U.F. master plan changes expected by year’s end

Public hearing on proposed draft scheduled for Dec. 13


After almost three years of debate, the Upper Freehold Planning Board will hold a public hearing on and possibly vote to change the master plan Dec. 13.

One aspect of the changes to the plan that regulates land use in the community remained unsolved at the board’s Nov. 27 meeting. Members of the public and board discussed the lack of an alternative site for affordable housing to fulfill the township’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) requirement.

Township Planner Mark Remsa said the new draft of the master plan would rezone an area on Breza Road from a commerce park to an educational/commercial/planned residential zone. The tract abuts the new middle school site and is part of the only sewer district in town.

Remsa said the tract on Breza Road is currently the only area where the township could address its COAH obligations. However, the site may not be available for such use in the future, because the township and Allentown are pursuing preservation of the property as

expected by year’s end

farmland and open space.

Vice Chairman Douglas Raynor asked Remsa if the township has any other suitable areas for affordable housing.

Remsa replied, “No. It’s the only area in town within a wastewater management plan area. The issue will not go away.”

He said the state is currently preparing third-round COAH rules, which should be released by the end of the year. The new rules will likely increase the township’s affordable housing obligation.

Raynor said the preservation of the Breza Road tract may hinder the township.

Chairman Richard Stern said the township has never stopped anyone from putting their land into preservation.

“No matter what the zoning was,” he said.

Board member Bob Freiberger said that while the township previously supported every landowner who wanted to put their land into preservation, it should think differently about the Breza Road parcel if it is the only place in town to put affordable housing. He called the land issue “a hot potato.”

Former mayor John Mele said the COAH portion of the master plan concerns him.

“If we don’t have a wastewater management plan area that can accept COAH, the zoning we have in town is thrown out the window by the builder’s remedy,” he said.

Remsa said that Mele’s concern is valid. He said there may be areas that abut the wastewater management plan area that could be suitable for affordable housing. According to Remsa, the development of such housing would have to occur in or around a more dense land-use pattern, such as near Allentown. He said the state would not allow the township to build COAH housing in the middle of nowhere.

Township Attorney Frank Armenante commented that the schedule is tight for the Planning Board to vote on the master plan by the end of the year.

“If you are going to have master plan approval, you want the majority of the Township Committee in tune with you,” Armenante said. “If they’re not in tune with you, you’re going to have a real mess on your hands.”

The Township Committee has to vote to implement any master plan changes the Planning Board suggests.

The makeup of the Township Committee will change come January. Both Mayor Stephen Fleischacker and Deputy Mayor William Miscoski will no longer serve on the governing body, and newcomers Stan Moslowski and Lori Horsnall Mount, who won the Nov. 6 election, will take office.

Township Committeeman Stephen Alexander commented that not having an alternative plan for the township’s COAH obligation would subject the new Township Committee and Planning Board to deal with the issue in the future.

After much discussion, Planning Board members agreed to hold a public hearing on the proposed master plan changes Dec. 13.

Resident Phil Sinicropi said he thought the board “made a big mistake.” He accused the board of “railroading the public” by deciding to hold the hearing a week and a half before Christmas.

Sinicropi said the board took three years to formulate the new draft of the plan.

“You owe it to the public to give this thing the time it deserves,” he said.

Mele called the plan a good plan that is headed in the right direction. He said he hopes that the general public does not think it is being railroaded, because such a perception may hurt the amount of work that the Planning Board has done.

Stern said the board has spent a lot of time working on the master plan and that he does not see how the public could perceive the process as railroading.

Resident Dionne Polk said the Planning Board has discussed every component of the plan in public. She said she thinks there has to be some movement on the plan.

Dr. S. Perrine Dey did not agree and said that the Township Committee will “radically change” next year. He said the board should wait for the new committee to take office before putting the final seal on the proposed changes.

Board member Jennifer Coffey commented that the Planning Board has an obligation to “finish what we’ve started.”

The Planning Board meeting on Dec. 13 will be held in the auditorium of Allentown High School, 27 High St. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and the master plan hearing will start at 7 p.m.

For more information on the changes to the master plan, visit the township’s Web site at www.uftnj.com.