EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The proposed construction of a multi-use set of buildings at the corner of Summerhill Road and Old Stage Road has residents in the southern end of the township in an uproar. The construction, located at a a busy intersection that East Brunswick shares with Spotswood, is the designated site for 3 4-story residential buildings; a bank; a club house; 291 parking spaces, and a CVS. (Note: There are 259 parking spaces there now.) The residential buildings, which would be the tallest structures at that end of town, would house 120 apartments with 24 of them designated as "affordable housing," in compliance with the township's affordable housing plan settlement by the court-imposed deadline of December, 2016.
The property at 377 Summerhill Road was sold by developer Mack-Cali to HD Summerhill LLC of Montville, NJ on September 11, 2017 for $3,700,000, though the assessed value of the property is $1,210,000, according to njparcels.com. The corner building has housed the Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company. The building and the large parking lot that adjoins it cover 10.32 acres in the township. The lot is adjacent to Frost Woods, which claims 2.4 miles of wooded trails that serve as the "backyard" for residents in that section of East Brunswick.
On November 16, 2016, Planning Board Member Howard Schmidt expressed concern about developing the property: "I know how difficult that intersection is. It borders an adjacent community. It's patrolled by 2 police departments, and I've seen a lot of accidents at that intersection over many years." He went on to discuss the "stacking" (backup of cars) at the location several times a day. He doubted that the intersection could handle the cars exiting and entering from a large-volume residential unit, calling the idea "a disaster."
His point, at the time, was countered by Greg Potkulski, director of East Brunswick's Zoning Department, who envisioned the location as a "a daycare center with maybe some townhouses." However, members of the Planning Board were concerned about the Council on Affordable Housing litigation (COAH) that has been impacting many towns in New Jersey and East Brunswick's compliance. In 2016, it seems there was no specific direction for the use of the property.
As a result of the COAH settlement, East Brunswick was required to provide 315 additional units of affordable housing in 2016 according to the COAH. Current planning projects that 115 of those units would be made available in the Redevelopment Zone in the north end of town near Lawrence Brook and the New Jersey Turnpike. 200 units would then be spread evenly throughout East Brunswick, with 24 of them at this location.
Last week, East Brunswick residents within 200 feet of the site received a letter regarding the Zoning Board's scheduled vote on the use of the site as both a residential and commercial location. Additional variance requests refer to signage and landscaping, but the variance to allow the high-capacity housing and the height of the new buildings is driving the most concern among locals in both East Brunswick and Spotswood.
At 8:00 pm on May 17 at the East Brunswick Municipal Building, the East Brunswick Zoning Board will vote on whether or not to allow a "D" variance to the developer of this property so that the 4-story apartments could be built. A “D” variance is a request to use property in a way contrary to the township's zoning plan. At least five members of the Zoning Board must vote affirmative for a "D" variance to be granted.
Local resident Kerri Fitzpatrick has even started a webpage to encourage residents of to attend the meeting.
In an interview with TAPinto East Brunswick, Fitzpatrick encouraged East Brunswick residents to "protect their investment" in their neighborhood. "You are diminishing the value of East Brunswick, the reason we all chose to live here," she said to her neighbors and other residents of East Brunswick. Fitzpatrick was most concerned about the loss of a sense of community, the impact on property values in the neighborhood, and the encroachment on Frost Woods, which she sees as a "special place" in the township. "What does this bring to our neighborhood? An overload at Frost school, a third East Brunswick CVS, and more traffic?" she asked.
"Frost Woods is not a park. It's a different experience," said Fitzpatrick, who runs a public relations company in New York City. "There are lots of neighborhood entrances that students use to get to school and people use to get some quiet space."
TAPinto East Brunswick contacted the township administration who does not wish to be perceived as influencing the Zoning Board. Mayor Cohen encourages citizens to voice their concerns at the May 17 meeting which is open to the public. TAP has also tried to contact HD Summerhill LLC and was directed to a FAX line. A call and an e-mail have been placed to Mack-Cali regarding this property.