Members of Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan for a 519-unit apartment complex on Route 37 while stipulating that — should the township desire within five years — the developer will install sidewalks along the state highway near the project.
The board last heard testimony on the Presidential Gardens LLC project during a special meeting in August, when the applicant's engineer and traffic engineer spoke. Before the vote for approval Tuesday night, board members discussed with Harvey York, attorney for developer Kenneth Pizzo, whether the sidewalks would be beneficial or potentially enable dangerous journeys along Route 37.
"I think in this case there's nowhere to walk to, so don't encourage them," York said, noting that sidewalks will be installed from the complex to the soccer field and high school locate on the southern side of Colonial Drive. "[The developers] feel it's a sidewalk from nowhere to nowhere."
Board members took a vote and all agreed to a proposal from York that Pizzo will pay for and install sidewalks within five years after the complex is completed should the township later decide they are necessary.
Last month, the board first heard details about the complex, which is planned to contain mostly 1- and 2-bedroom units within 26 buildings on a 5-acre tract of land diagonally across Route 37 from the Municipal Complex on Colonial Drive. Township planner Tom Thomas on Tuesday offered further testimony, focusing on COAH regulations and the complex's impact to schools.
Thomas could not yet offer specifics on how COAH regulations will affect the project since they are still being worked on by state legislators.
"We don't know what's going to happen," he said. "At this point, we don't know what will happen and what the regulations for Manchester Township will be."
Nevertheless, "whatever COAH wants us to build, we will," York said.
Pizzo right now is planning for up to 20 percent affordable housing units. A possible option also has a transfer of units to a potential veteran's housing complex discussed on Colonial Drive, Thomas said.
Using the nearby Briar Hill apartment complex on Route 37 as an example, Thomas said that 324-unit neighborhood sends 30 high, 15 intermediate and 50 elementary students to Manchester schools.
"This works out to be one for every three or four [units]," Thomas said. "It sounds like it works out to be a lot of kids."
Thomas attributes this to homeowners who have lost their homes and are living in Briar Hill so that their children can graduate from Manchester Township High School rather than have to transfer.
"Hopefully that will revert back to one for 10 when the housing market improves," Thomas said. With about 3,200 students enrolled throughout the district last year, "it's not a lot per classroom," Thomas said.
Board member Donald Somerset said that, "optimistically," water could be freed for complex use in about a year. After that, it would then take two to three years to construct the complex, according to York.
"Whatever impact it's going to have to schools will be over the four year period," York said, adding that the developer's estimate is less than Thomas' because the complex has few units with three or more bedrooms.
One resident, Hank Glenn, spoke during public comment at the meeting which was attended by about five residents. Glenn asked if walkways could be painted between the 9" by 18" parking spaces to provide for more room between vehicles.
Board attorney Edward Liston said that the space sizes for residential complexes are set by the state and cannot be altered.
For more information, including coverage of the first meeting, please see these articles: