The Hopewell Borough Planning Board met on November 3, 2021 for its regular meeting and discussed the plans and traffic patterns associated with proposed multi-unit dwellings in the center of the Borough.
The first hearing of the evening began as the Board returned to the application for the historic Runyon House at 19 W. Broad Street. As per the last Planning Board meeting, the applicants were tasked with, among other things, presenting a traffic engineer to discuss the pros and cons of the traffic flow in and out of the proposed development. Applicant’s attorney, Chris Tarr, was accompanied by several additional experts on hand to bolster the application. Tarr once again argued that they had complied with all the Planning Board requests, including an abundance of markings and signage, an improved depressed driveway with bricks to match the surrounding sidewalk, and truncated domes (sidewalk bumps) on the driveway fringes. However, the ingress/egress traffic direction seemed to be the sticking point based on discussions from the last meeting and necessitated the testimony of traffic expert, Jerrid Dinnen.
Dinnen, of Atlantic Traffic and Design, maintained that the entrance on Broad Street and the exit on Greenwood Avenue would result in the safer option. Exiting on Broad was cited as a more dangerous situation, with left and right turns out of the driveway proving problematic based on the typical rate of speed in both directions on Broad Street and additionally incurring the same issues with the potential of parked cars in the line of sight with a well-travelled sidewalk. Technical discussions continued between the Borough’s engineer, Mark Katyrniak, and Dinnen regarding specifics of the situation however nothing was really accomplished in the end.
Public comments included statements by Joyce Milinowicz of E. Broad Street who noted that the driveway is in the vicinity of the park and the presence of children represented a concern. Melissa Cookman of E. Broad Street suggested that parabolic mirrors mentioned in prior discussions were not useful for children to use as had been suggested, but were really a tool for the motorists exiting the property.
John McConaughy of Long Way, owner of the Hopewell Theater at 5 South Greenwood noted that the traffic speeds and driver intentions were entirely different on W. Broad vs. Greenwood, and “wholeheartedly agreed with the study” presented by the applicants. He also noted that there are indeed safety issues with children crossing driveways when walking the sidewalk on Greenwood past the drug store, Hopewell Theater, and post office. He continued that he must “give our youth credit” as they understand the potential dangers, but the traffic is also “more cautious on Greenwood than on Broad” and this all points to the current plan being the much safer option.
Macholdt suggested to carry the hearing yet once again, to the December meeting, with Tarr agreeing to bring forward further concepts and analysis on pedestrian/automobile sight lines. It however remains uncertain exactly what the Planning Board is looking for from the applicants, having presented all requested information and testimony.
The next application on the agenda pertained to property located at 27 E. Broad Street with the applicant requesting a number of variances, namely “proposing to construct a 3-story structure, located in the BR Zoning District, along the rear property line, which will include eight garages on the ground level and create four apartments: two on the second story and two on the third story. A total of 13 off-street spaces are proposed within the site; eight of these parking spaces are located within the first floor of the three-story structure, four parking spaces stacked behind four of the first-floor parking spaces and one handicap parking space located at the rear of the existing three-story structure.”
There was much back and forth on the details of the plan between the Board and the applicant’s team regarding the legality of the project but ultimately, the Board denied the applicant’s request based on the haphazard nature of the plan, and that variances must avoid negative impact on surrounding properties. The Board also cited that the property is already “intensively used” and the plans for expansion were above and beyond what could be reasonably expected in the Borough, parking being only one of many issues the Board found that were deficient with the proposed plan.
Public comment began on the 27 W. Broad proposal with no voices in support of the plan. Neighboring property owner, Joyce Milinowicz, noted that “there are so many issues at hand here, and saying that it does not affect adjacent dwellings on E. Broad is not true.”
Pierce Backes of E. Broad, who also lives adjacent to the property noted that the Board had previously ruled that “the property is not suitable for bifurcation.” Backes questioned how the applicant could be permitted to proceed based on a bifurcation request at all, and why this application would even be up for a vote at this point? Backes also noted that “nothing in the application speaks to positive criteria at all, other than more rental units being a positive thing. I don’t believe this is part of the master plan.” He added that “the addition of one ADA apartment will not carry the day in spite of all the rest of the plan, they are seeking extraordinary relief” and would result in a precedent of “spot zoning in the Borough” which is a complete overreach in scope and purpose.
Melissa Cookman chimed in with a counter-argument to the applicant’s presentation in that “parking is an issue on Broad Street, and not just on Friday nights.” Kristin Friburg of Seminary Avenue added :“I don’t see the sense of community that Clark [referring to property owner and applicant, Clark Reed] spoke of, and I agree with the other members of the public with their comments.”
Chairman Macholdt proposed a “straw poll” to determine the Board’s current stance on the application. MaryLou Ferrara, Bob Donaldson, and Brad Lyon all expressed their disapproval. Ferrara proposed a motion for denial, which was ratified in quick order.
The meeting concluded at 10:40pm.
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