Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 49
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
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New Westerly Road Church Designs Get Planning Board, Neighbors’ Input

Dilshanie Perera

New designs for the future of the current 5-acre Westerly Road Church site were shared with the Planning Board last Thursday. Neighborhood residents expressed concern that the development has the potential to increase flooding in the area, while board members generally agreed that they liked the new concept plan, but would have preferred that more affordable housing be incorporated at the site.

Planning Director Lee Solow explained that Westerly Road Church representatives had presented a concept plan in April involving a 10-lot subdivision that would replace the existing church and parking lot, with Board members challenging them to bring back a more creative proposal.

The new design involves 13 lots, with five homes fronting on Westerly Road, and eight located on a newly created cul-de-sac off of Mountain Avenue.

The church’s Relocation Project Manager Ed Nyce remarked that the proposal is directly tied to moving the church to an 18.5-acre property on Bunn Drive, and the success of that application. “The future development and buildout won’t happen until after our move, hopefully in 2012,” he said.

In April, Mr. Nyce explained to the Planning Board that the Church’s congregation had grown in the past decades and that the current site is too small to meet their needs, hence the decision to move.

Mr. Solow cautioned that prior to work commencing, the current project’s approvals and variances would have to be granted by various entities, including the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

With a proposed density of 2.6 dwelling units per acre, the site would involve “slightly less impervious surface” than it has now, according to Mr. Solow, who added that “by removing various activities and by building nine homes, there will be less traffic.”

Placement of the homes on the site, the possibility of affordable housing, and determining whether the cul-de-sac should be a public or private road should be closely considered, Mr. Solow said.

Mr. Nyce acknowledged that the proximity of the homes and the new road with minimal traffic were part of the “goal of creating a neighborhood.” The entrance of the cul-de-sac would be directly opposite Glen Drive.

Emphasizing that Westerly Road Church would not be the site’s developer, Mr. Nyce explained that upon approval of the site plan, the lots would be sold either individually or as a whole.

Planning Board member and Township Mayor Bernie Miller encouraged Westerly Road Church representatives to “continue to refine the concept,” noting that he liked the idea of including size restrictions on the houses and maintaining neighborhood consistency.

Neighbors on Westerly Road worried about the potential for disturbances to the area that may cause increased flooding, environmental degradation, and increased traffic.

After three residents pointed out the “substantial flooding” that occurs in the neighborhood after it rains, Township Engineer Bob Kiser noted that the Township Stormwater Ordinance requires that when a site is developed, no more water come off the site than in the present conditions.

“This strikes me as an appropriate project for the neighborhood,” Planning Board member Gail Ullman noted. “The current impervious coverage is 65,000 square feet, and the proposal is 42,000 square feet, which should have some mitigating effect on the water flowing downhill.”

Planning Board member Yina Moore suggested that the density of units on the site could have been greater to accommodate more housing, including affordable housing. “Attention to social issues is missing from the proposal,” she said.

“Whenever we are in a position to add a more affordable home, we should,” said Planning Board and Township Committee member Lance Liverman, who added that he sees the plan as “favorable, compared to other things that could occur.”

Board member Wanda Gunning also expressed disappointment that at least one affordable unit hadn’t been included in the concept plan.

“The minimum they have to do is pay the affordable housing fee,” Mr. Solow noted.

“This is a fairly creative solution,” Board Chair Peter Madison acknowledged. “Does it go far enough? Perhaps not.”

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