BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Planning Board granted a request for extension of approvals Sept. 24 in the case of the Eden Wood Realty redevelopment of the former Weyerhauser property, fronting on East Main Street and Radel Avenue.
“This is an affordable housing inclusionary project,” said applicant attorney Francis Linnus of the more than 200 residential units projected to be built on the site.
The planning board had originally approved the redevelopment of the property in September 2016. The proposed 220-unit complex would consist of 44 affordable units and 176 market units, with the latter including a minimum of 88 one-bedroom units.
Linnus added that he had worked with Bridgewater Township Planner Scarlett Doyle and township engineer David Battaglia to complete the resolution compliance. He also said that Eden Wood had had its own individual on the site over the past two years, who said that work on the infrastructure could still begin in lieu of environmental conditions.
In a letter to the board in August, the extension was requested for approvals granted for variances and design waivers together with an extension of the site plan approval until Oct. 11, 2019.
Bridgewater councilman Howard Norgalis, who serves on the planning board, asked about three locations on the site that he said still had to be freed up. Linnus replied that those locations would probably take a few months to resolve.
Linnus added that they wouldn’t stop infrastructure construction, and also wouldn’t hold up compliance with the resolution. Instead, he said, Treatment Works Approval is what is holding it up, with regard to the construction and operation of domestic wastewater collection and similar work to protect the water while the site is cleaned up.
Bridgewater resident John Kulak, whose property abuts the site, spoke during the public portion of the application, and explained that he was concerned about environmental issues he said had gone unresolved, particularly that of contaminated soil on the property. He also said that it had been a wet summer, with a lot of soil having been trucked off the site, and he wanted to know if water that drained down the slope was still being tested, ostensibly for contamination.
Linnus gave Kulak the name of the project manager, which he did not reveal publicly. Kulak reiterated that he had ongoing concerns, but planning board chair Ron Charles said he didn’t believe it was necessarily a board matter, and that Kulak should discuss matters with the project manager.
If that did not yield fruit, Charles said, Kulak contact Bridgewater Township Administrator James Naples.
Kulak cited the approvals that had been made, and Charles said that the town now bore the responsibility. Charles also said that if the state was involved, which the town engineer had also mentioned, then Naples could provide assistance.
Kulak also pointed out the inclusion of a school bus stop in the vicinity, which would actually be accessed through the new living complex, and stated that the stop was not part of the original plan or of a public hearing. Planning board member James Franco said he believed there had been a public hearing, and that the bus stop had been part of the application.
Kulak said, however, that there had been a change, including establishing a pedestrian gate to access the bus.
Doyle said that if it had been a condition of approval, then it would have been done by the board. She added that her report on the site would have identified the conditions, and that she herself also had no authority to unilaterally approve them.
Kulak said he appreciated that, but added that the planner’s report featured technical language that might not be understood by the general public. He also thought the bus stop had been a new change, along with the pedestrian gate.
Doyle said a letter from the Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education would have been required of the applicant with the inclusion of a public school bus stop, and she believed that condition had been satisfied. She also believed the school board would not entertain taking a public school bus through what was a private residential complex.
Kulak said there would be 132 multi-bedroom units in the complex, which he said would result in more school children and more school buses.
“I’m concerned how the buses will be managed,” he said.
Charles said assuming there would necessarily be more school children because of the complex was presumptuous, and added that calculations on that matter had been performed.
“Until there is some evidence, there really isn’t much (for the board) to do,” said Charles.
Norgalis added that school children would have to be bused, and that it wouldn’t impact the project, a private complex, in providing access to Radel Avenue.
“It’s safer than to have (a stop) on an interior street,” said Norgalis.
Linnus said his client had indeed gone to the school board.
“We do have their approval,” he said.
Norgalis later said he would like to see a copy of the school board’s letter.
Kulak also said he worried about dust control, what with the demolition that would be required on the site, and hoped it would be “safe dust,” as he termed it. He also had concerns about wind gusts carrying dust along, and asked if there were any requirements regarding dust control.
Charles said there is a state requirement that is on the developer, and he also suggested that Kulak contact the state’s Environmental Protection Commission at its toll-free phone number.
“My house is covered with dust,” Kulak said. “There’s dust all over the place.”
A motion was made by Franco, seconded by Norgalis, to approve a one-year extension for the approvals, with a time protection against any ordinance changes. The board then voted unanimously to approve the extension.
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