ALLENTOWN – Mayor Thomas Fritts has scheduled a meeting to be held from 7-9 p.m. May 4 at the Newell Elementary School, High Street, during which residents of several communities and officials will discuss development in the region that surrounds Allentown.
Fritts announced the May 4 event during the April 26 meeting of the mayor and Borough Council. He said guest speakers and community activists will engage in a discussion with residents of Allentown and surrounding municipalities.
The mayor invited residents of any community to attend the meeting. In recent years, Allentown’s residents have felt the impact of development beyond the borough’s borders. They expect to continue to face the impact of additional planned development in municipalities including Upper Freehold Township and Robbinsville.
“The theme of the May 4 meeting will be ‘communities united’ and it will focus on grassroots citizen efforts” to deal with development, Fritts said during the council meeting that was held in Borough Hall and broadcast live on Zoom.
“At the end of the day, zoning board (decisions) affect our communities. We hope everyone can attend the May 4 meeting. It can be the start of something great. We have to work together. I am passionate about this issue, as is the entire governing body,” the mayor said.
One site Allentown officials and residents are concerned about is the parcel that is commonly known as the Stein property.
Probasco Drive in Allentown is adjacent to the Stein property in Upper Freehold on North Main Street (Route 539/524). The large tract of undeveloped land is near an exit from Interstate 195 to North Main Street.
The Stein property is in what Allentown officials refer to as a greenbelt around the borough.
During the April 26 council meeting, Fritts reported what residents have been talking about on social media; specifically, that a sign has been placed on the Stein property which indicates the site will be developed with more than 450 townhomes.
However, the mayor said no application that proposes development of any type on the Stein property has been filed with Upper Freehold. Fritts said borough officials will continue to monitor the situation.
An application that proposes residential or commercial development on the Stein property would be heard by Upper Freehold’s Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment during public hearings.
Residents and officials from any municipality would be able to attend those board meetings and express their concerns about whatever type of development is proposed.
During the past few years, Allentown residents have expressed concern that warehouses may be proposed on the Stein tract. Now residents are seeing a sign which claims the property will be used for a residential development.
“No application has been submitted to Upper Freehold,” Fritts said, “but a wetlands application has been submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection and we are reviewing that. We are doing our due diligence and taking all appropriate steps … We are looking at what, if anything, Allentown can do.”
The mayor said the sign which claims townhouses will be constructed on the Stein property has “raised awareness” a development application may be forthcoming. He said it is a priority for borough officials to do whatever they can to make certain Allentown is not harmed by development that may occur on its border.