GREEN BROOK, NJ - Green Brook Township has shared some information about the history and plans for the corner of Route 22 and Warrenville Road.
A letter to residents:
There have been a number questions recently raised about the development of a large commercial tract at the corner of Route 22 and Warrenville Road that recently broke ground. We would like to give you the history of that parcel, so that you can be better informed about what is going on.
First, realize that every property is required to be zoned for something, and every property owner is permitted to use their property subject to the approval of the Township's Land Use Board. It is the property owner’s choice whether or not to develop it, regardless of whether there are other empty shops in town.
Route 22 is the Township's designated commercial corridor. People from the area need places to shop, to dine, etc. This is the most appropriate place for these types of businesses to be located. This land has been zoned commercial for as long as the Township has had zoning rules, long before any of the nearby homes were constructed. The property owners have now decided that they would like to develop it.
In April of 2014, the developer made application to the Land Use Board to build three buildings on that site. The original plan included a Wawa, LA Fitness, and a third building for which there was no tenant. That original application was studied and discussed at public hearings for 18 months, and was ultimately denied by the Township’s Land Use Board in November of 2015.
The property owner took up action in Superior Court to have the denial overturned. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the property owner, and the case was sent back to the Township's Land Use Board. The developer modified the plans, removing several variances requested in the first application. After several more meetings, this application was approved in November of 2016.
A group of neighbors, who had been actively involved from the beginning of this process, were not satisfied with the commercial development approval. These neighbors then took up an appeal in Superior Court. The Superior Court ruled against the neighbor's appeal of the approved commercial development in February 2018.
In November of 2018, the developer decided to make a new application for a different use for the site, which was a high-density development including over 200 apartments. This application was ultimately denied by the Land Use Board in June of 2019, as the site is designated for commercial use, not residential.
As a result, the developer has decided to move forward with site work on the parcel. The developer does not have any tenants under contract that the Township is aware of.
There are a great many things that are within the Township's control during the application process by State law. One thing that is not, is traffic on Route 22 or any county road. The applicant has to satisfy NJDOT rules for Route 22 and Somerset County rules for Warrenville Road, which they have.
During the extensive public hearings, the Land Use Board reviewed the things that we can control, such as how tall the buildings can be, how close to the roadway and the residential neighborhood, how many parking spaces are required, and more. Stormwater retention must make it so there is less water leaving the site after it is built than before it is developed. There are limits on lighting, signage and so much more.
Nobody in town is happy about the number of trees that will be removed as a result of this development, however, the property owner has the legal right to commercially develop the property through this series of applications and court cases.
Over the past few years, we have seen a decrease in commercial vacancies on Route 22. As you may have seen, there is a pet hotel nearing completion on the site of a former auto body shop. A wine store recently opened in what was for many years a compressor shop. A Carmax is approved and awaiting construction. While there can be debate on whether we "need another" of this or that, that is not something that we get to regulate. That is something that the property owners get to decide.
A vibrant commercial corridor attracts investment in Green Brook and tax revenue that does not add students to our schools or burdens on our services. Commercial tax revenue is one way that municipalities support the tax rate, which helps keep residential tax rates down. Green Brook, through careful planning and efficiencies has been able to lower the municipal portion of the tax rate over the past 5 consecutive years.
All Township Committee and Land Use Board meetings are open to the public, and the Township encourages you to attend. You can be better informed about what is going on and why at these meetings. In addition, you can call or email Town Hall or any of the elected officials with any question you may have about what is going on around the Township.