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Freehold Township Planning Board grants preliminary approval to housing development

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – The Planning Board has granted preliminary approval to a residential development that will help Freehold Township meet its affordable housing obligation.

During a meeting on Aug. 19, board members voted to memorialize a resolution approving the preliminary major site plan for PIRHL at Jackson Mills Road, a residential development proposed by PIRHL Developers, LLC.

The board’s approval followed testimony provided by PIRHL representatives. Attorney Kate Coffey presented the application on behalf of the developer.

According to the application, the project is proposed at 55 Jackson Mills Road, a 17-acre tract that is east of the Silvermead community and south of Polo Club Drive.

There will be five buildings constructed at the site: four buildings containing a total of 60 housing units and one building that will be a community center. Of the 60 total housing units, 30 units will be designated as affordable housing.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

“We are mandated by the state to provide affordable housing,” said Township Committeeman Lester Preston, who sits on the Planning Board.

Three residential buildings will each total about 19,000 square feet and have 16 housing units.

One residential building will total about 13,000 square feet and have 12 housing units.

The community center will total about 2,210 square feet, according to the application.

The residential development will have 120 parking spaces, nine of which will be designated as handicapped spaces. Undeveloped land will be reserved for additional parking if needed. The site will have a community garden and a playground.

Access to the new development will be provided by two driveways that will intersect with Jackson Mills Road.

The board’s attorney, Roger J. McLaughlin, said a resolution granting preliminary site plan approval for the project was being memorialized that evening to assist PIRHL in applying for tax credits for the development.

McLaughlin said preliminary site plan approval was a required component of PIRHL’s tax credits application.

Because the deadline to submit the tax credits application was the end of August, the board members agreed to memorialize the preliminary site plan approval resolution on the same evening when the public hearing was held and preliminary approval for the application was granted.

In most cases, a resolution that memorializes an action that has been taken by the board is voted on during a meeting that is held several weeks after the application has been heard.

PIRHL’s representatives will be required to return before the board to seek final site plan approval for the residential development.

Board Chairman Richard Gatto said residents who live near the property will receive a notice when a hearing has been scheduled for final site plan approval.

When asked about a timeline for the project, PIRHL Senior Vice President Lara Schwager said she expects the final site plan application to be heard in April 2022 if the project receives tax credits approval in December.

If the project does not receive tax credits approval, she said, PIRHL would not return to the board for another year.

Regarding the project’s construction schedule, Schwager estimated it would take between 14 and 16 months to complete the work once activity at the site gets underway.

Residents who live on Polo Club Drive voiced concern about the project, specifically regarding a potential increase in traffic on Jackson Mills Road from the residents of the new housing.

Traffic engineer Maurice Rached, who represented the applicant, testified that traffic studies indicated the new development would have less of a traffic impact on Jackson Mills Road than Polo Club Drive does.

Rached said most vehicles make a left turn out of Polo Club Drive onto Jackson Mills Road, while most vehicles leaving the PIRHL development will turn right onto Jackson Mills Road, which he said is an easier movement for drivers to complete.

One resident asked why the land that is being reserved for additional parking spaces in the new development would not be paved when the project is built.

Gatto explained that Freehold Township officials prefer the environmental benefits of open space and of not paving over green space before a determination has been made that the additional parking spaces, which are referred to as “banked spaces,” are actually needed.

He said the decision on whether the banked parking spaces should be developed falls under the discretion of the township engineer.

“We encourage green spaces, not pavement,” Gatto said to the resident. “You don’t want those spaces unbanked.”

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