CRANFORD, NJ – The Cranford Township Committee assured residents that their unanimous approval of the redevelopment plan for 215-235 Birchwood Avenue was the best possible outcome during Tuesday night’s meeting.
The Birchwood property was intended for 360 units and a parking garage, but was reduced to 225 units with ground-level parking after the township sold the property in July.
“Keep in mind that the township committee tried to make the best of a situation that no one in the community was really comfortable with,” Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr. said. “This is what we’ve come up with to try to do our best on your behalf to mitigate some of those situations that we aren’t comfortable with.”
Prior to the approval, Michael Mistretta, a planning consultant for Harbor Consultants, Inc., presented the plan to the committee and audience, who questioned traffic, flood control and the proximity to Wadsworth Terrace, which sits against the rear perimeter of the property.
“We’re essentially passing a redevelopment plan that will establish the zoning, density and bulk requirements for the development,” Mistretta said. “Items like lighting, engineering, flood storage, landscaping, etc. will be done in the site plan stage. None of that has been taken into consideration.”
Multiple residents questioned the possibility of moving the apartment buildings closer to Birchwood Avenue itself, increasing the distance between the development and Wadsworth Terrace, which is currently 175 feet.
“When we met with the fire officials, they said it was important that they can get all the way around the buildings,” Mistretta said.
He also said that a decision to push the buildings forward would have to be done through an amendment on the ordinance.
Traffic concerns were addressed by Commissioner Ann Dooley, who cited her displeasure with the approval of a Wawa and 7-Eleven on North Avenue due to traffic concerns.
“I personally was opposed to Wawa and 7-Eleven on North Avenue because of the traffic concerns, keeping in mind that this particular project was going to happen one way or another,” Dooley said. “Unfortunately, they were approved. But we need to see it as an integrative whole. I understand your concern here and I think it’s a real tough situation. We may not be able to alleviate it easily and it may be worse than we want it to be. Traffic lights might be the solution.”
The application will go before the planning board to conduct a site plan review
“We’re just at the beginning of this phase,” Commissioner Mary O’Connor reminded residents. “Stay involved, be part of the process. Your voices are what we need to hear because we have our perspective and we need you to be part of the process. That’s the best way for it to work.”
For more information about the Birchwood project, click here.