Howell’s master plan still needs more work

Revised document includes zoning changes, town center


Staff Writer

HOWELL — Following recent public hearings and subsequent discussion among Planning Board members, the first draft of the township’s revised master plan has gone back to planner Richard C. Kniesler Jr. to undergo some fine tuning.

Once it is adopted by the Township Council, the master plan, which under state law must be revisited every six years, will govern construction and growth in Howell.

As prepared by Kniesler under direction from the Planning Board, the revised master plan proposes certain zoning designation changes. It also proposes two new zoning designations — mixed use and town center.

The draft proposes two areas for the mixed use zone. One would be the western end of Route 33 adjacent to the Freehold Township border and the other is the eastern end of Route 33 at the Wall Township border.

Although not clearly set forth in the draft, discussion of the draft during the public hearings disclosed that, so far, accepted uses proposed for a mixed-use zone would include limited residential, light commercial, schools, parks and recreation areas.

According to Kniesler, the Route 33 locations at the Freehold Township and Wall borders have been considered by the state for the possible construction of commuter rail stations for the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex (MOM) passenger rail service extension that is proposed by NJ Transit.

According to the master plan draft, “Both areas have available land to create commuter parking lots and available vacant land to develop small-scale ‘transit villages’ to provide a mix of retail services based on the transportation opportunity.”

A town center is described in the plan as being necessary to complement existing commercial opportunities on Route 9; provide an area to create recreational opportunities to benefit all residents of Howell; and promote an area for mixed uses to connect Route 9 to western properties near the Manasquan Reservoir.

According to the master plan draft, a town center is being considered because, “Howell is in need of a central area to create a central identity for residents of the township.”

Various uses that would be permitted in the town center zone are expected to be clarified in the amended master plan revision.

Areas proposed for a zoning change include:

• Casino Drive to West Farms Road where 700 acres would be rezoned to ARE-3 and 177 acres would be rezoned ARE-6.

• West Farms Road to Southard Avenue and Peskin Road would go from ARE-2 to ARE-6.

• Fort Plains Road would go from ARE-2 to ARE-3.

• Fort Plains, Ford, Alexander, Porter, Vienna and Lakewood-Allenwood roads would all go from ARE-2 to ARE-6.

• Maxim Road would go from ARE-3 to ARE-6.

ARE-2, ARE-3 and ARE-6 indicate the number of acres that would be required in order for a home to be built in that zone (i.e., 2, 3 or 6 acres per home).

Kniesler said he had not included planned retirement communities (PRC) in the master plan revisions because he needed direction as to what was needed and where they should go.

The consensus of the Planning Board was that Kniesler should develop recommendations with an eye toward putting the town center at the Wall Township border, near the Collingwood Auction and Flea Market.

Kniesler clarified that PRC zoning is different from Senior Citizen (SC) zoning.

According to Kniesler, a PRC is a “defined use” that incorporates a commercial component, whereas SC zoning is just for residential housing.