MIDDLETOWN — It was the objectors’ turn last Wednesday, as the township planning board continued to hear an application to construct a large, residential project in the Lincroft section of the township.
Four Ponds Center Associates is seeking approval to construct 342 residentail units on a 68-acre property that previously house facilities for the Avaya Corporation, a telecommunications firm.
The project would consist 274 town homes to be sold at market rate, and 68 units deemed affordable under state guidelines, a club/community house, pool and other amenities.
The developers’ attorney, Rick Brodsky, and the lawyer representing the objectors, Ron Gasiorowski, had agreed to allow all the developers’ witnesses to testify and then Gasiorowski would be permitted to recall the witnesses for cross-examination. Gasiorowski’s questioning began last week, commencing with the architect, Edmund Gaunt.
Gaunt said the structures to be constructed on the property would be 40 feet tall, a permissible height, according to the project’s engineer, James Kennedy. But he noted that the existing vacant office complex there is 40 feet high. “My understanding with this project was to swap mass with mass,” Gasiorowski said. He then asked, “Isn’t it true you took the mass of the existing building in the center and spread it out throughout the entire site? So in reality you weren’t swapping mass for mass but you were putting even more mass?”
“When you look at this doesn’t it look like an aerial view of a parking lot at Wal-Mart, but instead of looking at cars you’re looking at townhouses?” Gasiorowski asked, and Gaunt denied.
In some ways that goes to the heart of what concerns area residents. “What we object vehemently, and will continue o object vehemently, is the proposed density of this development,” this week explained Lehigh Drive resident Jeff Blumengold,a member of the group .
The township committee in 2009 had changed the zoning of the area of Middletown-Lincroft Road and West Front Street, where the Avaya property sits, to permit multifamily residential development, in part to accommodate the affordable housing , allowing the township to address its obligation under what had been the state’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). But for Blumengold, “It’s not about affordable housing. It’s about density,” charging this project would increase it by 16 percent i(and would go up by 25 percent if another proposed large residential development in the area moves forward). And given that Gov. Chris Christie has abolished COAH, there remains some question about those previously required obligations, Blumengold argued.
These projects “will forever change, in our view, the character of the area and will serve to undermine what I view as the village aspect forever,” as well as impacting on the existing infrastructure, including water and sewer services, safety and schools, he said.
The board will continue the hearing at its March 7 meeting.
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