Planning Board objects to zoning designations


Staff Writer

HOWELL — In a unanimous decision, the Planning Board has voted to remove some new zoning proposals from the township’s revised master plan. The proposals drew fire from members of the public who voiced opposition to them at several public hearings.

The master plan is the document that governs construction and growth in a municipality. The revisions to the master plan must be adopted by the Township Council before they become part of the plan.

Planning Board members decided in November to direct their planner Rick Kniesler to draw up revised recommendations for the mayor and council that reflect the board’s unanimous opposition to the adoption of new mixed use and town center zoning designations.

Under the original draft proposal, several areas were being proposed as mixed use zones. Permitted uses in a mixed use zone could include but not be limited to residential, light commercial, schools, parks and recreational uses.

One mixed use zone was being proposed at the western end of Route 33 near the Freehold Township border and another mixed use zone was being proposed at the eastern end of Route 33 at the Wall Township border.

When he initially came up with the idea, Kniesler said both locations were being proposed as mixed use zones because there is a possibility of these areas being used for the construction of commuter rail stations along the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex (MOM) passenger rail line.

Before voting on the matter at the Nov. 22 meeting, discussion among board members disclosed their general consensus was that since no decision has been made regarding the location of rail stations in Howell it would be inappropriate at this time for the board to make any zoning decisions based on the possibility of such a station.

The defeated town center proposal had been touted 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 effect a connection from Route 9 to western properties near the Manasquan River.

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

Board members were also in agreement that a town center designation for the east side of Route 9 was also inappropriate at this time.

It was also decided that the Cutler-Rubenstein Egg Farm on Route 9 near Sunnyside Road would not be changed to include a town center or mixed use designation.

A developer has announced an intention to develop an apartment complex on the egg farm property.

Most of the opposition to this proposal came from egg farm neighbors residing on nearby White and Conover streets who came in person to strongly state their opposition to any zone change for the area, much less one that would provide for rental units.

The final vote of the board directed that the town center and mixed use zoning designations be removed from any recommendations for incorporation into the master plan.

The Planning Board makes recommendations to the Township Council, which has the final say on zoning changes and designations in the municipality.