Planning Board chairman sees challenges facing Montgomery

First on the list: Skillman Village

By: Jake Uitti
   MONTGOMERY — Steven Sacks-Wilner was re-appointed chairman of the township Planning Board on Monday, marking his sixth consecutive term as chairman.
   Tom Lee was appointed vice chairman and Milton Charbonneau was appointed secretary.
   Mr. Sacks-Wilner said many significant issues face the Planning Board — and the township as a whole — in the coming year. Most significant, he said, will be the redevelopment of the former North Princeton Developmental Center — now known as Skillman Village.
   "The planning, the negotiating with the development partner or partners — that’s going to be the next really massive project we’re going to undertake," Mr. Sacks-Wilner said Tuesday. "This year’s going to be mostly about NPDC. I anticipate that the Planning Board will, together with the Township Committee, be the township entities particularly involved in the site."
   Mr. Sacks-Wilner said any planning for Skillman Village will incorporate the concept plan that was developed with community input over the past year.
   "For one, the site cannot be much of a peak traffic generator because the local road network is already overburdened," he said. "The 518 and 601 intersection, due to historical constraints, probably cannot be further improved. Another is to recoup the township’s investment."
   Mr. Sacks-Wilner said township officials are hoping Skillman Village will be a vibrant center that incorporates historic buildings and beautiful landscaping.
   "We still hope to have it be a prominent cultural center for the town," he said. "It’s right at the heart of our school campus. Some portion of the center will be devoted to community resources and recreation, but that hasn’t been defined yet."
   Mr. Sacks-Wilner said township officials have to enter into dialogue with the development partners, who have yet to be determined. Township officials over the next few months will be working to create a list of potential redevelopers.
   "But first we have to get the site cleaned up," Mr. Sacks-Wilner said. "And the cleanup can have no effect whatsoever on the students at Village Elementary School," which is located within the NPDC site.
   Another significant aspect for the NPDC site is the sewage treatment plant. Mr. Sacks-Wilner said the plant needs to be brought up to modern standards and when it is improved, the plant will service several developments, as well as all of the township schools.
   Other critical projects also face the township, he said.
   The Madison Marquette project is one of the developments that will be served by the sewage treatment plant at NPDC. The other is the Sharbell age-restricted housing development planned to be built on Route 518.
   "The Madison Marquette project still has its final review, including approval of the architectural plans for virtually the entire site," Mr. Sacks-Wilner said. "That’s going to be a major project."
   Mr. Sacks-Wilner said township officials are planning for the intersection of the Routes 206 and 518 to be a people-friendly area.
   "We’ll continue to do everything we can to plan for clean ratables in appropriate places," he said. "We hope to make the routes 518 and 206 intersection a more vibrant, walkable, bikeable, commercial center, in all four corners."
   In the Madison Marquette development, there will be loop roads that should help alleviate some of the traffic at the very congested routes 518 and 206 intersections, he said.
   "I anticipate by this time next year, the southwest corner 206 and 518 loop roads will be open," Mr. Sacks-Wilner said.
   The township is still trying to figure out what to do in the northwest corner of that intersection once occupied by a Texaco gas station. Now, though, the former gas station has become an eyesore.
   "We got a proposal from a bank, but our traffic engineer said it wouldn’t work," Mr. Sacks-Wilner said. "We want to do something that is attractive and works from a traffic perspective."
   He added that the Route 206 Bypass is yet another significant issue in the township.
   In the near future, he said, there is going to be some "value planning" done regarding the bypass, which is intended to alleviate traffic in neighboring Hillsborough Township. Montgomery officials oppose the bypass as planned, saying it will dump significant traffic onto Montgomery’s already congested roads.