Cranbury Planning Board denies variance for riparian zone encroachment


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Toll Brothers has been denied a variance by the Cranbury Planning Board to alter the riparian zone buffer on a proposed age-restricted residential community.

During a March 5 meeting, board members Wayne Wittman, James Gallagher, Michael Kaiser, Township Committeewoman Evelyn Spann and Mayor Matt Scott voted “no” on a motion to grant the variance.

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Board Chairman Peter Mavoides and board member Judson Hamlin voted “yes” on the motion to grant the variance.

The board carried the rest of the Toll Brothers application to a public hearing on April 2.

During the March 5 meeting, board members, representatives of Toll Brothers and residents debated whether the variance should be granted to the east of the Protinick property where the applicant wants to build an adult community.

The property is at the corner of Dey and Petty roads.

At the heart of the discussion was the 150-foot-wide riparian zone buffer to the east of the property that surrounded a surface water body.

Cranbury’s riparian zone ordinance requires a 150-foot-wide buffer around all surface water bodies.

“There is a small irrigation pond to the eastern border. We do not anticipate there being a riparian zone for this because it is man-made,” said Jay Kruse, the civil engineer representing Toll Brothers. “It was created for farming and agricultural use for the property itself. It is also replenished by two wells.”

The original Toll Brothers site plan of 174 housing units would have had a portion of homes inside the zone. The project would have had homes in the 100-foot portion of the 150-foot zone from the water body.

“From the Environmental Commission perspective, that is a surface water body that comes under the protection of our riparian zone ordinance. The applicant had been warned multiple times about the zone and should have designed around it,” said Paul Mullen, chair of the Environmental Commission.

Representatives of Toll Brothers presented two site plans to the board.

The first plan was the original 174-unit age-restricted development in the riparian zone buffer and the second plan was a 172-unit rendering of the project with homes removed from the riparian zone.

Attorney Richard Hoff, who represents Toll Brothers, said the variance, whether or not it was granted, would not significantly impact the rest of the project. Hoff said if the board denied the variance the applicant would move forward with the 172-home plan.

“Nothing is being served by imposing that buffer except to be frankly punitive, because the buffer does not do anything. It is an active farm field,” Hoff said. “We are being asked to maintain this buffer not because it is serving to protect the riparian zone, but because it is impacting our ability to yield the amount of units.”

Toll Brothers plans to construct a one-story clubhouse that would include a pool, a spa, two tennis courts, two bocce courts and bicycle parking.

The property currently consists of an active farm and contains a single-family home and two accessory structures on the northern part of the site along Dey Road.

In 2016, Cranbury officials entered into a settlement agreement with Toll Brothers as part of an affordable housing settlement.

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