Fate of Breza Road tract yet to be decided

Residents urge township to remove property


Staff Writer

Deputy Mayor William Miscoski said the Breza Road property in Upper Freehold formerly slated for warehouse development is so beautiful that nothing should be built there.

Miscoski’s remark was met with applause from the audience at the Township Committee’s Dec. 7 meeting, where the governing body unanimously voted to send a resolution to the Planning Board asking for its recommendations for the property.

Township officials approved a general development plan for the 254-acre Breza Road tract in September 2004. The New York City-based Rockefeller Group had plans to construct 1.8 million square feet of warehouse/office space there. However, the developer withdrew its plans in a surprise announcement before a scheduled Nov. 30 Planning Board hearing on the matter.

During the public portion of the Township Committee meeting, several residents asked officials to remove the tract’s commercial overlay.

Mayor Stephen Fleischacker explained that the property’s commercial overlay is the result of an early-1990s litigation settlement.

Township Attorney Granville Magee said the commercial overlay has been in effect for 10 years, which has now expired. However, because the overlay is part of the town’s present zoning map, Magee said it would have to be removed through the zoning process. The Planning Board is currently in the midst of revising the township’s master plan.

According to Magee, without the commerce park overlay, the property would fall subject to the same residential zoning the rest of the township has, which is 3-acre lots with a cluster provision.

Miscoski said that while the town needs industrial and commercial development, neither would take place on the Breza Road tract if the Rockefeller Group could not accomplish its plans. Miscoski also spoke out against having residential development there.

“I think it would be a travesty to have 3-acre zoning and houses there,” he said. “It causes more problems with the rural roads there.”

Committeeman Stephen Alexander asked if the township could remove its general development plan for the site. Magee said the general development plan for the property fell through when the Rockefeller Group withdrew its application.

Fleischacker said the Rockefeller Group’s application would have allowed the township to satisfy its Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations through 2014, as the developer planned to donate 19 acres on the Breza Road tract for affordable housing.

“[But] with the withdrawal, we no longer have that opportunity,” Fleischacker said.

As part of contingency planning, the township has asked Township Planner Mark Remsa to put together a growth share plan.

Allentown resident Micah Rasmussen, a strong opponent of the warehouses, said he hopes the township can work with Allentown to solve regional planning issues.

Upper Freehold resident David Mansue agreed with Rasmussen, saying that the warehouse issue galvanized the two communities in a way that has never before been seen.

Miscoski said he likes Allentown Mayor Stuart Fierstein and added that as long as Upper Freehold agrees to pay for anything of mutual interest to it and Allentown, the towns get along very well.

“It’s always a money issue,” Miscoski said. “[If] we pay for it, it’s all fine.”

Resident Sue Kozel said she and her husband, Chris Berzinski, along with resident Marc Covitz, submitted a commerce park redesign idea for Breza Road in 2004, to which the Township Committee did not respond. According to Kozel, they had suggested locating a hotel and/or a golf course on the site.

Covitz said that Indian Run LLC, the owner of the Breza Road property, has had three development proposals for the tract fail in the past few years. He urged the township to talk to the landowners and to government agencies about preserving the acreage.

“I don’t want Orleans [Development Corp.] or some other swindler to sneak in the back door,” he said.