately 500 residential units.  In both cases Cardinale believed he had the support of the Township Committee for his proposal, only to be let down upon the final vote.  He has since filed a tort notice with the Township reserving his right to litigate based upon his belief that he was not dealt with in good faith.

The Manalapan Crossing plans provided $10 million for road construction which would have improved upon the current traffic situation at Route 33 and Millhurst Road, even with the new development.  Cardinale said there would have been less than 60 school aged children living in the development and that it would have generated over $ 5 million per year to Manalapan’s treasury.

Cardinale proposed a compromise plan earlier this summer which would have been an extension of adjoining Four Seasons Development, a 55 and older community and approximately 100,000 square feet of commercial/retail space.  Cardinale submitted plans to the Zoning Board for approval, but declined to pursue the project after the Township Committee informed the Zoning Board that they were opposed.

“I’m done with trying to develop Manalapan Crossing for the people of Manalapan,” Cardinale said.

Cardinale said he is looking at other properties in Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the MS research center that he is committed to creating and providing for in perpetuity.

“With Manalapan Crossings denied and with the affordable housing litigation likely to drag on for years, the farm needs to be sustainable,” Spano said.


Posted: September 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Manalapan, Monmouth County News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »


  1. Kathy Baratta said at 5:13 pm on September 3rd, 2016:

    This is absolutely Machiavellian. Talk about be careful what you ask for. He tried and tried to “make it nice” as Dorinda would say* but was thwarted at every attempt.

    So now he’s going to turn it into a pig farm. When that stench starts making its way into the homes of the Knob Hill and Four Seasons residents they’re going to rue the day they ever opposed the other projects.
    And it is a stench that will have people putting up for sale signs. They better just hope the potential buyers only show up on cold days because this is going to give a whole new meaning to long, hot summer.

    * It’s a Real Housewives of New York City reference. Yes. I admit to watching that trash wallow. We all have our guilty pleasures and the Real Housewives is mine.

  2. Jimmy Jones said at 7:45 pm on September 3rd, 2016:

    LMAO…The developer saying he wanted to “make it nice for Manalapan” is full of hog poop…He wanted to do it to line his pockets, and that’s what business is all about.

    Thepeople who run Manalapan didn’t want it and now they won’t be able to stop the proposed farm as it is a permitted use and protected under the “right to farm” statutes.

    Farming just doesn’t have to be corn, it can be livestock also. There are DEP regulations but hey are pretty basic and if the town tries to stop it, they will be sued for big time damages.

    They haven’t learned, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it

  3. Jimmy Jones said at 7:48 pm on September 3rd, 2016:

    A hog farm is more than appropriate for this site. Have you seen the residents in Manalapan??? It will be amusing, as the previous poster said, to see the reactions of the NIMBY’s…especially ones downwind.

  4. Heather Amber said at 1:36 am on September 4th, 2016:

    I’m a 28 year old that had to move in with my mother in Four Seasond when she had gotten sick. Personally, I don’t mind a pig farm. I’d much rather it than more strip malls that will just be empty in a few years. When we moved to Manalapan 25 years ago, it was not built up like this at all. I like the idea of going back to the farming idea.

  5. john gawron said at 3:02 pm on September 4th, 2016:

    Good it will stink like all the cry babies that complained

  6. Maria said at 3:14 pm on September 4th, 2016:

    Wow. The residents gave up all those road improvements, the convenience of local stores, restaurants, a town center, commuter parking, residences for our special needs population and veterans for a pig farm!!!! What a smart idea Manalapan Strong!! What fun it will be for you sitting in all that traffic smelling the pig farm. And all the trucks coming in and out taking away the pigs. Those that live closest will pay the price (of the smell and sounds) for all those other neighbors that fought so hard for the property to stay a farm. They thought keeping it a farm only meant soy beans and sunflowers. Wow this is an awakening for them. Didn’t think about how pigs could affect property values.

  7. Alice monte said at 10:31 pm on September 4th, 2016:

    You folks have no one to blame but your crooked politicians! Typical NJ and their pay to play shenanigans! You COULD have had significant traffic control, additional decent housing and wonderful stores!

  8. Marlene said at 10:27 am on September 5th, 2016:

    This article was all HOGWASH!

    Just another scare tactic ploy by Spano and the developer Cardinale to make us all want to yearn for the Manalapan Crossings mega-metropolis.

    Do they really believe that the residents of Manalapan are stupid enough to believe the article ?

