By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
Owners of Royce Brook Golf Course are proposing to build a conference center, offices, restaurants, villas and 325-room hotel on about half of their Hamilton Road property.
Among the first needed steps would be expansion of a state water quality management plan to allow sewer service to be provided.
Somerset County planning officials have formally opposed the expansion of the Upper Raritan Water Quality Management Plan at this time as inconsistent with the county master plan. Hillsborough Township leaders tomorrow night, Tuesday, are expected to pass a resolution supporting the county Planning Board determination in opposing a larger sewer service area before the comment period for stakeholders ends Nov. 8, said Administrator Anthony Ferrera.
The concept plan shows a proposal for:
— Three sites for restaurants with a total of 450 seats, near Hamilton Road;
— A 8,000-square-foot child care facility for 150 kids;
— 350,000 total square feet of office facilities;
— A 325-room hotel;
— A 120,000-square-foot conference center;
— An expanded clubhouse and pool complex, and
— 160 units (480 bedrooms) of conference center villas.
An 18-hole golf course would be rebuilt around the developed areas. A road would extend through the property and have intersections on Hamilton and Millstone River roads.
The proposal would add 99.9 acres to the Somerset Raritan Valley Sewer Authority’s sewer service area. A “site-specific” water quality management plan amendment is required for sewer service to accommodate the development of less than 100 acres or projected flow of less than 20,000 gallons per day.
Laurette Kratina, principal planner with the county, said the county Planning Board voted Oct. 20 to oppose the request because the property has been identified as a “priority preservation investment area” on the county Investment Framework Map adopted in April 2014. Those are areas where “land preservation, environment protection and stewardship are preferred and where investments that support these activities are encouraged.”
The preservation designation means the goal is to keep the area rural and in a lower-intensity use, said Ms. Kratina. The designation “was developed in collaboration with the township in order to reflect local land use priorities,” said the county’s letter.
The same county framework plan designates areas where growth in existing centers and commercial corridors is encouraged, and the Hamilton Road golf course falls outside those areas.
The application notes that the proposed uses are permitted with township zoning. It says the master plan identifies portions of the Royce Brook center site as developable land.
Ms. Kratina said the proposal would also have an adverse impact on the Millstone Valley National Scenic Byway, a state and national designation. While not in the district, the project is at the northern end of the byway, which generally parallels the Millstone River and Delaware and Raritan Canal, and would affect the district, said Ms. Kratina.
The state Department of Environmental Protection would make the decision, and could choose to ignore the county and local objection.
Office areas of 250,000 and 100,000 square feet are conceptually shown on a map and would be closest to existing residential development of homes fronting on Anne Street in the Claremont development.
By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor