Planning board approves new hotel​; ​some ​local neighbors ​cite traffic concerns

Overhead view of the hotel Credits: Daniel J. Munoz

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city planning board voted 9-0 to approve plans for a 109-unit,​ four​-story hotel at the jughandle connecting Route 1 and Route 18 north.

The move came at the board’s November 13 meeting, after close to two hours of testimony from the hotel’s developer, Highview Hospitality NB, LLC, as well as residents in the nearby Rutgers Village, who were opposed to the hotel.

Developers from the Red Bank-based firm plan to construct a Home2 Suites by Hilton at the 1.76 acre property, which according to property records, is owned by the Edison-based Thasos Island Realty/Leontarakis as of 2017.

Sign Up for E-News

The developers' legal counsel consists of Thomas Kelso, who also serves as Middlesex County's legal counsel. 

The hotel will include a lobby, indoor pool, patio, breakfast area, fitness room, outdoor lounge space and 109 parking spaces, according to company representatives. There will also be a beacon with a light on top of it, which will glow dimly from a ​top​ the hotel.

The developers will enter into a 20​-​year franchise agreement with Hilton, meaning the hotel giant expects to get 20 years worth of revenue from the site.

“Hilton previewed the site and we ran our own independent study for the site, so we determined it to be very profitable,” said Mitchell Heisler of Highview Homes, LLC, which will manage the property.

“They’re pretty strict about maintaining their brand, we are subject to regular inspection, periodic property improvement regimes," Heisler said.

If the contract is cut before the 20-​year period is up, Hilton will go after whoever owns the property and attempt to recoup the revenue which would have been generated in the remaining years, according to Heisler.

Opposition to the hotel came from nearby Rutgers Village residents, who said they worried this project would add to traffic woes.

“We’re the ones who will be most adversely affected by this hotel;​ it’s a nightmare,” said longtime Rutgers Village resident Marie Tasy, referring to traffic on Route 1​ and ​Route 18.

“We also have the carwash, it is so dangerous,” Tasy added. “We have people come off Route 1, we have people coming out of the Tiger Mart, and people do go really fast.”

Michael Rodriguez, the project’s engineer, maintained that the posted speed limit at that ramp is 20 miles per hour, which should be safe enough for people to enter and exit the hotel​. He did​ admit that ​some will drive faster.

Neighboring the lot are an Exxon gas station and Tiger Mart convenience store, the Dipyourz auto body shop and Trax Car Wash.

Also in the neighborhood will be a Red Carpet Inn and Motel 6 New Brunswick on Route 1, as well as a Hilton East Brunswick and Holiday Inn Express, both of which tower over Route 18 and the NJ Turnpike.

Elizabeth Dolan, the project’s traffic consultant, said that the hotel would generate 58 car trips in an hour, entering and exiting the hotel, a relatively “benign” impact on traffic.

“WaWa’s, QuickChek’s, 7-Eleven’s, other types of convenience uses, offices and medical offices, would generate comparable activity to the proposed hotel,” Dolan said. “But any of those quick serve or fast food places would certainly generate well in excess of over 100 trips an hour.”

The Bennigan’s​ r​estaurant, which now sits abandoned on the property, generated twice as much traffic during peak hours, according to Dolan.

“This is a well-designed site and will not lead to what is in the code ‘hesitation on the state highway,’ that is something the DOT does not want,” Dolan said. “This design will keep cars moving.”

Still, other residents remained unconvinced.

“We’re going with the assumption that the C5 was a good decision when it was made,” said longtime Rutgers Village resident Robert Gerling. C5 refers to commercial properties on highways, such as ​the enterprises found on Route 1 and Route 18.

“I think it was a terrible decision when it was made, and putting anything in that area right now is going to be a tremendous traffic disaster,” Gerling added.

Traffic coming out of the hotel primarily ​will ​be commuters ​to large ​New Brunswick ​entities, such as Rutgers and Johnson & Johnson, Gerlin​g​ contended, meaning ​these motorists​ would get caught up in rush hour traffic.

The Bennigan’s ​restaurant, Gerling contended, didn't bring in traffic at peak hours, so the traffic wouldn't be nearly as much as the hotel.

“If any of you have children who live in the village, or are of driving age, God bless you and God help you,” Gerlin​g​ said.

The board was unable to consider implications for traffic and the surrounding neighborhood​ because​ it had no authorization to do so.

“As a planning board, you cannot take into consideration whether its use is appropriate or inappropriate for the site, because the use itself is a permitted use,” board attorney Aravind Aithal told its members.

Board member David Fitzhenry, before the vote, voiced his agreement that traffic implications were beyond the scope of what the board could consider.

“It’s frustrating when you’re sitting here as board members,” Fitzhenry said. “You’re not allowed to think outside of the initial application, to go beyond that application, to ​the impact it would have ​in ​the immediate area.”

If the applicant has proven their case that all zoning standards are met ​and​ why they should be granted exceptions to those standards, Fitzhenry said, then the board ​typically ​doesn’t have any choice​ but to approve.​

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - March 23, 2018


TRENTON - It's good to live in a state where the NRA is about as reviled as the act of putting peanut butter on a bagel. That's why we aren't worried about a NRA "alert" to members, urging them to contact Assembly members to vote "No" on a host of bills up Monday in Trenton. That includes sensible legislation that ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 22, 2018


STATEWIDE - It's been excruciating to write about snow; there's only so much you can blindly repeat without sounding like a 24-hour news channel. The final totals: 14 inches in the central and southern part of the state, and at least 5 inches in all northern counties. Yippee.  As of 6 a.m. this morning, the utility companies were ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 21, 2018


STATEWIDE - Utility companies are dragging themselves back into the war room this morning, preparing for another day of downed wires, public scorn and mounting pressure from the governor's office to magically keep all the lights on. One would assume the utilities are still trying to patch up fragile networks from the back-to-back nor'easters that ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 20, 2018


NEW BRUNSWICK - The governor has targeted The Hub City as the new hub for innovation and technology. Gov. Phil Murphy was in town yesterday to meet with city, business and Rutgers officials to chat about how all the ongoing downtown investment will be a magnet for scientific and technological innovation, TAPInto New Brunswick reports. The ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 19, 2018


TRENTON - New Jersey, one of the only employers who pays its workers for unused sick time, and then appears mystified when it struggles to balance its budget, may finally be capping sick-leave payouts.  The proposal, obviously unpopular with labor unions, has been discussed before, but not with traction. It is back in the mix again, to cap payouts ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 16, 2018


ON THE RAILS - Another commuting mess this morning, as the antiquated Portal Bridge got stuck in the "up" position at 4:22 a.m.  That caused a bunch of rush hour trains to be cancelled between Newark and Manhattan for four hours or so.  Both NJTransit and Amtrak riders were completely screwed. You may recall the proposed Gateway ...

Rutgers to close for Wednesday storm

March 20, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - With the likelihood of more than a foot of snow set to dump on New Jersey, Rutgers University President Robert Barchi has declared a weather emergency closure for all three campuses: New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden.

School will be closed for students and all non-essential employees from 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 21 to 5 a.m. Thursday, March 22.

Rutgers Student on Front Lines of Orangutan Conservation, Research

NEW BRUNSWICK - Deep in a tropical forest in Borneo 15 years ago, Rutgers student Didik Prasetyo first encountered a young male orangutan that he named “Jerry.”

The great ape was one of several orangutans that Prasetyo and other researchers followed at the Tuanan Orangutan Research Station in the Mawas Conservation Area in Indonesia. Prasetyo was skeptical when colleagues said ...

RU police investigate assault on Douglass campus

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University police are investigating an aggravated assault and attempted sexual assault  reported to March 14 at 3:55 a.m. in front of Hickman Hall on the Douglass campus.


The victim, not affiliated with Rutgers University, reported that she was walking with a male whom she did not know in the area of Commercial Avenue and George ...

City opens 6th ‘supportive’ housing complex, 12 units provide aid people who lost homes

March 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK – In a continuing effort to eliminate homelessness, city and county officials this month opened 12 units of low-cost and subsidized housing in a complex designed to provide counseling and support services for its residents.

Zebra Way, named for the street on which it is located off Van Dyke Avenue, is expected to have residents move in next month.

Tenants, including ...


DEP Control Ensures Protection for New Jersey's Vulnerable Birds

March 23, 2018

Dear Editor: In January, the Department of Environmental Protection regained control of the state-owned North Brigantine Natural Area when a long-term management agreement with the city of Brigantine expired. DEP introduced new permitting guidelines which will greatly reduce human disturbance and increase protections for shore birds. NJ Audubon applauds the DEP for its efforts to better ...

Congress Passes $5 Million for Delaware River Basin Restoration Program

March 23, 2018

TRENTON – The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) has received $5 million in funding as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress. The bill will now go to the President’s desk for his signature.

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed worked with Congress on the authorization of the Delaware River Basin ...