Proposed Rt. 130 complex revamped

Development plans for the Gordon-Simpson estate in Washington Township have been revised to reduce the number of proposed housing units.

By: Sarah Winkelman
   WASHINGTON — Development plans for the Gordon-Simpson estate, a 430-acre farm along Route 130, have been revised to reduce the number of proposed housing units.
   Tom Troy, senior vice president for Sharbell Development Corp., presented new plans for the site at the Jan. 22 Township Committee meeting. Sharbell is currently building Washington’s Town Center off Route 33.
   "We think that what we are now proposing is consistent with the Master Plan for the town," Mr. Troy said.
   When the committee first heard the plans for the site on May 22, it deemed the proposal too vast. The initial plan called for 308 residential units, 228 of which would be age restricted for those 55 and older.
   The new proposal calls for 180 houses, 150 of which would be age restricted. That means that approxi- mately 85 of the 430 acres would be developed.
   The age-restricted housing would be in the back of the complex separated from the other houses to form an "autonomous grouping," Mr. Troy said. There also would be a small clubhouse and recreation center for the seniors as well as public parks and open space.
   The residential aspect of the development would include condominiums, townhouses and single-family houses in addition to the senior housing.
   The plan divides the proposed nonresidential development into three distinct areas: a 65,000-square-foot commercial shopping center in the northeast corner; 40,000 square feet of office space in the southeast corner; and a 60,000-square-foot, free standing mix of retail and office space on the northern side.
   "We would be focusing the uses of the commercial spaces," he said. "We do not want ‘big box’ power centers."
   He added that all the undeveloped land could be dedicated to the township.
   "This project will preserve and leave undeveloped 345 acres of site," Mr. Troy said. "That breaks down to 185 acres of wetlands and 160 acres of quality farmland. Our goal has always been to preserve farmland."
   The plans for the property are in keeping with the cluster-type development that is being constructed in Town Center.
   "This proposal brings something to town that you don’t have right now," he said. "The scale and intensity fits, there is a balance of uses, the plan preserves 80 percent of the site forever as productive farmland and it achieves Master Plan goals.
   Mr. Troy said the proposal adheres to basic facets of the township’s Master Plan, mainly that farming continue to be viable and that development promote economic activity. Other goals include preserving wetlands, promoting a variety of housing types and sizes, discouraging sprawl, incorporating public parks, and creating a sustainable economy for the township.
   Based on demographics, Mr. Troy estimated there would be 11 school-age children living in the development.
   "Seniors don’t have school-age children and the majority of the housing is for seniors," he said.
   The total population for the development would be 467 people, he said.
   Mr. Troy said they could begin breaking ground in as little as two years. It would be three years before the houses could be occupied.
   Committeeman Pete Chamberlin said he likes the whole concept.
   "I don’t know of many towns that have this kind of development," he said.
   Mr. Troy said towns are slowly moving in the direction of mixed-use developments.
   "Grouping mixed residences with senior housing and commercial property is catching on," he said. "It won’t be too long before we see this happening all over."
   Committeeman Doug Tindall said he thinks the size of the proposed development is more appropriate.
   "It provides what I endorse, which is senior housing," he said. "I don’t like that we lose residents to other areas because we don’t have something for them here."
   Mr. Troy added that the Hamilton division of the YMCA may be interested in building a facility on a 7-acre parcel at the juncture of Gordon and Bresnahan Road.
   "They have expressed to me that there is a desire to be more in Mercer County on the part of the YMCA and that the size and availability of the parcel would work well for them," he said. "If they are interested in pursuing this, we would want to get them in as part of the process early on."
   Mayor Vince Calcagno said the plan was moving in the right direction.
   "It doesn’t put a clump of houses in the best part of the farmland," he said. "This is a big improvement. The density has come into line and fits with the spirit of the town."
   He also said that the addition of a YMCA would be a good attribute to the town.
   "I would like to see a bike path or a walking trail that is a straight shot to the YMCA," he said. "That way people can get to it without having to drive."