Last night, the Pennington Borough planning board continued listening to testimony and public input regarding the construction of an 80-unit residential community on 13 acres in Pennington Borough. The applicant, American Properties at Pennington, LLC, is seeking preliminary/final major subdivision and site plan approval and variances.
The meeting was packed with over 60-70 local residents, primarily from neighboring Pennington Point, concerned about how the development with impact their own community and lives.
To be located off of RT31, just north of the Straube Center, “Heritage at Pennington” would consist of 19 buildings with 3 different styles — 32 villas, 32 townhouses, and 16 “COAH” or affordable housing units. The villas would be 3-bedrooms with a 2-car garage; the townhouses would be 3-bedrooms with a 1-car garage; and the “COAH” units (affordable units) would be 2-bedroom with surface parking.
Last night was a continuation of ongoing application, at this point focusing primarily on stormwater management and fire suppression.
Pennington Borough engineer, Carmela Roberts from Roberts Engineering, LLC, took issue with the method which the applicant explored the stormwater implications that will result from the development and insisted that there should be more detail on drainage areas.
“At the beginning, we asked for an analysis down to Lewis Brook of what happens with the water but they have analyzed to the railroad culvert,” said Roberts. “Everyone downstream should know what is coming their way. They may have met the law but what I am telling you is that there will still be water downstream and those downstream will see more water. I want to have a better handle on what is happening in the future.”
Roberts disapproved of how few test borings were done in the area of the future retention basin to determine infiltration and indicated that she wants to be certain that the applicant’s plans will be successful. Specifically, Roberts requested that the applicant review the infiltration under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”) system rather than the “rational method.” The attorney for the applicant resisted the request for more stringent testing claiming that the testing would cost too much and they are not required to provide that level of information.
Norman Nelson, the Borough’s Sewer and Water Engineer, requested that the stormwater basin be fitted with a manufactured treatment device to prevent contaminants from entering the nearby Well 8, the community’s wellhead. Well 8 already has as a volatile organic compound (“VOC”) treatment in place for existing contaminants, explained Nelson. The applicant’s attorney responded that the issue of water treatment and infiltration on the property was a “false issue” and a “red herring.”
“I always errs on the side of caution,” answered Roberts to the applause from the public. “You know there are contaminants that come from automobiles and lawn equipment that will get into your basin. Water is the delicate resource on the globe and I recommend you take care of this and all your potable water resources as best you can.”
With regard to fire suppression, the applicant has determined that a sprinkler system would offer the best fire protection and is in the process of submitting the proposal to the Hopewell Valley Fire Official, Andrew Fosina.
The applicant indicated that the project would be phased by lacked specific direction or detail for the phasing when pressed. It appears that American Properties would like Phase 1, as defined on the application map, as final and Phase 2 with preliminary approval subject to change. However, when outlining all the potential conditions it became clear that there may have been too many to properly address by Borough staff.
During public comment, various issues were raised including landscaping and screening between communities, water runoff and usage, potential increased traffic, and the attractive nuisance posed by the adjacent railroad tracks.
At the close of the hearing, planning board members expressed varying opinions about the direction of the application and whether it could be approved with conditions.
“The project is pretty much designed to match the zoning and this has been a long process. There are some issues but I favor the project but am concerned about a number of things that have been raised,” said Jim Reilly. “I’m comfortable with a conditional approval and I want to say that I am in dispute about the engineering methods and I support our professionals’ conservative approach so I would be inclined to side with them.”
“It seems we have some issues that have not been agreed to by our staff and applicants and, ordinarily, I would have voted for preliminary but not final but I’m not comfortable with preliminary given the differences that exist,” said Tom Ogren. “We need more time for the board to discuss since this is the most significant project we have had in many years.”
Ultimately, the planning board erred on the side of caution and asked the applicant to provide additional testing and information to better inform the Borough experts in creating conditions for the application approval. This matter will be taken up again at the JUNE 8, 2016 planning board meeting.