HT Planning Board addresses lighting and traffic impacts by The Collection at Hopewell

One of the surveys submitted as part of the Planning Board application for The Collection at Hopewell

The application for the “Collection at Hopewell” development property (“The Collection”), which is planned for Washington Crossing-Pennington Road near the Pennington Circle, continued before the Hopewell Township Planning Board at its regular meeting on June 24. The Planning Board heard two new witnesses: Christina Spangler, lighting design expert, and Eric Keller, a traffic expert.

The applicant, US Home at Hopewell Urban Renewal, LLC, intends to construct 379 residential units that will comprise The Collection. Specifically, the site plan includes 29 three-story buildings that consist of 61 traditional townhouses, 144 stacked townhouses, 96 multi-family units, and 78 affordable housing units that will be housed in 4 separate apartment buildings. Previous reporting on The Collection at Hopewell can be found at this link, and a complete application and Board recording can be found at this link.

The lighting design of the development will include a variety of poles and house side shields to focus on lighting driveways and walking surfaces.The application proposes 20-foot poles on the main boulevard and 13-foot poles on the smaller roads.

Spangler explained that the team in charge of lighting used the same approach as that used in the Hopewell Parc application. “Our focus for this has been on minimizing light pollution through reducing the number of luminaires by placing them where they are the most needed,” Spangler said.

This method led reducing lighting fixtures from 141 poles to 58 poles across the development. “To also make sure we’re meeting the ordinance, all the luminaires will be cut off, and they’ll be supplied with LEDs with the color temperature of 2700 Kelvin,” Spangler said.

In previous applications, Board members brought up different methods like motion sensors to limit the amount of light produced by the development. However, concerns about local wildlife setting off the sensors negated the idea. Spangler explained that her team found an alternative option called Park Night Dimming, which dims the lighting to 50% from 1am to 4am. “We believe that this is a less disruptive option than incorporating motion sensors, and it still helps us reduce the light level,” she said.

Lot 9 of the development came up for particular review because it was not part of the initial application and was added on to facilitate a future Community Center building on the site. The applicant seeks to add an entry point to the development from Reed Road. Planning Board members raised the possibility that the applicant would require a variance for that addition.

Frank Petrino, the applicant’s attorney, explained that the road could be deemed a public road by the Township Committee instead of asking the Planning Board for a variance. “There are procedures set forth in the municipal land use law for doing it… I don’t think it has anything to do with what’s a permitted use in the R-100 zone,” Petrino said.

Board Chair Karen Murphy disagreed, “If it’s just a public road, [the applicant] would have to apply for a use variance because it’s not the normally permitted use…. That’s why [Planning Board attorney Frank Linnus] wanted the legal opinion in writing.” Murphy said. She asked whether the development could function without the Reed road entrance if the variance were not approved.

Board professionals were unclear on whether or not the development needed a third road to function. Keller, the traffic consultant, explained that the application is up to code with the addition of the emergency access road and the second road leading into the development. “That’s what I was trying to get at. It is not necessary; it’s desirable. I would prefer to have it from a circulation standpoint.” Keller said.

According to Keller, the left-hand turn on Reed road during peak hours currently runs under a level of service E. This means that it becomes backed up during peak hours in the morning and afternoon. The amount of traffic is then assigned a letter between A and F, A being the lowest amount of traffic and F being the highest amount of traffic. Even if the Collection does not get built, Keller estimates that the left-hand turn will still worsen. This is a result of the Hopewell Parc project and other commercial projects happening in Hopewell Township.

“The left hand through movement would see an additional 23 vehicles from this project based on our trip assignment, which is one vehicle every three minutes. During the peak hour during the pm peak hour, it’s only 13 vehicles. So I mean, the amount of traffic that we’re projecting is going out that direction is a small percentage of that intersection,” Keller explained.

In addition, Murphy questioned the lack of a study on Dublin road and the addition of the Woodmont application, a new development application. This would add school traffic into the overall traffic count, she suggested.

Murphy commented that the am peak hour will be “a nightmare” to travel.She further questioned estimates for school-age children. Murphy stated that the applicant estimates that the development would add 61 school-aged kids to the area. “The fiscal report says that this development creates 61 school-aged kids. Now also in the fiscal report, they show the background growth for the township. And in every single year… school children have made up slightly over 25% of the total population of the township,” Murphy said. “So if you’re saying that there are 813 residents in this development, if you use the 25% rule, that would be 200 school children, not 61.”

Petrino explained that this problem doesn’t fall under the applicants’ obligations. “It’s an existing condition that the township could have addressed 10 years ago…so I understand it’s an issue, and I live in Hopewell and I’m sympathetic to it, but we have an obligation to contribute to problems that we cause and existing conditions are not those problems,” he said. When pressured, he offered that the applicant would be happy to look into and study the problem at hand.

The next meeting is scheduled for July 14. For the rest of the year there will continue to be meetings twice a month to handle applications and to update several issues within the master plan.

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