Recap of Development Planning Forum

Recap of Development Planning Forum

Posted on July 3, 2019

A recent ‘town hall’ style mayor’s forum took residents through Montgomery Township’s planning and development review process, and provided an overview of upcoming projects in town. For those who were not able to attend, a video of the entire presentation and Q&A is available at:

https://montgomerynj.swagit.com/play/06112019-768

The forum was called by Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, who opened it up, stating, “Our intent is to increase people’s awareness, understanding and inclusion in the township’s decision-making process on development.”

An overview of the Township, its priorities, and its planning process was presented by Township Planning Director Lori Savron.  She followed this by providing overviews of larger mixed use development projects.

Ms. Savron explained, “Montgomery’s goals and policies of the Master Plan have remained consistent for decades: primarily residential land use; retaining the rural character; preservation of open space, farmland, historic resources and environmentally sensitive lands; and concentrating non-residential development in two nodes known as the Belle Mead Node and Rocky Hill Node, along the major transportation corridors of State Highway Route 206 and County Route 518 (Rocky Hill).”

The slide presentation by Ms. Savron may be viewed at:

https://twp.montgomery.nj.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Mayors-Forum-2019.pdf

The Director explained the role of the Planning Board, Zoning Board, and advisory-level boards. The appointed members are township residents, guided by planning professionals, who approve or deny development project applications, sometimes after much back-and-forth and modification to projects. Montgomery Township encourages its residents to apply for these and other volunteer positions via its website at  https://twp.montgomery.nj.us/elected-officials/township-committee/ or in person.

Montgomery is guided by the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law and other State regulations, local Zoning law, and case law.  Local zoning and planning

(L to R) Administrator Donato Nieman, Planning Director Lori Savron, Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, and Committee member Marvin Schuldiner presented and fielded questions about the Planning and Development process in Montgomery Township during a town hall meeting in June. More photos at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/oBruRFph19aJM2nw7

rules found in Montgomery’s Land Development Ordinance follow the vision outlined in the Township’s Master Plan. Constraints such as access to public transportation, sewer service, public water source, necessary stormwater management, and environment restrictions are among factors that determine where new development should or should not be situated.

According to the Tax Assessor, Montgomery’s non-residential development accounts for approximately 7% of the ratable base. Looking forward, a better mix with non-residential development could provide amenities and tax relief.  Ms. Savron explained that decades ago the town master plan established two primary areas or nodes of development concentration along Rt. 206, which continues to shape our zoning today. Mixed use projects have been/are being located primarily in the Belle Mead Node and in the Rocky Hill Node; the northernmost and southernmost section of Montgomery along Rt. 206.

Among the projects in the Belle Mead Node discussed were: Pike Run, Country Club Meadows, the almost-completed Montgomery Grove, and the under-construction Montgomery Place, which will include a CVS. These were all built by developer Atlantic Realty, which constructed a new playground next to the reopened dog park behind the Municipal Building and a bridge and wooded pathway connecting the area to Montgomery Veterans Park, under agreements reached.  Improving walkability and bikeability are priorities of Montgomery in its planning efforts.

Using slides to illustrate, Ms. Savron described the redevelopment of “Village Walk” at the Village Shopper I & II, a Rocky Hill Node location.  A zoning overlay zone has been established here, near the ‘Four Corners’ area (Rt. 518 & Rt. 206) and the planned mixed use development project won a design award from Somerset County. It will replace the now demolished Village Shopper I (Mrs. Chows) and Village Shopper II.  Village Shopper III (Behind Wells Fargo bank) will remain, as will the Tigers Tale Restaurant on the other side.  The redevelopment will include a drive-through Starbucks, restaurants, retail, and two-story apartments above. Tucked away off Research Road, to the west of Village Shopper, will be other housing, including an affordable housing component. The existing large oak trees along Route 206 will be preserved, and public spaces for the Farmers Market, and Christmas tree vendor will be provided by developer Pugliese Associates.  Another upcoming retail and residential development project in the Rocky Hill Node is the Montgomery Promenade near the Princeton Airport by Madison Marquette, which is in its leasing phase. All of these shopping/living areas will be connected by walkways and include public spaces.

Traffic studies indicate that a series of loop roads, to be constructed as part of the above developments, will alleviate traffic congestion at the Four Corners, reducing wait times from the currently unacceptable ‘F’ level to a ‘C’ level.

An overview of the above projects including maps may also be found on the township website at:

https://twp.montgomery.nj.us/departments/planning/development-projects/

The presentation ended with a recap of the township’s parks and pathways, which are extensive.  37% of the Township is deed restricted open space and farmland that cannot be developed. Ms. Savron referred to the work of decades to establish this system as an investment in the health and fitness of the community.  Many resident volunteers, including members of the Open Space Committee, Environmental Commission, Shade Tree Committee, Recreation Committee and the Montgomery Friends of Open Space, have guided the development of open space, trails and parks in town. Ultimately the Montgomery pathways system is designed to link the Delaware and Raritan Canal to the Sourland Preserve.  Ms. Savron encouraged all citizens to stay informed by self-subscribing on the Montgomery Township website (twp.montgomery.nj.us) to  the Ebulletins service and Police Nixle alerts.

To hear audience questions and answers by Mayor Jaffer, Ms. Savron, Township Administrator Donato Nieman, and Committeeperson Marvin Schuldiner, go to the video under the “Specialty” tab and scroll to 1:08 : https://montgomerynj.swagit.com/play/06112019-768.