SOUTH BRUNSWICK – After more than four hours, South Brunswick Zoning Board of Adjustment members decided to wait to vote on an application involving housing, a sports facility and associated improvements at the Islamic Society of Central Jersey (ISCJ).
The ISCJ sought amended preliminary and amended final site plan approval with use and bulk variance approval to permit a 44,880-square-foot sports facility and 24 senior housing units on a 5.5-acre lot adjacent to its mosque at 4145 Route 1 in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick.
The zoning board meeting on Feb. 4 was the fifth meeting on the application since November 2019. However, after hearing more testimony and public comments, the board members were split on whether to begin the applicant attorney’s closing statements followed by a vote since it was past 11:30 p.m.
Zoning board Chairman Marty Hammer broke the tie, asking representatives of ISCJ to return on Feb. 18 for the final decision. He gave them the option of the board voting on one complete application, or voting on the sports facility and housing component separately.
“This is a very special site in the township. It’s a large mosque facility, has a school, has regional notoriety as well as local notoriety,” professional planner John Chadwick said. “The sports feature brings a unique perspective. … Senior residential housing is one of the objectives of the state planning law. I think the visions have addressed site proximity as well as reducing the bulk of the buildings.”
Engineer Robert Sive said the plan was reduced from 32 to 24 units at the previous meeting, with 20 two-bedroom units and four one-bedroom units proposed, with 40 feet of space between every two units. The townhouse-style homes would accommodate single families; the original application called for multi-family units.
He said the density would be 4.3 units per acre in the RM3 zone.
The sports facility would be open from 6-11 p.m. on weeknights and from 8 a.m. to midnight on weekends. The facility would be rented out to the public via a third party, applicant attorney Steven Hambro said.
A total of 48 parking spots would be available between the existing school and the residential area.
Hambro said the inverted “U” shaped driveway would be widened to 20 feet to accommodate fire engines and garbage trucks.
He also said the applicant proposed a swale and inlets connected via a pipe to collect stormwater flow so water will not flow onto the adjacent properties.
Landscape screening would include 144 shade trees, 426 evergreen trees, 297 shrubs and 465 flowers/ground coverings.
If the application is approved, Phase 1 will tend to the sports facility, mosque and school; Phase 2 would construct the residences with associated infrastructure; and Phase 3 would complete the addition to the school.
“I think the time spent developing this plan, both on our side and on the township’s side, produced an excellent plan in accommodating its environment,” Chadwick said.
However, residents are taking issue with the lot being too small to accommodate a mosque, a school, a sports facility and housing, especially since the property borders neighborhoods on Richard Road and Essex Drive.
“It isn’t compatible with what we have going on on Richard Road,” Karl Braun said.
Jugnu Gagarani said an application for 22 multi-family units was denied in 2006 because of lot size, and agreed with the same.
Rozalia Dudycz-Bornbach said 16 of the 25 families along Richard Road proposed a letter in opposition of the curbing and sidewalk to township officials, since neighbors do not want the sidewalk connecting to their area at taxpayers’ expense.
However, Frank Anticell said on behalf of the applicant that the curbing and sidewalk are proposed on one side of the road only, along the ISCJ property.
Dudycz-Bornbach also raised concerns that since Richard Road is at the bottom of a hill, flooding could occur.
“This will definitely cause a huge impact on the entire community,” she said.
Jody Bolansky asked why the sports facility has to be open so late, and cautioned that although Hambro said the operations are similar to a facility in Monroe Township, there are light and noise factors since this is in a residential area.
Bolansky also said the application goes against the South Brunswick master plan since it is requesting several variances and waivers, because the lot is too small.
Donna Smith said ISCJ has been trying to improve its property for 20 years with continual denials. She said the applicant is asking for too much. She called the property outline “abusive.”
“The owners of this lot keep trying to build more than you can build,” Jorge Cruz said. “We are tired of this. I am tired of this. We need to fight for our investments. … I would like to retire in the neighborhood I bought.
“I think they are promising a lot of things. How can we assure that [stays the same] in five to 10 years?” he said. “The way I see it now, I’m going to have to run. I feel displaced.”
However, Hambro reminded the residents the property is approved for an office building, which he said is “much more intense” of a use, and reiterated that the proposed housing and sports facility are acceptable options for the property.
The attorney will deliver his closing remarks at the zoning board meeting on Feb. 18, after which the board members may vote to approve or deny the application.
For more information, visit http://southbrunswicknj.gov/