Allentown residents concerned about possible development in Upper Freehold

ALLENTOWN – The prospect of commercial development occurring in Upper Freehold Township has residents of Probasco Drive in Allentown concerned.

The residents are so concerned about what could be built near their homes that they attended a Borough Council meeting on Oct. 8 and addressed the issue with Mayor Greg Westfall and members of the council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Probasco Drive is adjacent to a property at the border of Allentown and Upper Freehold on North Main Street (Route 539/524). The large undeveloped parcel is in Upper Freehold and is referred to as the Stein property. The land is near an exit from Interstate 195 to North Main Street.

The residents said they have recently seen surveyors working on the Stein property and told borough officials they are concerned about the type of development that could be proposed on the land that is in Upper Freehold’s Highway Commercial zone.

The possibility of a warehouse or warehouses being constructed on the Stein property was mentioned as a significant source of concern by the residents.

The Stein property is in what Allentown officials refer to as a greenbelt around the borough.

Councilman Robert Schmitt told the residents, “We are with you. We have a greenbelt plan and we have to defend that plan. We live in a state where property rights (to develop land) are absolute.”

Council President Thomas Fritts said he expected the Stein property to be a topic of discussion in executive (closed) session that evening.

“We know what we are dealing with in Upper Freehold. There are a few specific paths we can take. We will be reaching out to residents. This is a critical moment for this borough,” Fritts said.

Westall said, “We have to keep in touch with what is going on in Upper Freehold, with their Township Committee and their planning and zoning boards. We have to be vigilant.”

Although the residents of Probasco Drive said they have seen surveyors on the Stein property, Fritts said no development application for the parcel has been filed in Upper Freehold at this time.

“There is activity (on the property) and we need to figure out who we can work with,” Fritts said.

In speaking about keeping up with what is happening in Upper Freehold, the council president expressed frustration that the most recent minutes from a Township Committee meeting in Upper Freehold that have been posted on the township’s website are from April.