Hopewell Borough Planning Board busy as year comes to an end

Runyon House

At its December 1 meeting, the Hopewell Borough Planning Board approved the historic Runyon House on 19 West Broad Street for development after experts from the Board and the property developers worked together to find the safest solution for a driveway and parking lot for residents to access the eight planned duplex units. A concern was the visibility of the exit to the driveway onto Greenwood Avenue, which is in close proximity to a park frequented by children. 

Chris Tarr, applicant’s attorney, testified that the driveway orientation was flipped while remaining consistent in scale to the original driveway specifications. The new location of the driveway centers it 28.08 feet from the theater and 29.92 feet from the post office. 

“We’ve greatly improved the sight lines for pedestrians and drivers,” said Tarr. He added that the new plan requires no change to the on-street on Greenwood Avenue as the Board had stipulated in prior meetings. The flipped orientation driveway did present a small problem with parking encroaching within five feet of the property line, so the Board granted a variance. 

Jerrid Dinnen of Atlantic Traffic and Design collected traffic data as requested by the Board at a prior meeting. According to data collected between November 16 and18, just under 900 vehicles pass by the proposed driveway entrance at Broad Street in both directions during both peak a.m. and p.m. hours. Speed of vehicles eastbound toward the traffic signal tends to be slower with an average of 21 miles per hour, while speed westbound tends to be faster with an average speed limit of around 28 miles per hour. Speed at the 85th percentile westbound was recorded to be between 30-35 mph despite a posted speed limit of 25 mph. Heavy vehicles, such as garbage, delivery, and box trucks, make up 14% of eastbound traffic and 30% of westbound traffic. 

Meanwhile on Greenwood Avenue, traffic is considerably smaller and slower with speed at the 85th percentile moving at only 16-20 mph, and heavy vehicles only comprise 3% of the overall traffic. With the driveway positioned between the theater and post office, all parties agreed that sight lines were much improved from the original plan for exit of the drive onto Greenwood Ave.

George Jacquemart, a renowned traffic engineer, testified that entering the driveway at West Broad and exiting at Greenwood offered ideal pedestrian safety conditions. Exiting on Broad would provide similar conditions for pedestrian safety, however the chances of a vehicular accident would increase. A one-way entry at West Broad and exit at Greenwood provides the best lines of vision for the driver, according to Jacquemart

The Board agreed that the flipped orientation driveway solved the concerns with egress onto Greenwood Avenue, and approved the Runyon House driveway and parking lot plan. 

Board member Jackie Perri said the plan revisions were “a good example of how the Board and applicant both did their jobs and we came out with a much better solution. “

Anne Wright Wilson, applicant, spoke about the historical significance of the property, noting that George Washington had visited the Runyon House on several occasions. She said the project was very important to her.  

The Board decided on a resolution at 111 West Broad that was heard the previous month. The Board concluded to grant a variance for a garage built too close to the property line as demolition would be wasteful and the new garage was actually an improvement upon the former garage. The homeowner had to remove part of a gravel driveway that was not in compliance with a borough ordinance. 

The board also voted to deny Present Tense LLC’s application for a second dwelling on a property that the Board felt was already overused. 

The Board began hearing plans by applicant Genesis Investment Properties for the construction of a restaurant and apartments to replace the Hopewell Bistro on 15 East Broad Street. Genesis said they were careful to build a structure that reflected the history of the prior building. The applicants also are open to offering one of the six one-bedroom units as moderate income affordable housing. 

Steven Cohen, architect, showed slides that demonstrate how the new building will reflect the historic architecture of the building that is being replaced.  He said the design had restored railings from the 1920’s, made the side porch open again, and consolidated the steps to one set to recreate a reasonable representation of the building. 

The new building will be completely in compliance with ADA including a ramp and an ADA accessible parking space. The other existing seven parking spaces will be reserved for residents of the apartments and staff. It will also be up to fire code with a full sprinkler system. 

Carl Pehnke, traffic engineer with Langan and Engineering Lawrenceville, testified that Hopewell Borough could support the traffic and parking that the new restaurant and residences would generate. The new restaurant will have an estimated 200 combined indoor and outdoor dining spaces, which is a reduction in seats from the current restaurant that seats 287. 

Alison Baxter, chairperson of the Historic Preservation Commission, said she had worked with the applicant for the past seven months so that the building contains elements that reflect what makes Hopewell special, and that the residents will benefit from having such a beautiful structure in the heart of the Borough. 

The Board had to close the meeting and continue the application hearing at the January meeting because of time constraints, for which the Board apologized. The Board also resolved to meet one more time before the end of the year with the Master Planning Board. 

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