BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The Bernards Planning Board began its once-a-decade review of the township Master Plan and development regulations this week, starting with an overview of local planning as it now exists, and also where exceptions have been made for state-ordered affordable housing and the creation of a Golf Heritage Zone. 

The newer housing and golf heritage zones "should be reflected in the land use plan," the board's Planner, David Banisch, said near the beginning of his presentation at Tuesday's public meeting.

Planning Board members also should include a statement of goals and objectives that can be included in passage of an updated Master Plan, which was last revised in 2010, Banisch said.

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'The character of the community we live in'

"Ultimately, it [the Master Plan] translates into the character of the community we live in," Banisch told board members.

Board members set a deadline of completing a re-examination of the existing Master Plan and development regulations by April 2020.

The next discussion on the re-examination is scheduled to come up at the next Planning Board meeting on April 16.

Planning Board Chair Katherine "Kippy" noted that the board must fit in its re-examination with other matters to be considered. The board is awaiting an application for 280 housing units off Mountainview Boulevard that would include 62 units of state-mandated housing for low- to moderate-income residents. 

In New Jersey, towns are supposed to conduct a re-examination process to consider potential revisions to the Master Plan and local development regulations once every ten years, said Jonathan Drill, the Planning Board's attorney.

The last time the Planning Board conducted a re-examination was in 2008, in preparation for the last Master Plan update in 2010, Drill said.

Planning Board to approve Master Plan updates, development regulation changes go to Township Committee

Following the meeting, Drill said that the Planning Board ultimately will be responsible for approving the newest Master Plan, which is built on the foundation of earlier municipal Master Plans.

However, the Bernards Township Committee must eventually give final approval to updated development regulations governing the township, Drill said.

During Tuesday's meeting, Banisch summarized some of the "elements" of the Master Plan, including those recognizing educational and historic site locations, environmental sustainability (which he said had been added to the 2010 Master Plan), preserved lands, roadways, and more. 

"These are all the real quality of life amenities in the township," he noted.

Piedici said she would allow public comment following each public discussion of the re-examination as it progresses, even though the board is not required to hold public comment sessions until unveiling actual proposals for any revisions.

The Mountainview Boulevard rezoning to allow for multi-family housing near the Basking Ridge Sloan Kettering center is one of the zoning changes that was not included in the previous Master Plan. The rezoning for the plan proposed by SJP Properties was approved last summer by a 3-2 vote by the Township Committee. 

Two other affordable housing projects, one to replace the former A&P Supermarket at Dewy Meadow Village shopping center off King George Road, and the other an expansion of the nearby Crown Court housing complex, already have been approved by the Planning Board. 

The Dewy Meadow project, 198 housing units, with 15 percent to be set aside as affordable housing, was given final Planning Board approval on March 5, but the approval must still be memorialized, according to the Planning Board office. 

The Crown Court expansion, with 24 units that would include four units for low- to moderate-income  residents' housing, was approved late last year.

The Township Committee moved in 2015 to approve a Golf Heritage Zone for the "unique" US Golf Association museum and national headquarters off Liberty Corner Road. 

The USGA is currently seeking an expansion of that zone in a request before the Township Committee after purchasing additional adjoining property, and has been asked to provide a more detailed plan in the near future.