CRANBURY: Planning board advances development application

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – The Planning Board heard testimony on the High Point Development (Hagerty/Chaney Tract) application for Preliminary and Final Major Subdivision and Site Plan for approval during its Dec. 10 meeting.
“I would like to talk for a moment about what we are going to do tonight,” said Chairman Allan Kehrt. “I know a lot of you have been coming to these meetings for a long time.”
Frank Petrino, attorney for the real estate Eckert Seamans, of Princeton, represented the applicant, High Point Development, LLC.
The property is approximately 12.8 acres, it is a mixed use zoning district and there are seven commercial buildings on the property.
“If the approvals that we are going to talk about tonight are granted, those structures and those related improvements will be demolished and/or removed,” he said. “The applicant is the contact purchaser of the premises and is proceeding tonight with the consent of the owner.”
High Point Development, LLC is seeking preliminary and final subdivision approval to divide the 12.8 acres into 54 residential lots ranging in size from 3,287 square feet to 5,087 square feet. Townhouses will be constructed on those lots and there will an open space lot of approximately 4.2 acres, according to Mr. Petrino.
“There will be two entrances from Old Cranbury Road and an entrance from South Main Street,” he said.
There is also a 3.5-acre lot on which there will be a retail building constructed, he added.
“We are also asking for preliminary site plan approval for phases one and two,” he said. “The community phase one will consist of the 54, two-story market rate townhouses will be built.” He said these will have garages and will be accessed from the internal roadway system.
“There will be 108 off-street parking spaces, 37 on street parking spaces, an open space parking area,” he said.
Mr. Petrino said Phase Two will be the retail section, which will have a 12,000-square-foot pharmacy with a drive-through, a 5,000-square-foot bank with three drive-through lanes, and a 12,250-square-foot building with multiple tenants on the first floor and 12 apartment units on the second floor.
“Of the 12 (apartments), seven will be available for low and moderate income families,” he said. “There will be an outdoor space for use of the retail tenants including the plaza area.” He said there will be 126 surfaced parking lot areas.
“In between the two components of the development there is a walkway system, a sidewalk, that interconnects,” he said.
Mr. Petrino said the company is looking for final site approval for the structure and improvements in Phase One to the extent necessary that it is required variances, submission waivers, design exceptions to subdivide and develop the property.
“There are no variances,” he said. “There is one minor submission waiver that the engineer will talk about and I think there is one minor design exception.”
Also attending the hearing with Mr. Petrino was the company’s civil engineer, Sean Delany; landscape architect Peggy Steinhauser of Bowman Consulting; architect Robert Zampolin of Zampolin & Associates Architects; and traffic engineer Jay Troutman of McDonough & Rea Associates.
Paul Schneier, managing member of High Point Development LLC, was called as a witness to talk about the planning process and to speak on why the project is not proceeding as a condominium project.
“This application is a culmination of a process that started for us over a year and a half ago,” Mr. Schneier said. “During which time we were able to sign contracts to purchase the three parcels of land which make up this tract.”
He said they spent time with the Hagertys in their home.
“We walked the warehouse property and we engaged the Christian people in order to get these parcels into contract,” he said. “Part of the process is studying the town, investigating the site, reviewing the master plan, and then once we were into contract doing our due diligence we looked at environmental issues, demolition issues. Everything related to developing this site.”
He said also part of this process was putting together a team of experts for the site to help develop an architectural plan and site plans that would be consistent with the master plan and suit the needs of the town.
“After we put together the initial round of architectural and site plans, we meet with the town officials and there was a collective decision that this might be a site right for a redevelopment plan,” he said, adding a redevelopment plan gives the town more control over what is being developed.
Once having decided to do the redevelopment plan we engaged in a number of meetings with the sub-committee, township’s officials and the public, he added.
The first expert witness called to testify was Mr. Delany, senior project manager at Bowman Consulting in its Freehold Office. He was asked to go over the exhibits first and then some concerns raised by the professionals and community leaders.
Mr. Petrino asked him if he prepared or supervise the preparation of the plans to which they were discussing that evening to which he responded “yes.”
Mr. Delany spent the next few minutes going over the property as he pointed to the roadways that adjoin the site, recreation facilities and businesses within proximity of the site, buildings on the site, undeveloped areas and more.
Planning Board member Art Hasslebach questioned how big the basements in each building were going to be.
“One concern I have about the basements themselves is because in other neighboring towns people are coming in with an extended family they are turning it to a living quarters without emergency exits and so on it does create a safety hazard,” he said.
Also included with Phase One is some right-of-way widening along Old Trenton Road.
Issues were raised over placement of the exiting driveways and glare from cars into the adjoining properties, pedestrian crossings, type of light fixtures and how they would be installed, amount of lighting, whether the sanitary system could be a private system, drain pipes, soil disturbance and the amount of soil being removed, sidewalks, easements, dedication of roads, access, emergency access, parking situations, and much more.
Mr. Delaney said they don’t know what the final mixed use will be to response to one of the engineer’s concerns raised in the memo. He addressed a questioned raised by the engineer regarding sidewalks being proposed on both sides of the street.
“We are proposing as I mentioned only on the eastern half on the western leg of Road B for access through the property,” he said. “The reason being the determination was one we didn’t want to have to put the sidewalk along any of the driveways through the site. If we start putting in sidewalks there is not a lot of room for the vehicles and we would have to move the buildings close to the right-of-way lines and we felt that was a disadvantage for what we were trying to accomplish at this location.”
Township Board engineer David Hoder of Hoder Associates said that in regards to sidewalks the ordinance requires sidewalks on both sides of the street.
Mr. Delany said they would revise the plan to address the spacing and locations of the hydrants to meet the specifics they requested and submit back to them for their final review and comments.
Testimony and comments and questions from the Planning Board professionals and members continued through the evening with no vote.
Land Use Administration Planning/Zoning Secretary Josette Kratz said in an email on Monday that after three hours on Dec. 15, a vote was taken and the Planning Board passed the application at 11 p.m.