Hopewell Township Planning Board deems BMS site In Need of Redevelopment

The Hopewell Township Planning Board deemed the Bristol-Myers Squibb site, located at 311 Pennington-Rocky Hill Road on Block 46, Lot 8.01, an “area in need of redevelopment” at their meeting on May 28.

An “area in need of redevelopment,” according to a study conducted on the area by Frank Banisch, the Township’s planner, and N.J.S.A.40A:l2A-3, “may include lands, buildings, or improvements which of themselves are not detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare, but the inclusion of which is found necessary, with or without change in their condition, for the effective redevelopment of the area of which they are a part.”

According to Banisch’s recommendation and, ultimately, the determination by the Board, the site fulfilled Section B of the State’s redevelopment criteria, which is “the discontinuance of the use of a building or buildings previously used for commercial, retail, shopping malls or plazas, office parks, manufacturing, or industrial purposes.” 

The BMS site will be vacated by the pharmaceutical company this July and will be partially inhabited by New Jersey-based pharmaceutical developer PTC Therapeutics. MercerMe has previously covered PTC here.  

Deeming the site “in need of redevelopment” would give the Board “much more effective control” over the area, according to Banisch. Otherwise, any current or future tenants would have to abide by the property’s current general development plan, which expires in 2025. 

Redevelopment is often used “to rebuild or restore an area in a measurable state of decline, disinvestment, or abandonment. Redevelopment may be publicly or privately initiated, but it is commonly recognized as the process governed by the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law and undertaken in accordance with a redevelopment plan adopted by the municipality. If used correctly, it can transform an underutilized or distressed area into an economically viable and productive part of the community,” according to The Redevelopment Handbook, A Guide to Rebuilding New Jersey’s Communities.

Procedurally, the Board’s findings will now be sent to the Township Committee, which will allow the Committee to develop an ordinance on the site’s usage. This ordinance will be sent back to the Planning Board to determine whether the ordinance is in line with the Township’s Master Plan. If the ordinance is found in line with the Master Plan, the ordinance would then be taken to a public hearing by the Township Committee before its adoption.

Members of the public raised concerns of the site’s future usage and contact with future tenants. In response, Board vice chair Paul Kiss stated that the Board’s study was only to deem if the site fell under the categories outlined by New Jersey state guidelines in N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5, not to explore how the site will be used or conduct discussions with PTC Therapeutics or other future tenants.

Taken to vote, the Board deemed the site “in need of redevelopment,” with Board members Leigh Ann Peterson and Glenn Paul dissenting. 

The Planning Board holds its meetings on the fourth Thursday of every month. The next meeting will be held on June 25. The Township Committee’s next regular meeting is scheduled for June 8.

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