BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Mayor Matthew Moench has announced that Bridgewater Township will not be renewing its membership with the Somerset County Business Partnership, and will no longer be an active participant in the organization's activities, according to a release.

This is being done, the release said, in direct response to the partnership's support for the Center of Excellence project.

"Bridgewater is a vibrant place that attracts many people and businesses wanting to become a part of our community," Moench said in a letter to SCBP president Michael Kerwin. "We are thankful that this is the case, however, periodically there are projects that can become problematic."

Sign Up for Bridgewater/Raritan Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

"The current leadership of the partnership seemed to be more interested in assisting a development company's interests than the legitimate concerns of our residents and taxpayers who will live with the significant increase in traffic on roads that are already overburdened," he added. "The partnership's board may believe such actions are in the interests of their membership, but Bridgewater taxpayers do not need to fund it."

Council president Howard Norgalis said in a statement that Bridgewater Township has been a proud member of the partnership for many years, and participated in many of the successes achieved by the partnership.

"However, over the past several years, our objectives have diverged especially over the partnership's strident support of the Center of Excellence development," he said in the statement. "As proposed, this project is far too large for the site and was inconsistent with the town council's development goals for that location. We have pleaded to partnership leadership to 'dial back' their support for COE, but our protests seemed to only strengthen their support of the project."

Council vice president Filipe Pedroso agreed in a statement.

"Unfortunately, the Somerset County Business Partnership has decided to try to force a development project on the residents of Bridgewater that we absolutely do not want," he said. "We want to preserve the character of the town we love."

The Center of Excellence application was approved by the planning board in December. It was approved for 400 residential units, a boulevard of shops and restaurants, a grocery store and a hotel.

The next steps in the project are for it to be memorialized by the planning board before the township council will need to consider whether to approve a redevelopment agreement that is a necessary condition of the planning board's approval.