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Township Threatens to Intervene With Road Repair in Development

Matthew Hersh

The Township Committee gave Pulte Homes, the developer of land off Cherry Valley Road, until the end of the week to provide "significant" improvement to ongoing road construction originally scheduled to be completed by October 31.

Township Engineer Robert Kiser said that Pulte Homes, the developer of the 71 residences that make up Fieldwood Manors, had provided bonds in excess of $1.6 million to guarantee the construction and timeline of construction.

Mr. Kiser recommended that the committee pull the bond to allow the Township to bring in its own contractor to winterize the roads if they cannot be completed while weather permits. Winterization tactics preserve the roads current state throughout the colder months when road paving cannot occur.

The temperature requirement for roadwork is 40 degrees Fahrenheit and rising. Cold weather during the past several days has caused alarm for both the Township and members of Fieldwood Manors Homeowners Association (FMHA) as to whether road work will be completed this year.

The engineering department wrote a memo to Township Administrator James Pascale delineating actions taken by Pulte Homes since September 30, when the developer met with the Township and FMHA to discuss paving plans. The memo stated that while an October 31 completion date was established, workers did not appear on site until October 30. Pulte Homes said that weather played a significant factor in those delays.

Mr. Kiser said that despite calls from the Township to install crews of six at the site, Pulte had installed "skeleton crews," and as of Monday, no road repair work had commenced. James Mullen, in-house attorney for Pulte Homes, said that strict building codes and requirements implemented by the Township have added to the delays. Specifically, the "extraordinary repair [enforced in the Township] to water valves that most towns in the state do not require," he said.

Mr. Mullen said that while it is difficult to get contractors to comply with the stiff requirements, Pulte has "no intention to step aside from this obligation."

Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand took issue with Mr. Mullen's citation of demanding building requirements as part of the reason for the delay.

"If people want to live in a good community, the builder has to comply with stringent rules and requirements," she said. "That's what makes [Princeton's] environment better."

Mr. Mullen said that Pulte's own engineer went to the development under the requirements imposed by the Township. He said the conclusion was that approximately half of the work required on the piping system "didn't need to be done."

He added that Pulte Homes assumed responsibility for damage to pipes along Cherry Valley Road done by previous paving contractors enlisted by the Township .

"There are a lot of things that took place that made it very difficult to meet those standards," he said.

Mr. Mullen said also that Pulte's contractor had other commitments that delayed the process. Why did Pulte agree to terms imposed by the Township if such obvious obstacles were to stand in the way? Mr. Kiser said the developer and contractor needed to communicate better because the "Township standards were clearly shown on the [construction] plans." He added that the contractor Pulte selected was overcommitted and did not have the resources required to complete the job within the Township's timeline.

If Pulte does not appear to have made "significant" progress by Friday, the Township Engineering Department will be authorized to act on Pulte Home's bond and cash performance guaranties. If this occurs, the Township will treat the roads for the winter season, enlist its own contractor, and resume road repair in spring.

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