Hopewell Borough residents will have an additional chance to comment on a redevelopment plan for the J.C. Van Doren and Sons lumber yard property at the Borough Council’s Sept. 6 meeting.
On Aug. 2, council members opened the public hearing on an ordinance that would, if adopted, create a Townhouse Residential zone on the 1-acre property at 24 Model Avenue.
Council members were ready to take final action on the ordinance, which was introduced in July, but opted to continue the public hearing to Sept. 6 after listening to two Model Avenue residents who questioned the redevelopment plan.
The lumber yard property is zoned Residental/Office (RO), which permits single-family homes, and professional and business offices. The lumber yard is a permitted use.
The redevelopment plan, which has been in the works since 2015, would create a new zone on the property that would allow the construction of up to 13 townhouses on that lot. Two of the units would be set aside for low- and moderate-income households.
Council members were quick to stress that a redevelopment plan is a planning tool, and that no one has filed an application with the Planning Board to redevelop the lumber yard property.
Councilman David Mackie, who also sits on the Planning Board, outlined the multi-step redevelopment process for the two Model Avenue residents – neither of whom was aware of the redevelopment plan and its details.
Mackie said the state Local Redevelopment and Housing Law allows municipal officials to look at properties that are under-used or that are “out of sync” with the community’s goals, and to rezone them.
“(The redevelopment act) is a framework for adaptive re-use of a property,” Mackie said.
Adaptive re-use means finding new uses for an old building or property.
The redevelopment law allows for changes in zoning, but it is a lengthy process that involves the approval of the governing body and the Planning Board, he said.
“If a property owner came to us, we would work with them to come up with a redevelopment plan – a change in zoning to allow another use on the property,” Mackie said.
A redevelopment plan “does not pertain to a specific site plan. They would still have to go through the Planning Board (and file a formal application),” Mackie said, explaining there would be opportunities for public comment on a proposed development at the Planning Board.
Council members also would have to approve a redevelopment agreement with the redeveloper, Mackie said. The agreement lays out a detailed site plan for the property that may include architectural, lighting and landscaping details.
The key part of the redevelopment plan is to change the use for the owner of the lumber yard property to build townhouse units, including some units set aside for affordable housing, Mackie said.
The property owner has outlined a conceptual site plan, but a formal application has not been prepared or submitted to the Planning Board, he said.
“All we are doing is creating a framework,” Mayor Paul Anzano said. “All we are doing is creating a mechanism to advance a plan, an opportunity (to develop the site). It still needs to be fully vetted.”
Mackie said from his perspective, there is a benefit to allowing the lumber yard property to be redeveloped for small-scale housing. It will allow long-time Hopewell Borough residents to sell their homes and down-size.
Borough officials are also looking to create opportunities for affordable housing, he said. It is not easy, because the town is almost fully developed, so the government is looking for “in-fill” opportunities to build on existing land, he said.
Bruce Downie, who lives on Model Avenue, said his street already has its share of apartments. The street is “pretty densely” developed and it is a popular shortcut in the morning for motorists, he said.
“I’m worried about getting roped into something. I am not opposed to it. I have lived on Model Avenue for 18 years,” Downie said, adding that redevelopment of the lumber yard property is a good idea.
Councilman Ryan Kennedy suggested holding off on a vote on the ordinance and carrying the public hearing for another month. He said he would like planner Frank Banisch to attend the Sept. 6 meeting.
Mackie agreed and said many residents are on vacation. He offered to walk through the neighborhood to alert residents to the pending ordinance and redevelopment plan.