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Public expected to comment on Howell housing project during Feb. 17 meeting

HOWELL – Members of the public are expected to have their say on a proposed 319-unit residential development when the Howell Planning Board meets on Feb. 17.

The applicant, FP Howell, LLC, and the Estate of William Whalen by Gina Bettencourt, John Berkoben and Ruth Bennett, as owners, is seeking preliminary and final major subdivision approval and site plan approval for the Views at Monmouth Manor on a 102-acre tract at Fort Plains and Sunnyside roads in Howell.

The applicant is proposing to construct 319 residential units (72 homes to be sold at market rates; 155 townhomes to be sold at market rates; and 92 condominiums/apartments to 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.

Howell and other New Jersey municipalities are under order from the New Jersey Supreme Court to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing within their borders.

A public hearing regarding the Views at Monmouth Manor has been conducted by the board over the course of several months. The application was the subject of a special meeting of the board on Jan. 31.

Attorney Kenneth Pape represented the applicant before the board. Pape called on planner Stuart Challoner to continue the applicant’s presentation.

Challoner said the application has been revised to change the improvements on Fort Plains Road.

“The applicant extended an additional 5 feet for road width improvements along Fort Plains Road. The landscaping was updated, additional buffer trees were planted around the perimeter. We added additional buffer trees between the rear of the residential and the condo buildings that are backing up to Fort Plains Road,” he said.

The applicant anticipates there will be about 202 trees removed during the construction of the housing development. A total of 599 new trees will be planted, not including the foundation plantings for the condominiums; and 249 trees will be street trees.

Jennifer Beahm, the board’s planner, commented on the application, saying, “This plan is not impressive in my opinion, it looks anorexic in the landscaping. I know you want to go for the number, but the buffer plantings are not impressive in my opinion; like it is really unimpressive. I don’t even know what to say about it.”

The board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro, said that based on the testimony presented and reports received from the professionals, he would not recommend granting final site plan approval at this time.

No decision was reached by the board on Jan. 31 and the application was carried to Feb. 17.

Regarding public participation on Feb. 17, Cucchiaro said, “Everyone who wants to have an opportunity to speak, to ask questions (will have that opportunity); if they want to present their own professionals (they will be able to). Everyone is going to have an opportunity to do that. I just want to be clear that no one will be limited or prohibited to any participation that is relevant to the proceedings.”

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