  9. Charlie Brown said at 1:56 pm on September 5th, 2016:

    I will take a pig farm over people that behave like pigs.. A little stink won’t hurt, bring it on

  10. joe said at 3:01 pm on September 5th, 2016:

    Why would someone ‘in preliminary discussions’ bring in a bunch of hogs this month? Half of the comments look like shills.

  11. Steve said at 7:19 pm on September 5th, 2016:

    This is just a ploy to get people to accept Crossings as it comes back up. There is no infrastructure – trucking, slaugherhouses, feed, etc. to support a pig farm, and there is no way the owner is passing up selling the property for $Millions. This seems ridiculous because it is..

  12. John said at 7:55 pm on September 5th, 2016:

    Sounds like Mr Spano and Vito Corelone (Cardinale) are grasping for straws. Take ur bullshit article back to millstone!!! I am so glad the people of this wonderful town stood up to you both.

  13. joe said at 11:07 am on September 6th, 2016:

    This guy is a real genius; spend $200,000 an acre for farmland to develop it into farmland! Those better be some damn big hogs!

  14. One does wonder said at 10:23 am on September 7th, 2016:

    at the choice of that animal in that town, though.. The main problem is NIMBY: the attitude is: “I’m here, nobody and nothing else comes near me-” the ever- rising property taxes and cost of living in this state, makes people testy and angry- look at Eatontown: the Kushners come in with a magnificent plan to re- face, improve and beautify the shabby and aging Monmouth Mall: which is already there, the traffic is already there, in that commercial zone: a few angry residents show up to complain, the council caves, ( can’t lose those votes!) and Kushner walks: there go many improvements and new ratables – I think they were back with a modified plan, but the “NIMBY syndrome” often relies on selfishness and hysteria, which winds up being detrimental, in the long run.

  15. Mark said at 8:34 pm on September 7th, 2016:

    Oh please come on. You kidding me? Look – I get it. You prey on people’s fear. Great job.

    Let’s take a reality check.

    1) Would Manalapan harpoon an entire community comprised of 30+ square miles for a piece of property that is less than .2 square miles? Causing property sales to tank. Impacting property taxes. Directly impacting the community’s ability to function? Stupid.

    2) What is Spano’s property worth in an undesirable area? He’s going to destroy the value of his own property? His property is a pinky and his desire is to kill the entire body the pinky is on? Stupid.

    3) Let’s say this was true – you don’t think the fucking county would be rip-shit at how irresponsible this would be for neighboring counties? Oh, you know, like fucking Freehold? With the Boro being 4 miles away.. oh.. how about all their major retailors that are 3 miles away? You know.. Walmart? Home Depot? Freehold Mall Residents? Yeah, they’ll be cool with all of this. Fucking stupid.

    4) Yes! This property is magic! “..one of the nation’s largest pork producers..” NEEDS THIS PROPERTY. Stop. 155 properties with 125+ acres for sale in New Jersey – this pork producer is going for a piece of land in the middle of a residential area. Don’t get be started on the east coast where they want to expand – Manalapan fucking NJ is the jackpot for them. PR disaster waiting to happen. Stupid.

    Look. You got me. I read your bullshit article. You got me to respond. Maybe some of these other fake commenters will respond to this comment. Generate more fear.

    Swell job.

  16. Kathy Baratta said at 12:22 am on September 8th, 2016:

    There’s one way to find out if this all a, ‘pig in a poke.’ It is asserted in this article that the owner, “presented plans on Friday to Manalapan’s Zoning Officer and its Board of Health today for a pig farm on the property.

    Art, could call the township’s Zoning Office to inquire if these plans have indeed been filed. If they were they are now part of the public record. Following that due diligence, post a follow-up.

  17. Terry said at 8:40 am on September 8th, 2016:

    Apparently some of the comments fail to recognize Farm Nuisance Law.
    Nuisances caused by hog farms include:
    Odor, Airborne Pesticides, Dust, Noise, Toxic Runoff, Contaminated Water, Property Damage, Diminished Property Value, and Serious Health Problems.
    The right to farm laws do not preclude Farm Nuisance lawsuits especially if the Hog Farm came after the fact.

  18. Not a Fake Comment said at 7:52 pm on September 8th, 2016:

    This is hysterical!
    Can’t wait for the pig farm to be up and running. Full steam ahead, oink oink.

  19. joe said at 2:48 pm on September 9th, 2016:

    Two words: PIG ROAST !