BORDENTOWN CITY: Land use plan heads to city

Long-debated ordinance will go before new commission

By Geoffrey Wertime, Staff Writer
   BORDENTOWN CITY — With only a few minor changes, the Planning Board has referred the proposed and much-discussed land use ordinance to the City Commission for review and possible adoption.
   After two special meetings, the board voted unanimously April 29 to send its recommendations to the commission. The new commissioners, who are expected to be elected Tuesday, May 12, will have final power over the nearly 350-page ordinance, two years in the making, that has at times been the target of public animosity.
   Almost a year ago, the nine-person Citizens’ Advisory Committee was appointed after hundreds of city residents showed up at a public forum where many decried the land use ordinance. While the commissioners directly addressed some of the concerns that were raised, they left the CAC to go over the document in detail and recommend changes, and the group turned in its report in February.
   At last week’s meeting, the board recommended minimal changes aimed at clarifying the last section, which was on site plan review.
   ”The document did not change materially from that which was originally proposed other than to make some slight modifications to reflect some of the concerns of the public,” said Planning Board Attorney Peter C. Lange Jr.
   ”But, in essence, the document is the same from a functionality standpoint as was originally proposed,” he continued, describing the plan as a “comprehensive redrafting and modernization of Bordentown City’s developmental regulation.”
   Mayor Bill Collom, who sits on the Planning Board, said the CAC’s recommendations were less severe than the public ire that led to its formation.
   ”In a way, the results of the CAC recommendations kind of did more to corroborate what (the board) did than to criticize it,” he said, generally asking for clarification instead of insisting sections be take out.
   ”I would’ve expected to have gotten a report from them saying, well, ‘This is terrible, you’ve got to take this out.’ That’s not what we got.”
   ”A lot of it’s clarification,” said Planning Board Chairman Sam Surtees, “just the nuts and bolts of the ordinance—things that people yawn at.”
   ”It’s been several years in the making,” Mr. Surtees added.
   In the last few months, he said, along with the board’s special meetings at the end of April, the board has held others to create a Historic Preservation Committee as per the request of the City Commission.
   ”I’m very thankful we had the opportunity to finish up before the election in May,” he added.
   He said the board should be able to get an ordinance to the commission the week after the election, with recommended changes highlighted.
   Before the ordinance went back to the Planning Board for review, the City Commission last May removed some items to which residents objected. Those included allowing accessory apartments and bed and breakfasts; the addition of 100 dwelling units to the center of town; residential flats; raising the downtown height limit to 50 feet or four stories; and any references to the city as a “transit village.”
   At the Planning Board’s first special meeting April 23, the board recommended minor changes to the ordinance’s sections dealing with environmental consideration and design policies, waterfront development and child, elder and family care.
   Some of those changes included the recommendation residents be required to obtain a tree removal permit to cut down any tree on their property with a diameter of more than 10 inches, with some exceptions such as for disease. The new plan is a simpler one than was proposed earlier, but still would prevent developers from clear-cutting properties.
   Should the commission adopt the ordinance as recommended, a violation would result in a fine of between $100 and the maximum allowed by state law, currently $1,500.
   The board also recommended changing the various uses of waterfront property, including eliminating the following primary uses: public utilities, wireless communication, home occupancy and hotels and motels.
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