Officials, residents ask for more parking at Ferris Farms townhome development

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EAST BRUNSWICK – Members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment have raised concerns regarding parking availability for Ferris Farms of East Brunswick LLC’s proposed redevelopment plan.

The applicant is proposing to construct 30 market rate townhouses in five buildings. The project has been revised multiple times from the originally proposed 50 townhouses consisting of 40 market rate units and 10 affordable housing units. The current proposed density is six units per acre. The property is at 690 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick, in an R-1 Zone and is 5 acres, according to a township staff report.

More than 20 residents listened to the applicant’s engineer Marc Leber and traffic expert Scott Kennel on Oct. 3 during a zoning board meeting at the municipal building.

The property contains a retail garden center known as Ferris Farms, consisting of buildings, greenhouses and parking spaces, according to a township staff report.

The applicant is proposing to demolish all existing structures and make site improvements. The units will have access off a proposed road from Cranbury Road. Improvements proposed include parking, a storm water basin, utilities, landscaping and lighting. A tot lot is proposed on the north side of the property, according to the report.

The site currently contains one existing masonry building, one steel building, a large greenhouse and a parking lot. The rear of the property contains brush and trees. Access to the site is currently provided off Cranbury Road, according to the report.

David Himelman, the applicant’s attorney, said the proposed redevelopment plan will no longer include 10 affordable housing units.

“The applicant seeks a D use variance for density for multi-housing since the property is in the R-1 zone which only permits single-family dwellings, [which means] one unit per acre, and the applicant seeks six unit townhomes per acre based on the 5 acres Ferris Farm tract,” Himelman said. “The applicant also seeks certain C bulk variances for setbacks.”

In terms of parking, Leber said there will be 60 garage spaces, 60 driveway parking spaces and 15 guest parking spaces. There will be a total of 135 parking spaces with each unit having a two-car garage and two driveway spaces.

After calculating the number of parking spaces needed under the Residential Site Improvements Standards, Leber said the proposed project would need 87 parking spaces, so the applicant far exceeds the parking requirement.

“Many of the changes … are a direct result of not only input from the board and your professionals, but also some of the objectors in particular. We did meet with [Perry and Mary Ann] Giancola and their consultant and professionals at the property several weeks ago in an effort to try and discuss how best to address some of their concerns,” Himelman said.

“I believe we have made great strides to try to address those concerns. I am hopeful that at the conclusion of these proceedings we will come to find a resolution with the Giancolas on all aspects of their concerns,” he said.

During a meeting on June 20, resident Perry Giancola said he owns two properties that are near the proposed redevelopment property. He said he was concerned one of the proposed townhouses was going to be built too close the property line.

Giancola could not be reached by press time for additional comment.

“One of the major changes is the fact that we have eliminated the building that was previously located on the south side of the property,” Leber said. “So now if you look at the plan you will see there is a wood line that is presently in the field today as being preserved. We have that labeled ‘distance wooded area’ .. this way there is no longer any proposed building adjacent to the neighbors’ property.”

The board’s chairman, Steve Philips, said he was concerned there will not be enough parking spaces during the holidays when people have family members and friends over.

Kennel replied, “The 15 visitor parking spaces are along the proposed cul-de-sac. There was a question raised about holiday time; it’s my opinion the parking lot is adequate, because again, even though the residents will have holiday parties, there are other residents who are going to be visiting other family and other people off-site. Not every single tenant is going to have a house party, it’s just uncommon.”

Questioning Kennel’s opinion on the matter, the board’s attorney, Jay Weiner, said, “Pick any holiday … you get out of 30 [tenants], six or seven have company. You only have a limited amount of visitor parking, you can’t expect the guests from those homes to park in someone else’s garage, because he’s visiting his cousin in Ohio or on someone else’s driveway. I think the board deserves a clear answer as to the overflow of those instances, how this can handle it, and if it can’t, where can those folks park?”

Resident Jeannine Lonski said, “People host a lot of people on the holidays, I have 20 to 30 cars on Christmas. The fact that you do not allow parking on the street will be a joke and a farce because I live in Kingswood Station. We do not allow parking on our street as part of our bylaws. … On holidays, where are these people going to park? They are going to park on the street and they are going to park on Cranbury Road so you need to consider how you feel as a board about the inevitable conditions of cars parking on Cranbury Road.”

Philips said the East Brunswick Police Department is concerned there will not be enough parking for guests and said the applicant should explore the possibility of adding more parking spaces to the plan without it turning into a large parking lot.

Himelman said he agreed and said the applicant will consider adding more parking spaces to the plan.

At the board’s request, Kennel agreed to provide the board with a fire truck, garbage truck and driveway movement analysis.

With the proposed project along Dorchester Drive, resident Andrei Holub said since he lives on Dorchester Drive, he is concerned the applicant will cut down trees near his property and impact his privacy.

“As Mr. Leber indicated, the area that is wooded along Dorchester Drive is not being modified so you will continue to have that buffer,” Himelman said. “To Mr. Leber’s other point, we are trying to create a similar buffer and conservation along that wooded area on the southern portion of the property.”

The next zoning board meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 21 at the municipal building.

Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].