By Rebecca Hersh
EDISON – This is a tale of two rallies, on opposite ends of Edison, about different projects, but on the same night, July 21, and with one unified message: Just say “no.”
Specifically, residents are asking municipal officials to find a way to stop what they are calling “inappropriate,” “destructive” and “criminal” impervious surface development in their neighborhoods and to make way for more “green” development with fewer cars, cleaner air, less noise and a more sustainable quality of life for the entire community.
Several dozen people gathered for the Silver Lake Avenue/warehouse rally to express their support for the preservation of 10 acres in the “historic and residential” Silver Lake neighborhood that they say should ideally be an extension of the Middlesex Greenway.
An application that proposes the construction of a warehouse on the site is expected to be heard by the Planning Board at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at the municipal building (the meeting is in-person only).
The property is zoned industrial and appears on its way toward housing a 176,630-square-foot warehouse. In the summer of 2020, the application submitted by 41 Glendale LLC required no variances.
The July 21 rally coincided with the one-year anniversary of when neighborhood resident Ron Loeffler began a battle to stop the development of the warehouse. The effort has attracted more than 500 advocates and support from Edison’s elected officials.
During a June 13 meeting of the Township Council, members of the governing body unanimously approved applications for two grants – a $500,000 urban parks development grant and a $7 million Green Acres grant that if obtained would provide an opportunity for officials to purchase 10 acres in the Silver Lake Avenue neighborhood for open space preservation rather than industrial use.
“I am in hearing aid sales and my wife is an audiologist, and for one year we have been trying to get people to listen to our arguments about how harmful it would be for not only the neighborhood, but also for all of Edison. If these 10 acres were developed as an industrial use, the community would be robbed of the last open space acreage along the Raritan River,” Loeffler said.
The residents who want to preserve the site said the property owner has indicated he would be open to selling the land to Edison if the parcel was going to be preserved as open space.
“But anything could happen at the Planning Board meeting. It is very unsettling,” Loeffler said.
Laura Uhlig-Smith said even though the crowd at the rally was relatively small, “we got lots of horn honking from people passing by. We have been at this for one year and we are still gaining steam.
“In early August 2020, Ron discovered the warehouse proposal after seeing a presentation about upcoming Planning Board applications. He called around asking neighbors if they had heard about it and no one had. He proceeded to wake us all up and we have been fighting non-stop since then,” Uhlig-Smith said.
On the other end of Edison, a rally attracted about 100 people who are opposing Markim Developers’ plan to build 23 townhomes on the 2-acre site of a former Charlie Brown’s restaurant on Plainfield Road.
The group is trying to build momentum prior to a 7 p.m. July 27 meeting of the Edison Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting in the municipal building at which the project is expected to be considered. The residents opposing the project organized in mid-June.
The residents believe several single-family homes on the site would be appropriate and would fit the scale and density of the neighborhood. They said the construction of more than 20 townhomes would be out of character in the neighborhood and should not be approved.
The Plainfield Road property where the townhomes are proposed is zoned for a golf course. The applicant is seeking use variances and bulk variances from the zoning board. The Metuchen Golf and Country Club is adjacent to the site.
“We need to preserve every speck of open space in this densely developed community,” one resident said.
Regarding the development applications that are being considered by Edison’s land use boards, Loeffler said residents hope municipal officials “will not ignore this overwhelming outpouring regarding development in our community.”