U.F. Planning Board revises master plan

Twp. Committee asked to consider density transfers, downzoning


UPPER FREEHOLD – Almost three years after beginning the process, the township’s Planning Board has made its recommendations as to how Upper Freehold should revise its master plan.

The board unanimously adopted a new land-use element of the master plan at its Dec. 13 meeting in Allentown High School. Only four of the board members who started the revision in early 2005 were still serving on the 11-member board when it voted to conclude the process. Those members are Chairman Richard Stern, Mayor Stephen Fleischacker, J. David Holmes and Richard Bullock.

If the Township Committee implements the board’s approved plan, the township’s current 3-acre zoning would change to 6 acres, and those few areas in town presently zoned with 5-acre zoning would change to 10 acres, according to Township Planner Mark Remsa.

The approved plan also sets forth a strategy to achieve the township’s goal of preserving its rural character and retaining its agricultural industry. The board would like to see the township adopt noncontiguous parcel clustering, which is defined as a planning technique that allows one parcel to be preserved while its development rights are transferred to a different, noncontiguous parcel that is developed with a higher density than otherwise permitted. In such an arrangement, both parcels are considered together as a single cluster development.

A density transfer under noncontiguous parcel clustering requires agreement among a selling landowner, a purchasing landowner/developer and the municipality. The selling landowner has to be willing to sell and transfer the development rights from a sending parcel. The purchasing landowner/developer has to be willing to buy and use the development rights to develop a receiving parcel at a higher than otherwise permitted density. Upper Freehold will have to be willing to preserve the sending parcel, accept its deed restriction and allow the receiving parcel to be developed more intensively than otherwise permitted.

According to the new land-use element of the master plan, the public benefit of the noncontiguous parcel clustering is the permanent preservation of the sending farmland and open space parcels.

To be eligible for the noncontiguous parcel clustering, the total amount of land to be preserved has to measure at least 100 acres, of which none of the individual lots to be preserved can contain less than 20 acres.

The receiving area for the density transfer will have to measure at least 100 acres and has to have the capability of supporting at least 50 dwelling units on 1-acre lots with individual septic systems and wells.

According to the plan, the receiving parcels should have road frontage along major roads such as county highways, arterial roads and collector roads or should be located at major crossroads. The developers of receiving parcels that do not have frontage along major roads or highways will have to provide new roads and/or road extensions for safe and adequate access and accommodating increased traffic.

The rights to developing the sending parcel will have to be retired by way of transferring them to the receiving parcel. The sending parcel would have to be deed restricted as open space, which can mean farmland, recreational land or an environmental preserve.

The parcel for preservation will also have to be located adjacent to or abutting existing preserved land or land that the municipality, county, state, and/or other preservation programs have targeted for preservation. The plan notes that in some cases, a lone parcel can be preserved to initiate a core preservation area. The owner of the parcel for preservation may retain ownership of the land, holding only the farming or open space rights of the land, and can only resell the property for farming or open space purposes. The preserved land could also be deeded to Upper Freehold Township for open space purposes.

The new residential component of the plan includes other changes as well.

A conventional subdivision of properties measuring more than 20 acres will now require a mandatory cluster of residential lots measuring a minimum of 1-acre each. Subdivisions that help to preserve farmland or open space will no longer be eligible for increased density. The maximum number of 1- acre lots will be determined by a schematic test plan that is compliant with the minimum lot size and bulk and area requirements for Agricultural/Residential (AR) zones with 6-acre lots and Rural Agricultural (RA) zones with 10-acre lots and has no variances, waivers and design exceptions.

A conventional subdivision of less than 20 acres that complies with the minimum lot size and bulk and area requirements for each zone can use lot averaging, such as 1- to 10- acre lots in the AR zone and 1- to 20-acre lots in the RA-5 zone. The plan does not permit an increase in the number of dwellings in excess of the permitted gross density in each zone, which amounts to 0.17 units per acre in the AR zone and 0.10 units per acre in the RA-5 zone.

The plan also provides a farmette cluster option for properties measuring at least 25 acres. This option requires developers to create a mix of minimum 1-acre residential lots and minimum 10-acre farmette (house with agricultural use) lots. This option requires the developer to use less than 30 percent of a tract for the clustered lots and more than 70 percent of a tract for farmette lots.

Developers with more than 100 acres can also opt to create an Equine Community, which must have a mix of clustered minimum 1-acre residential lots and an equine center. This option also requires that 30 percent of a tract consist of the clustered residential lots. However, the remainder of the tract must be dedicated to the equestrian center, consisting of barns, paddocks, riding arenas, pastures, riding trails, parking and a community center that covers no more than 5 percent of the equine center area.

The complete land-use plan element may be viewed on the township’s Web site at www.uftnj.com.