Resistance to reasonably priced housing in West Windsor is rising | West Windsor Plainsboro Information
Local residents attended the West Windsor Zoning Board meeting on August 22nd to express their opposition to the festivities in West Windsor – a planned affordable housing development of over 400 units.
The meeting was a continuation of a July 25 hearing for the project envisaged for 21.5 acre property bounded by McGetrick Lane, Southfield Road and Westbrooke Boulevard.
WWM Properties is proposing an affordable development of 420 units on over 21.5 acres located on Route 571 between McGetrick Lane, Southfield Road and Westbrooke Boulevard. (Image from Google Maps.)
Public commentary began at the first meeting but, due to time constraints, continued to the August 22nd meeting, most of which was reserved for public commentary.
The meeting was attended by members of the Heatherfield Family Association, a group of homeowners in Heatherfield who expressed reservations about the development.
The association has hired a lawyer, Jeffrey Baron, to represent them on this case. Baron, who spoke first during the public commentary, noted that the case law supports objections from neighbors with a legitimate interest in the land.
An overarching theme of the public comments was that the proposed development would lead to overpopulation and thus affect many aspects of life in West Windsor, particularly the school district.
Woodland Court resident Theza Friedman said she watched “schools literally burst at the seams and classes held in hallways and closets because of the lack of space. And now let’s talk about adding 420 units. That seems unfathomable, and I’m not sure how the district is supposed to deal with it. “
Sophia Lennox, a South High School graduate, shared her experience with this overpopulation. She said that her Spanish class was in a gym cabinet during her sophomore year and she has seen physical education classes grow to over 50 to 100 students per class.
Millar Court’s Ajay Billay, a parent of current and graduate WW-P students, said she too experienced this overpopulation. He said he decided to send his youngest twins to Princeton Day School because he believes the overcrowding has diminished the quality of education and out-of-school opportunities for students.
Another issue was traffic congestion. Several residents complained that the traffic from which the train station is reached every morning has already increased dramatically and a journey has been extended from a few kilometers to 20 minutes. They said the development would exponentially increase traffic in the area.
“Driving on Rt. 571 has become a nightmare,” Billay said of the rush hour traffic.
In response to a comment from the applicant who argued that a housing estate would generate less traffic than a commercial one, Haverford Road’s Muyi Lian said the data was inconsistent. She also gave examples of commercial projects that did not increase traffic.
Participants also raised concerns about safety. Himanshu Patel of Westbrooke Boulevard told a story about his daughter who was involved in an accident on Rt. 571 which he attributed to increased traffic. He said the traffic from developing would lead to more accidents.
Tondapati Chaudry of Priory Road and Jean Grecsek of Woodland Court said they sustained injuries due to unsafe traffic conditions while walking, jogging and cycling on Southfield Road.
Participants also indicated that the proposed development would compromise “calm,” which is one of three attributes – calm, research, knowledge – listed on the township seal.
Heatherfield residents talked about how they appreciate the open space, nature, and tranquility in the area’s village-like setting, and said the new development would significantly disrupt that atmosphere.
Some residents, who have lived in the settlement for many years, said that when they bought their houses they were told that a commercial project would be built on the property. Several local residents said they are still in favor of a commercial project, adding that having more medical and legal offices nearby would be a huge benefit for the community.
Property owner Jack Morris and his company, Piscataway-based WWM Properties West LLC, have submitted a conceptual plan that would require a deviation from the zoning board.
The wing is currently designated as P-1 for a planned, small-scale village center, and the applicant applies for a usage deviation in order to enable residential use.
Morris also owns Edgewood Properties, the developer of numerous properties in central New Jersey. Edgewood and WWM are at the same address.
During the July 25 meeting, the applicant and his team of experts presented a plan for an apartment building project with 420 affordable units in 14 residential buildings. The distribution includes 84 one-room apartments, 168 two-room apartments and 168 three-room apartments. A 6,076-square-foot clubhouse would also be on the site.
The property was originally part of the Heatherfield development with 99 homes along Southfield Road. The developer of this development, Garden State Land, had left the area open for future corporate offices, but the property was auctioned after Garden State Land went bankrupt.
According to Sam Surtees, West Windsor Land Use Manager, the applicant has proposed a number of different projects in the past, all of which were rejected because they did not meet the parcel division requirements.
Under the current proposal, the apartments would be rented to people who are entitled to very low, low or middle income apartments.
A very low income for a person in Mercer County is defined as between $ 20,834 and $ 34,723 per year, a low income between $ 34,723 and $ 55,557 per year, and a moderate income between $ 55,557 and $ 69,447 per year.
These names are country-specific and change regularly based on census information and median income.
The Board of Directors will continue to hear the motion at its meeting on Thursday, October 3rd. Baron and a professional developer hired by the Heatherfield Family Association are expected to make their arguments against this development. Time will also be allocated for further public comment and testimony from community professionals.
Sources have told The News that the project is unlikely to get approved because it is inconsistent with West Windsor’s current master plan or court-approved affordable housing plan.
The fact that this is an independent project for affordable housing also contradicts the general housing policy of the municipality. Several officials have indicated that the community favors inclusive projects – developments that mix affordable units with marketable housing.
Meanwhile, usage deviations are among the most complex and difficult to approve. According to the state’s municipal land use law, the developer has to prove that the project offers an advantage for the municipality in contrast to its current development.
In order to be approved, the development committee’s application must have a majority with at least five votes in favor of the seven board members. If the board votes against the deviation, the applicant has the option of filing a lawsuit against the municipality to contest the decision.
Sources have also told The News that there is no desire to build more homes of any kind in West Windsor.
In May, State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson approved the ward’s plan to meet its need to provide 1,500 units of affordable housing. The municipality recently went through a round of master plan and zoning changes to bring them in line with the affordable housing plan.
The Affordable Housing Plan includes a number of developments, but the Celebrations application is not one of them.
Any lawsuit filed on the grounds that the development offers affordable housing would likely lose, as Judge Jacobson’s ruling protects the community from affordable housing litigation until 2025.
A report from the West Windsor Affordable Housing Committee finds the proposal inconsistent with the community’s master plan. “We have already rezoned the lots and are looking into building applications from these developers to build the affordable housing units (approved by Judge Jaconson),” said Surtees.
According to the Committee for Affordable Housing, the building density does not meet the requirements of the current zoning, the building is significantly higher than permitted and the proportion of space is similarly high, which indicates a development.
Meanwhile, other reports from township professionals point to additional concerns about the plan, including the density of development, the size of the impervious area, and the lack of environmental information.