Focus on egg farm land has residents scrambling


Staff Writer

HOWELL — About 50 residents showed up a recent Planning Board meeting to protest moves by the board they say will turn a local egg farm into an apartment complex.

The residents were upset with the wording of a board resolution that appeared to favor a mixed use zone that would permit apartments on the parcel.

Carl Whisner, of Conover Street, led a coalition of residents who live near the Cutler-Rubenstein Egg Farm. The farm is on Route 9 north across from Sunnyside Road.

Whisner lives behind the egg farm, which has recently been the subject of a proposed residential development of the site into an apartment complex. The establishment of a mixed use zone by Howell officials would smooth the way for the apartments and that is what residents are objecting to.

The Township Council has the final say on zoning designations in the municipality.

Whisner circulated a flier exhorting residents to attend the Planning Board’s Jan. 6 meeting and register their displeasure over the language that appeared to prepare for a mixed use zone to be recommended in that area.

And attend they did, although most of the talking was done by Whisner.

Whisner asked why the board had seen fit to vote to remove the mixed use from the township’s master plan at a mid-December meeting but inserted the language into a resolution. He said that appeared to contradict the board’s previously stated opposition to the mixed use designation for the area in question.

The resolution states, “In order to maintain the present land use planning the proposed ‘Town Center’ for the eastern side of Route 9 north at Sunnyside Road (also known as the Cutler-Rubenstein Egg Farm) was eliminated from the proposed amendments to the master plan. This, however, does not prohibit the board from re-examining this, or any other site, once the township planner has issued his report regarding Planned Retirement Communities or to implement the terms of substantive certification granted by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).”

To the approbation of the residents in attendance, Whisner questioned the necessity of the new language if it was in fact the intention of the board members to communicate their disapproval of a mixed use zone designation for the egg farm property.

Mayor Joseph M. DiBella and Councilman Peter Tobasco sit on the Planning Board. They and the rest of the board members reassured the residents that it was not the intention of the board to facilitate any zoning change in the area. They said it was the board’s intention to demonstrate an open mind in case the potential builder of the apartments challenged the matter.

DiBella said it had been the board’s intention to indemnify the township against any potential legal redress the builder might seek. He said the developer had objected to not being allowed to build at the site under the parameters of the state’s affordable housing regulations.

DiBella said the language had been inserted so “we could demonstrate to COAH that we had listened.”

Howell did not need the COAH credits the builder was offering as it has already fulfilled its second round affordable housing obligation, according to Sharon Carpenter-Migliaccio, the town’s affordable housing committee chairwoman.

According to Planning Board attorney Ronald Cucchiaro, even though Howell has been granted substantive certification from COAH — which acknowledges that there is an acceptable affordable housing plan and protects the town from challenges by builders — the board was still “required to listen to a proposal.”

“The sentence was put in there in order to be prudent,” the attorney said.

Following Cucchiaro’s statement, “whether that sentence is there or not, the board can revisit their decision,” the board members who were eligible to vote decided to delete the new language from the memorialization of the adopted resolution.

The vote was carried by Pauline Smith, Warren Curry and Curtis Vislocky.

The residents thanked the board members for their consideration, especially in light of the fact that the discussion had not been scheduled to be heard that night and the board was under no legal obligation to conduct a hearing on the matter.