CRANBURY, NJ – More than 120 residents packed a meeting room in the rear of Town Hall Tuesday night to hear concept plans about redeveloping the Haggerty, Kushner and Cheney properties on the south end of the community.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Township Committeeman Glenn Johnson told the crowd at the onset of the presentation. “Any highly visible project, such as this, invites misperceptions and rumors. I want to dispel some of those tonight.”
Johnson said the history of changing the site went back to 2009.
A compromise was reached at that time to allow both residential and commercial use there.
“No one wanted just residential, and no one wanted just commercial,” Johnson said. “It was a compromise.”
The site has since been the subject of four public hearings since the fall that eventually came out with a recommendation that the site be part of a township redevelopment plan.
The committee approved the 10-15 acre site as in need of redevelopment at its March 12 meeting.
Johnson said that High Point Development, of Millburn, was the only developer that was able to come up with a plan and reach agreement with all three property owners.
High Point President Paul Schneier said the plan would entail about 61 townhouse units and a retail unit housing a drug store, bank, and several smaller shops on the property.
Schneier said the community would be “age targeted” so the impact would be smaller on the town’s school.
“These communities don’t generally produce children,” Schneier said.
According to the presentation, the townhomes would not have backyards or swing sets, or separate outside grills visible to the public.
The majority of units would be three-bedrooms, and there would also be five to seven affordable housing apartments located above the retail center.
The plan must be negotiated and approved by the committee before going to the planning and zoning boards for site plan approval.
Johnson said the process would be transparent throughout, and that the public would have multiple opportunities to comment as things moved forward.
After the presentation, residents spent the next hour questioning the proposal, many worried about the density of the housing units.
“I am concerned about the 61 units,” one resident said. “There is nowhere else in the community with that kind of density.”
Another resident said that he wasn’t so sure the developer’s costs to build the project were driving the nature of the plan, but rather the prices asked by the landowners to sell.
“The taxpayers will be left with the burden (of the families living there,)” he said.
Others were concerned about traffic around the commercial area of the development.
Planning Engineer Richard Price said that he did not think that tractor trailer trucks would be making deliveries to the businesses sought in the plan, except maybe the drug store.
“Most would be like the UPS or FedEx type box trucks,” he said.
Schneier said the company would take those concerns into consideration.
“Can the spread of bedrooms (change)? Yes,” he said. “Can we consider truck deliveries? Yes.”
Schneier emphasized that he was willing to work with the township to make the development plan acceptable to the community.
Board of Education member Evelyn Spahn said she was glad that the developer was listening to the concerns of residents and that fellow board members were fairly certain the residential part of the development would not be a burden to the Cranbury School as far as the number of children were concerned.
“We know what is coming,” she said outside the meeting. “We had a front seat at this. As long as there are no surprises. We can prepare.”
Several seniors from the Four Seasons development that attended the meeting refused to comment on the plan as they left the building.
One of the landowners, Monty Haggerty, 80, said he was pleased with the plan.
“I’ve lived in Cranbury for 80 years,” he said. “(The community) has really changed.”
He said he could remember 100 acres of plants at his family’s nursery on the property years ago where he worked with his father, now 102, who was also at the meeting.
“We knew Jackie Kennedy,” he said. “We would get a call from her (White House) secretary for flowers.”
Now, he and his father are moving into the Four Seasons development themselves, just across the street from their family home.
Johnson said there would likely be four more hearings for the public to comment on the plan as negotiations move forward.