Builder’s OK comes with warning to do right thing

By jennifer dome
Staff Writer

Builder’s OK comes with
warning to do right thing
By jennifer dome
Staff Writer

SAYREVILLE — The concerns of several residents were not enough to stop the Planning Board from approving a grading plan for the Towne Lake housing development on March 19.

Residents who live near the 260-unit residential development said they wanted to make sure that Michael Kaplan, developer of Towne Lake, follows stipulations imposed on him during the grading work.

Their concerns stem from a December 2001 incident that resulted in the borough’s issuance of a stop-work order. At that time, Kaplan Cos. and ESK Builders, which owns the property, were served with eight violation summonses by the borough’s zoning officer. Officials said the developers did not have ap­proval for grading and clearing work that was taking place at the development site.

Kaplan has said that his development firm is under contract to buy the prop­erty next to his Towne Lake develop­ment from ESK Builders. The board re­ferred to this area of Towne Lake as Towne Lake West.

As part of the settlement agreement between Kaplan and the borough, the developer was required to submit an in­terim site-plan application to the Plan­ning Board for the remainder of the grading work. The board also approved the final site plan on March 19, pending the award of state Department of Envi­ronmental Protection permits for filling wetland areas.

The grading plan will provide contin­uous drainage to help combat existing drainage and erosion problems on the property, said Ronald Blumstein, the developer’s attorney. An area referred to as "isolated wetlands" will be filled, pursuant to DEP regulations, according to Kaplan’s representatives.

In addition to the grading work, and as part of the settlement agreement, Kaplan Cos. will plant 33 new trees near the existing wooded area of Towne Lake. According to Planning Board offi­cials, when trees and shrubs were re­moved during the clearing work in 2001, the zoning officer inspected the property and determined the damage to be equivalent to 33 trees.

At the time that Kaplan was cited for the violations, the developer stated that he was only cleaning up the property and making improvements for the resi­dents who live nearby. Workers were removing debris and old junk including cars, as well as doing grading work on the land, Kaplan said.

Residents who spoke at the March 19 meeting were also concerned with the effect the grading equipment could have on the foundations of their own homes. They cited the problems of North Ed­ward Street residents who alleged that dynamic compacting at Towne Lake has caused cracks in their foundations.

Kaplan told Planning Board members that the equipment used for grading is a lot less heavy and invasive than that used when the ground is compacted. The equipment will simply move earth around, Kaplan said.

Council President Thomas Pollando, who sits on the Planning Board, said he wanted to guarantee that the residents of William Street and other streets near the grading project will be safe from structural damage.

The board approved the grading plans for Towne Lake, though Pollando voiced a warning to Kaplan.

"Yes, with a statement — Mr. Ka­plan, please do the right thing here," Pollando said during his vote on the ap­plication.