SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Middlesex County Court continued the  open hearing about developing new townhouses off of Route 1 and Independence Way. K.Hovnanian, the building company hoping to design and build affordable homes in South Brunswick, were able to call expert witnesses to discuss the validity of the new project. Lawyers representing the Township and the Planning Board were able to cross-examine. Members of the community were present during the hearing and were encouraged to question the expert witnesses about their concerns. 

            In attendance on behalf of the community was Azra Baig, a member of the Board of Education attending as a citizen, Saba Irfan-Shamsi, a former scientist, and Dave Shultz retired IT specialists for Chubb Insurance. On a bus ride to the hearing, they voiced their concerns about the new development to TAPinto South Brunswick. Topics ranged from concerns over the traffic that the new site will cause, schooling and bussing, and stunting economic growth.

            “It is a very dangerous freeway, and to add all of these units is just going to add to the traffic and congest the area.” Azra Baig said.  “This is simply poor planning, in a space that could be utilized for farmers and more opportunities to expand the job market in South Brunswick.”

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            Experts called to testify on behalf of the builders included John Rea, a traffic engineer for the state who issued a Traffic Impact Analysis Report for the new construction site in February 2019. According to his initial report, the project would have a minimal impact on the traffic flow that occurs on Independence Way, however his report failed to incorporate the traffic that would be added to Ridge Road. Rea was also unable to provide information on whether the new development would be able to set a limit on the vehicles per household or where proper pickups for public transportation and schools would be.

Another expert called upon was Art Bernard, a manager and consultant for the new development who served on the Council of Affordable Housing in New Jersey. Mr. Bernards says that the new development will meet the standards of ‘Site Suitability’ by having access to clean running water, electric and gas, as well as being accessible by local roads and no environmental constraints.

Concerns were raised by lawyers representing the township, as well as a lawyer who represents a neighboring development, about the lack of recreational space in the new development that would lead to increased traffic leaving the area and children wandering off of the premises. Mr. Bernard assured in a prior testimony that residents would simply be able to walk or drive to a nearby recreational site. When asked where that would be, Mr. Bernard said that he did not know what the nearest recreational site was in that area. Concerns were also brought up about the amount of pets this new site would bring in and the amount of children.

            Also in attendance was Lisa Rodgers, a resident of South Brunswick who is a former employee of American Express. Rodgers started an online petition on Change.org to stop the development of the new townhouses. She expressed that South Brunswick should have affordable housing, but it should not be done by developers that want to rewrite the zoning of the area and turn that area into a residential space when it is designated as an office/research zone.

            “My concern is the danger of this area, and for a builder to come in and demand that we change the zoning to from OR to residential is inappropriate.” Rodgers said.  “I understand that the state is requiring us to do affordable housing, I have no issue with that. The issue I have is when a builder comes in and feel that they don’t need to work with the Township and can do whatever they want. That sets a bad precedent.”

The hearing did not result in a final conclusion on the matters at hand, the next open hearing is scheduled for January 16, 2020.