Bordentown residents voice concerns for proposed municipal building

Bordentown Township Administrator Michael Theokas speaks at a March 2 public scoping hearing.

Escaped convicts, noise and privacy were just several among many concerns raised by Bordentown residents at a public scoping hearing to discuss the potential designation of property for a new municipal building.

When Bordentown Township officials held a scoping hearing on March 2 to obtain public comment for the proposal to divert approximately eight acres of land on 240 Crosswicks Road to allow the construction of a new municipal complex to serve its residents, more than 20 patrons attended the meeting to voice their opinions on the matter.

Per regulations by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Bordentown Township Administrator Michael Theokas said the purpose of the meeting was not to take formal action on a decision to approve or field discussions about potential issues with the construction of a new municipal building, but rather to obtain public comment and suggestions on the proposed of diversion of designated open space in the township to potentially site a new municipal complex.

“This is not an official meeting of the township committee or any boards of the township. Therefore, no action can or will be taken at this meeting,” Theokas said. “This is a public meeting to be transcribed for verbatim and audio recorded for the sake of the record. All of this will be sent to DEP.”

Officials said the proposed municipal complex would be adjacent to the existing township department of public works facilities. The proposed municipal building would also house the township police department headquarters in addition to a senior community center. The Green Acres Diversion process would include the removal of approximately eight acres of green acres recreation and open space land from the township’s Recreation Open Space Inventory while providing other open space lands greater than 16 acres.

“The proposed municipal complex would also provide the space and resources to serve the public at large,” officials said. “Adequate parking and circulation would be able to be accommodated at the proposed new location. All municipal services would be centralized, some open space would be preserved at the new complex and the new green acres space is more than twice what is proposed and needed.”

Officials explained that the proposed idea for a new complex came about following a township municipal office space needs study prepared in October 2015 with an update in 2018. In the study’s findings, the township reported that the cost for renovation of the current municipal building on 1 Municipal Drive would be approximately the same as the construction of a new building.

“The current location of the municipal building, senior center and other public properties on Municipal Drive is approximately four acres. This entire area is not large enough to accommodate parking and operational needs of the township and its police department,” Theokas said. “Building on the current lot would cause severe interruption of services while construction occurred. Consolidating all municipal operations to a centralized location on Crosswicks Road would benefit the residents.

“The township has grown considerably since 2015. If you have ever been here on a Wednesday for court, we are jammed at the seams on court day. Our police department has grown considerably. They are downstairs and working in less than desirable conditions,” Theokas added.

Following a brief presentation by officials, public comment was held where residents raised particular concerns with the proposed site if it’s approved for Crosswicks Road. Among many concerns mentioned by residents, privacy for neighboring properties, noise from the police station and the potential of escaped convicts from the police department traversing into nearby backyards were just several points raised by locals.

“I have done business in this building, and we make do with what we have,” said Bordentown resident Slyvia Scozzari. “The police department, I get it. They deserve a [bigger] place, but can we just meet it on a smaller scale?”

Nicholas Dinatale, a resident on 5 Steven Court which neighbors the proposed municipal site, said he was a retired detective who voiced potential issues with a nearby police department.

“I understand how police departments run. I know 24/7 what goes on,” Dinatale said. “If you are working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 3 a.m. to 3 p.m., I don’t want to hear your sirens going off or if they are testing their sirens… I don’t want to get up. I don’t want my son getting up. Paramount to that, I know we are all highly trained professionals, in my career, and I don’t think there’s a cop who says this never happens – escaped prisoners. You bring your car in and you got your guy, and next thing you know, there he goes at 3:30 in the morning. Now, we have a manhunt in my backyard. I don’t want that. None of us want that.”

Following more than an hour of public comment, the meeting was closed by officials.

Officials said public comment on this diversion request will be accepted during the scoping hearing or in writing until March 16. Written comments on the diversion request may be directed to Michael Theokas, Township Administrator, 1 Municipal Drive, Bordentown, NJ 08505.

Send a copy of any comments on this request to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres Program, Bureau of Legal Services and Stewardship, 501 East State Street – 1st Floor, Mail Code 501-01, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420.

Bordentown Township Mayor Stephen Benowitz speaks at a March 2 public scoping hearing.
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