71 E. Broad St. project to go before Hopewell Borough Planning Board in 2021

ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

Hopewell Borough’s Planning Board did not have a public hearing during December for a proposed commercial retail and restaurant project at 71 E. Broad St.

According to the planning board, the applicant requested that the application be deferred to the board’s next meeting in early January.

“They will have to re-notice, because they neglected to notice the Mercer County Planning Board. They have not sent any notices out,” Maggie Schmitt, planning board secretary, said during the virtual meeting on Dec. 2.

The proposed project is at the corner of East Broad Street and Maple Street and would renovate an existing structure for commercial retail and restaurant space formally occupied by Castoro & Company Inc. as an automobile service station, according to application documents. This the first phase of a two-phased project on the property.

The project itself is facing challenges from neighbors, who have voiced concerns about the project’s size, parking, hours of operations, noise at the completed project, lighting, landscaping and redevelopment plan for the property.

The renovation of the former service building includes the removal of a portion of the rear of the building and a small addition at the front of the building along East Broad Street. The project would also remove all the service station items currently existing on the 1.8-acre property.

Representatives for the applicant are proposing the demolition of a portion of the 6,624-square-foot existing building for constructing space of close to 3,900 square feet for a potential restaurant tenant. The building will also serve as office use for 1,139 square feet; a common and mechanical space of a little more than 1,200 square feet; and open air seasonal outdoor dining consisting of 1,016 square feet.

In addition to the hearing postponement and a previous concern raised by residents about improved public input on redevelopment in the borough, Councilman Ryan Kennedy and Councilman David Mackie also announced during the meeting that officials would start the process of a master plan re-examination that would have a series of special meetings. The idea is that each meeting would take on a different topic, which would also begin in January.

“We thought we had a great public conversation at the last meeting and the question was raised about how can we have discussions as a community about the larger issues that underlie redevelopment and what is the best way to do it,” Mackie said. “We have had a number of internal conversations and realized it is time to go through this master plan revaluation process which we do every few years, because a lot has happened since the last time.”

According to the borough website, the latest re-examination took place in 2014. Officials said they are viewing this as an opportunity to tackle publicly a lot of the major underlying issues affecting redevelopment and rezoning. There would be a presentation on the specific topic of the meeting and the floor would be open to the public.

“For those of you in the public, stay tuned to a process likely in January where we will use the master plan re-evaluation process to have a really nice vehicle for educating everyone, ourselves included, about some of the major components about what will go into our thinking on redevelopment in general in town,” Kennedy said.

He added that residents would be aware of the meetings and that the meetings would outline what borough is doing, how it would be done and seek input.

“Through that vehicle we think it would be a good way to get public input on the type of broad variety people would like to see done, not just in redevelopment areas but other parts of town,” Kennedy said.

Later in December or early January officials will announce when the first special meeting will be, according to the planning board.