The Gatherings residents petition to close off Princess Road

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The planned Amazon “last mile” delivery station, approved for a vacant warehouse at 10 Princess Road, has drawn fire from residents of The Gatherings townhouse development who live down the street from the 340,400-square-foot warehouse.

A petition, signed by more than 80 residents of the age-restricted townhouse development, was presented to the Lawrence Township Council earlier this month. The petitioners requested the installation of a cul-de-sac on Princess Road to block trucks from passing through The Gatherings on their way to the warehouse.

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But Lawrence Township officials are ahead of the issue, having pledged several times to consider creating a cul-de-sac on Princess Road near The Gatherings. Princess Road connects Princeton Pike and Franklin Corner Road.

The warehouse is located on Princess Road near Princeton Pike, and the townhouse development is located on Princess Road near Franklin Corner Road.

The warehouse was approved by the Lawrence Township Planning Board in 2018, and was constructed in 2019. It had remained empty until Amazon applied to the Planning Board for approval for modifications to the site plan in November.

Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski had stated several times at Planning Board and Township Council meetings that the township was not opposed to creating a cul-de-sac on Princess Road between the townhouse development and the warehouse.

Now that Lawrence Township officials know and understand the operations at the warehouse site, determining whether the road closing is feasible can be done by conducting a traffic study, Nerwinski said. The traffic study is part of the township’s “due diligence,” he said.

If the traffic study indicates that the road can be closed, it will be done by installing temporary bollards, Nerwinski said. There are vacant parcels on Princess Road that may be developed later and that may require township officials “to re-think and change the road closing,” he said.

“Of course, that would be the last resort option,” Nerwinski said.

Some of the petitioners’ requests have been fulfilled, such as installing signage on Franklin Corner Road at Princess Road that states it is not a “through street” for truck traffic. Additional signs on Franklin Corner Road direct truck traffic to Princeton Pike and onto Princess Road.

At the driveway entrances to the Princess Road warehouse, signs have been installed that ban left turns onto Princess Road. Trucks must turn right onto Princess Road, which leads them to Princeton Pike and the ramps for Interstate Highway 295.

“To be clear, I, along with the governing body, want the road to be closed to protect and preserve the quality of life for The Gatherings residents,” Nerwinski said.

It appears that the road can be closed, but the township must perform its due diligence to ensure that the move does not create a negative situation for others in the area, he said.

Nerwinski also said Princess Road is a long-established commercial zone that predates construction of The Gatherings townhouse development. While the residents do not want more development on Princess Road because of what they perceive to be harmful effects on their quality of life, “this is not reasonable nor is it realistic,” he said.

Property owners along Princess Road have the right to develop their properties, based on what is permitted by the township’s zoning ordinance, Nerwinski said. The area is zoned for commercial development, and since there are vacant lots on Princess Road, it is likely that they will be developed with Planning Board approval, he said.

Change can be difficult for many people, but shutting down Lawrence’s borders to development is not an option, Nerwinski said.

“To say that commercial development is fine as long as it is not near me is not fair, especially when the application is for development in an area zoned for it,” he said.

Lawrence Township is a desirable community for both residential and commercial development, as it is situated between New York City and Philadelphia, he said. It is accessible by highway and by rail, and people want to live and do business in Lawrence.

“To some, this is a blessing and to others, it is a curse. Navigating effectively between the two, while also keeping Lawrence affordable, is the struggle,” Nerwinski said.

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