Home sizes in planned development reduced

Staff Writer

The Howell Planning Board will reconvene on July 16 to continue deliberations on a plan for 17 homes north of Asbury Avenue and west of Five Points Road in Howell.

The board heard testimony on June 18 on the plan submitted by Gross and Gross Associates. The development has been known as Beacon Ridge.

Testimony indicated the homes have been approved for a decade, but several amendments are being requested at this time.

Attorney Salvatore Alfieri represents the applicant and Michael Geller is the project engineer.

Several aspects of the application and how they may pertain to the 2008 Permit Extension Act are being discussed.

The board’s attorney, Ronald Cucchiaro, said the act declares that any application approved by the board before 2007 will be protected from noncompliance due to zoning changes. However, no case law exists regarding amendments to approved plan designs.

Approval for residential development and storm water management facilities on the 41-acre site dates back to 2005 and involved a different applicant, according to Geller. Extensions of time were granted in 2007 and 2008. The lot sizes will be 1-acre.

Geller said a redesign of the storm water management facilities calls for the elimination of some proposed retaining walls. He said that under the original plan, the responsibility for maintaining the walls would have fallen to the township and the residents of the development.

The amendments also reduce the maximum footprint of the proposed homes from 5,500 square feet to 3,520 square feet, which Geller said is more appropriate to current market conditions.

“The same lots, same road configuration, same lot configuration, same street design standards and previously approved buffers will still remain,” Geller said.

Although Alfieri and Geller said they believe the amendments will comply with the Permit Extension Act, Cucchiaro advised the board to schedule another meeting after additional assessment regarding the details of the law has been completed.

During the public hearing on the application, many residents — a majority from nearby Cloverhill Lane — voiced concerns about the environmental impact of the new water management designs, a lack of recent studies and construction noise.

One resident asked if recent environmental studies of the development site had been conducted.

Geller said no new environmental studies have been completed and added, “Typically hydrology and soil do not change. Depth to ground water may fluctuate, but wetlands don’t tend to change.”

The board’s planner, Jennifer Beahm, suggested that the environmental permits may have to be recertified. “You are modifying your drainage and basins and I’m not sure whether these (proposed) modifications would impact the 10- year-old environmental designations you are relying upon,” she said.

Beahm said if the amended storm water management design, or any of the other proposed changes to the development, are not approved, the plan would revert back to the original design, which may be less than desirable for the community’s or the applicant’s interest.

The application is expected to be discussed at the board’s July 16 meeting.