SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Planning Board on Feb. 26 continued its series of hearings on the proposed residential development of 1111 Durham Avenue. 

At this time, scheduled testimonies presented by Ross Haber, the demographer retained by the South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE) last September, and James Damato, the district’s former interim business administrator and an attorney representing the SPBOE, were presented.

“The purpose of my study is to enable the school board to make advance plans,” said Haber, noting that his study looked into how completion of the Celebrations development and the proposed Motorola project would affect South Plainfield Schools. “The purpose of this is to allow the board of education to look into the future in terms of budgetary and…capital planning…” 

Sign Up for E-News

According to Haber, who presented the results of the study to the public during an October 2018 SPBOE meeting (https://bit.ly/2NHZSUi), factors such as student enrollment over a six-year period of time, along with the possible addition of new residential developments based on current housing and demographics, were taken into consideration when compiling his report. 

“Simply stated, based upon the two major developments – Celebrations and the property proposed at the Motorola property, the major impact would be on one elementary school…which would be Roosevelt Elementary School,” Haber told the planning board. 

Haber’s report states that approximately 64 school-aged children would reside at Celebrations and it is projected that 154 school-aged children would reside at the Motorola site. Of those totals, 45 from Celebrations and an additional 109 from Motorola are anticipated to be K-4 students who would attend Roosevelt. 

Additionally, the report states that the residential developments would also, ultimately, affect Grant, South Plainfield Middle School and South Plainfield High School. In the report, Haber notes that the district’s overall student enrollment was projected to decrease in the coming years, but is now projected to increase from 3,285 to 3,508 with the construction of both Motorola and completion of the Celebrations site.

“Enrollment in South Plainfield Public Schools will increase based on the completion of Celebrations development and the construction of residential units on the former Motorola property,” said Haber. “Three standalone schools – Grant, the middle school, and the high school – will be impacted by the enrollment [and] it appears that the major impact will be on Roosevelt School, which could increase by as much as 154 students. What this may mean is redistribution of students to other elementary schools depending on facility needs, classroom availability and program locations.” 

In his report, Haber suggests the SPBOE look into overall building capacity, transportation, and redistricting and suggests that a ‘long-range plan for the board to consider is a facility analysis and possible rezoning of the K-4 schools.”

“Roosevelt School is [currently] at capacity; probably 150 students more than the other elementary schools,” Damato told the planning board. “The other schools in South Plainfield that are not affected could be affected if the population from Roosevelt were redistributed to those other schools.” 

According to Damato, while there is room in some of the other schools should the SPBOE decide to redistrict, doing so would require busing to transport students zoned for Roosevelt to a building outside of the mileage limit. 

Additionally, another option the SPBOE could consider, said Damato, would be to reactivate and renovate old Roosevelt building, which is currently utilized as administrative offices. “There are other more expensive possibilities…but those are the two most viable for the district,” he said. 

The hearing on 1111 Durham Avenue will resume at the South Plainfield Planning Board’s Tuesday, April 23 meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in borough hall and, at this time, the developer will present revised plans for the site. The public is welcome to attend. 

About the Proposed Residential Development 

The residential development of the Durham Avenue site stems from a 2017 New Jersey State Supreme Court decision mandating that town, including South Plainfield, meet affordable housing needs unaddressed from 1999 to 2015. Under the court ruling, a total of 200,000 units are required throughout the state by 2025. 

The former Motorola property, according to South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh, was not initially included in the borough’s plans to meet its third round Council on Affordable Housing (COHA) obligation. In an effort to alleviate further development, said the mayor, the municipality had created overlay zones, which essentially stated there was no land, and planned to seek a vacant land adjustment.

That changed, however, when the property owner offered the site. As a result, the borough, under legal obligation from the court, approved a proposed settlement agreement (https://bit.ly/2OMOVkd) that included the Durham Avenue property into its affordable housing plan. The borough, however, was able to negotiate how many units the developer could build; the 410 proposed are a negotiated decrease from the initial proposal to construct some 750 units on the site. 

TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at www.TAPinto.net/enews and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SouthPlainfieldTAP/ and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.