Overflow Attendance Results In Postponement Of Zoning Board Hearing On Summerhill Road Development

A nearly full house at the proposed Zoning Board hearing nearly 20 minutes before the event was scheduled to start. The event got postponed due to the overflow attendance. Credits: Rob Rakossy

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ-- The effort to move forward with the redevelopment of the property near Frost Woods suffered a delay on Thursday night June 7, as a planned meeting of the East Brunswick Zoning Board was forced to be cancelled and rescheduled to July 16.  The intended meeting was held at the Memorial School cafetorium, a location expressly selected due to Township expectations of a large turnout from the public who wished to voice their opinions related to the plans to develop the property as a mixed-use building. 

Zoning board attorney Alexander Fisher announced shortly after the intended start of the meeting at 8:00 PM that per the fire department, attendance inside the cafetorium exceeded the permitted maximum number of people in the venue, and in addition there were at least 50 more people waiting on line who were unable to come into the room.  Due to the rules governing the Open Public Meetings Act, the meeting could not continue, and Fisher announced that the meeting would be postponed and rescheduled for July 16 at 8:00 PM at a larger venue, the Auditorium at East Brunswick High School, located at 380 Cranbury Road.

The announcement was met with an enormous reaction from those in attendance, the majority of whom voiced their displeasure at the postponement.  Many were shouting that the postponement was intentional, done with the intent of preventing the public having their feelings heard about the planned development.

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After the postponement, many of the attendees grouped together in front of the entrance of the school to voice their frustrations.  Cathy Decker, who with her husband has spearheaded the grass roots effort called, intended to protect the Frost Woods park (an area which will be impacted by the planned development) felt that the postponement would give them more time to organize and get more people aware of the need to show up and make their feelings known.  The Deckers also introduced the group’s new pro-bono attorney, Thomas Barlow, a partner at the firm Lombardi and Lombardi of Edison. Barlow also addressed the people outside the school, asking them to remain respectful of the Board members, all of whom are volunteers. Barlow emphasized the need to remain calm and refrain from the heckling and shouting from the audience during the postponement announcement. He also reiterated the Deckers call for more residents to attend the July 16 meeting, emphasizing that the officials, lawyers, and prospective owners are hearing the public’s call for a fresh look at the proposed site. 

The postponement came on the heels of another hearing held last night of the Middlesex Count Board of Chosen Freeholders.  That hearing, taking place at 75 Bayard Street in New Brunswick, was attended by many people from Spotswood, who demanded that the Freeholders review the traffic strains that will be left in their borough by way of the additional congestion of Summerhill Road, which is a county road and maintained by Middlesex County.  The Freeholders elected not to respond at present, feeling that it is premature to react until all plans are finalized.  Among the attendees of this meeting were Spotswood Mayor Ed Seely, and Council member Curt Stollen.  Seely and Stollen then arrived at Memorial School, joining the crowd outside to update them on the Freeholder meeting.

The proposed development, located at 377 Summerhill Road at the intersection of Summerhill and Old Stage Road, is now owned by HD Summerhill, LLC. The owner/applicant is seeking approvals for the construction of three (4) story mixed-use buildings. The proposal includes trimming back part of the Frost Woods park, and as proposed, will build a bank pad, a CVS, and over 100 apartments. Up to 20 percent of the residences will be built to support compliance with the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) requirements, originally required to be met by December of 2016. 

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