Chairman’s letter raises questions of objectivity

Ever since East Brunswick officials proposed selling the Route 18 property known as the Golden Triangle for redevelopment, there has been debate on the merits of the proposal. Those in favor say the township needs the revenue, and that the project will maximize use of the property with a vital transit village of homes and businesses; those against have questioned several components of the redevelopment plan from the chosen redeveloper, Toll Brothers, and whether the township is simply giving the builder too much.

In reality, it remains a judgment call as to whether the proposal will be a boon for East Brunswick. One can only guess how many children the residential component will yield and how that will affect school taxes; another question is with regard to traffic impact; and more recently, concerns have arisen about the effect the sale will have on East Brunswick’s parking utility. Sure, the township is getting plenty of money from the sale, but there are many questions and risks.

Thus, it was disturbing to see the chairman of the township’s Planning Board recently endorse the project. While the Planning Board did in fact have a role in shaping the tract’s zoning regulations, the board will ultimately have to rule on the building application, and its members should make an effort to remain unbiased and refrain from comment on the issue — especially before the matter even comes before them for consideration.

In a letter published last week in the Sentinel, Shawn Taylor, who is also head of the East Brunswick Democratic Organization, said the project “will be a tremendous asset to our community.”

“It is providing a great revenue source and will create a beautiful downtown area and modern commuter parking deck, and pay for a community center on the Heavenly Farms site,” Taylor wrote. He closed by saying it will pay dividends to East Brunswick for years to come.

Taylor was writing in response to a letter from a local Republican who criticized the plan, and Taylor sought to correct several points. We would argue that the leader of a board set up to review and act on land-use plans should not even be discussing a future application, but Taylor makes it more or less clear that this plan already has his stamp of approval.

Last time we checked, planning boards were set up to ensure that future development is appropriate for the community and that it is built within the guidelines of the land use laws. They are supposed to be impartial when reviewing testimony and evidence. Unfortunately, if Toll Brothers’ plan for the Golden Triangle were to be presented for review today, we know of at least one board member who cannot give it that impartial review.