SOMERVILLE, NJ – The borough’s Planning Board will introduce an updated version of the borough’s Master Plan at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11th at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at police headquarters, 24 So. Bridge St.
The 70-page draft document, which includes additional appendices, has been worked on over the past year. State law mandates that New Jersey municipalities review their master plans every ten years and revise as needed.
The meeting will include an opportunity for public comment.
The document takes a comprehensive look at the borough’s infrastructure and focuses on neighborhoods, housing, public safety, roadways and traffic flow, architecture, the central downtown business district, the local economy, parking, land use and future development.
Also singled out are special studies on the West Main Street Redevelopment Plan; Kirby Avenue Redevelopment Plan; Eastern Central Business District Redevelopment Plan; Gaston Avenue Redevelopment Plan; and the Station Area Landfill Redevelopment Plan concentrated along the Raritan Valley/NJ Transit train line.
The Master Plan consists of refinements to the policies and goals originally established in the prior Master Plan as necessary to guide and control future development. Together with appropriate maps, proposals relating to the spatial distribution of land uses, circulation and necessary community facilities to support such future uses are advanced.
During the process of updating the plan, a series of open public sessions were held by the Planning Board.
The introduction to the document reads as follows:
“ The Borough of Somerville, incorporated in 1909, has evolved into a mature urban community, with most of its land developed and its vital community facilities in place.
“ It now occupies an important position in the Somerset region. The borough's approximate 2.3 square miles consists of a diverse, yet stable, environment that enjoys a mixture of residential and non-residential land uses.
” The emphasis is on conserving the best qualities of an established community while planning for selected redevelopment and revitalization, and encouraging sensitive infill development that is compatible with the surrounding areas.
“ In formulating the master plan recommendations, the Borough Planning Board has been directed by a desire to enhance those attributes that contribute to the vibrancy of the borough community, while still providing proper guidance for those influences created by changing market demands within the region.
“ The challenges confronting Somerville relate to preservation, revitalization and redevelopment. Before articulating specific goals and policies upon which the various master plan recommendations for the physical economic and social development of the borough are advanced, it is necessary to develop an overall development strategy for Somerville.
“ The comprehensive development objective for Somerville Borough is stated as follows:
“Somerville Borough is a residential community and should remain committed to that purpose. Housing is a critical borough resource and should be protected. Critical resources such as the central business district, County Complex, and Medical Center also need to be preserved without sacrificing the existing character of the borough community.
“Every effort should be made to preserve the existing residential amenity, while promoting the central business district; to permit office and mixed residential re-use of existing older buildings in designated areas without compromising existing residential character; to preserve the borough's historic tradition through planning; to improve the vehicular and pedestrian circulation throughout the borough; and to increase recreational opportunities for all segments of the borough's population.”
A major focus of the draft document is the Central Business District:
“ Improve the physical appearance and mix of businesses in the CBD to further create an attractive and diversified business area.
“Continue to concentrate businesses in the existing downtown area and avoid dispersion or linear expansion of commercial activities.
“The CBD should be the commercial and professional center of the borough in a compact setting.
“Discourage one story structures in the CBD. Encourage residential development on upper floor spaces to prevent building deterioration while still protecting retail and service oriented business activities on the first floor.
“Provide unified landscaped parking facilities linked to business activities by attractive walkways.
“Encourage architectural compatibility within the Central Business District.
“Emphasize development and redevelopment opportunities in the eastern portion of the CBD that reinforces retail, service and residential functions of the downtown.
“Encourage the redevelopment of under-utilized properties within the CBD according to a unified downtown revitalization plan.
“Explore creative parking solutions to meet current and future parking demands. Monitor streetscape improvements to ensure that they are functioning as intended. Maintain the Division Street Pedestrian Mall. Promote the expansion of the arts in the CBD."
The planning process used in developing Somerville's Master Plan involved three (3) phases of study. The first phase dealt with the preparation of Redevelopment Plans which formed the basis for comprehensive review and appropriate revisions to the state required elements of a Master Plan for the entire borough.
The special studies included: West Main Street Redevelopment Plan Kirby Avenue Redevelopment Plan Eastern Central Business District Redevelopment Plan Gaston Avenue Redevelopment Plan Station Area Landfill Redevelopment Plan
The second phase of the planning process involved updating basic data pertinent to the Master Plan at both regional and local levels. Such background documentation has been made part of this Master Plan document.
The third phase consisted of drafting the Master Plan.
The draft Master Plan can be accessed online at the following link: http://www.somervillenj.org/filestorage/4100/4486/6413/8661/Draft_Master_Plan_Complete_11-14-2019A.pdf