Hopewell Borough Planning Board plans for Runyon Farmstead conversion

The October 6 Hopewell Borough Planning Board meeting kicked off with Maggie Schmitt leading the roll call. Planning Board member Bob Donaldson took on the role of board chair for the evening and managed the meeting with great aplomb.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, only Melissa Cookman a resident of E. Broad St. and the owner of Twine had a question for the Board. She inquired as to which organization had been engaged by the Borough to provide store owners with an initial supply of reusable shopping bags, as she had not been approached as of yet. Michele Hovan, Hopewell Borough administrator, noted that the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed had distributed them; however, the method of such was not understood. Council member Ryan Kennedy offered to contact the Watershed and coordinate with Cookman as to any remaining inventory that could be utilized.

The demolition of an old barn at 74 Model Ave. was up next, with the applicants requesting a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition after unsuccessfully exploring ways of preserving the structure. The exact age of the structure is not known, although the structure is identified on a 1927 map of the area. Alison Baxter, the Borough Historic Preservation Commission chairperson, noted that the structure is in very poor condition, has no foundation, and is in a state of deterioration. The request was approved, with the stipulation that the homeowner documents the structure prior to demolition for historical records.

Discussions of the Runyon Farmstead at 19 W. Broad Street comprised the main body of the evening’s meeting. Primarily, the topic of discussion was the configuration of the entrance and exit to the property which is proposed to be converted into eight housing units.

The current plan put forth by the applicants is to have a one-way arrangement, with the entrance on W. Broad St., and the exit on S. Greenwood Avenue, alongside the Hopewell Post Office. (For recent coverage, please see this article.) The applicants had been informed, at a prior meeting, that no parking spaces could be eliminated on S. Greenwood on either side of the driveway, despite their request for better line of sight visibility at the point of egress.

The detailed plan presented by the manager of the project, Bernard Panzak, showed that the applicant will place a number of safety measures into the revised design. These measures include a “Slow – Pedestrian Crossing” sign, a white painted bar and “STOP” on the driveway surface, a full size stop sign, and a speed hump at the exit prior to the sidewalk intersection. Additionally, two caution signs will be included at the right and left sides of the driveway exit. Panzak also noted that the original plan had a concrete apron whereas the revised plan called for a herringbone pattern of bricks that are stylistically in-line with the existing sidewalk, complies with ADA requirements, and provides for a different visual pattern to indicate to pedestrians the presence of a driveway.

Planning Board member Robert Donaldson inquired as to the maintenance and ownership of the street markings, to which Panzak replied that the applicant anticipated the Borough would provide ongoing maintenance after the initial implementation. Donaldson also noted that the line-of-sight issue had been identified as the main area of concern. Donaldson noted that “the potential other option I’d like to explore is what if we put the egress on Broad Street and the ingress on S. Greenwood?” Applicant’s attorney, Chris Tarr responded that “to exit onto Broad St. is a fiasco… and creates more problems than it solves.” He also mentioned that they had already looked into this before, and it is not the best solution based on their studies.

Mark Kataryniak, the engineer representing the Borough, noted that “you have to look at the character of traffic related to the time of day, pedestrian traffic with walking school students, post office traffic, and the pharmacy.” Kataryniak during his commentary also noted that it would be “more appropriate to provide truncated domes at both sides of the driveway on the sidewalk.” Tarr agreed that the applicant would be “more than happy to put those back into the plan” and that they understood from prior discussions that the Borough did not desire this, and they subsequently removed them from the plan.

Shelby Tewell, Planning Board member, commented that she likes the current flow, with the exit onto Greenwood and the entrance on Broad, noting that she “thinks the plan presented is good.” Following Tewell’s comments the floor was opened to public comment.

Beth Miko of Model Avenue noted, “I’ve watched all of the meetings on this subject and I think this is a wonderful and well-thought-out addition to the town. These people have gone above and beyond. I think you should approve it.” Joyce Mullinowitz of E. Broad was “not in favor of the driveway exit on Greenwood, and thus it was better to exit on Broad.” She also noted that this has always been a dicey pedestrian area. Shortly after 8pm the meeting was closed to public comment.

There continued to be much back and forth between Denis Pollack, Kataryniak, (both of whom represent the Borough in regards to engineering support), and the applicants as to the best direction of traffic flow to/from the property. Finally, sensing that the required number of approvals would not be reached, Tarr concluded “let’s come back next month with a traffic engineer, rather than have this application denied tonight.” Donaldson agreed that this was a good idea. Kataryniak suggested it might be a good idea to have input from Mercer County also.

Tewell also made an insightful comment towards the close of the meeting in regards to the line-of-sight issue that had dominated the discussions, in that “sometimes the more you see, the less you are going to look, and sometimes the less you see, the more you are going to look.” It was agreed that continued discussions on the Runyon Farmstead be moved to the next planning board meeting.

The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, 11/3/2021.

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