Millstone superintendent questions impact of housing on school district

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MILLSTONE – An application that proposes the construction of a 170-unit residential development will be heard during a special meeting of the Millstone Township Planning Board on a date to be announced.

Hexa Builders, LLC, is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct a development at 711 Perrineville Road, Millstone Township, near Route 571 and the border of East Windsor.

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The application was heard on March 9 and most recently on May 11. No decision regarding the application has been made by the board. Attorney John Giunco presented the application on behalf of Hexa Builders.

Following testimony on May 11, the application was carried to the board’s June 8 meeting, but testimony will not be heard that evening. At that time, board members are expected to announce the date of the special meeting when testimony will continue.

Hexa Builders has said the proposed development at 711 Perrineville Road will consist of 18 buildings on a 36-acre lot. There will be 122 townhouses constructed in 16 buildings and 48 condominiums constructed in two buildings.

The townhouses will be sold at market rates and the condominiums will be marketed for sale under New Jersey’s affordable housing guidelines, according to the applicant.

The proposed development was initially announced by municipal officials in 2019 as part of the township’s plan to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing in the community.

All of Millstone’s previously approved affordable housing projects contain only affordable housing units. Those developments are referred to as 100% affordable housing projects.

The project envisioned by Hexa Builders is the first development proposed in Millstone that would include market rate homes and affordable housing units. This type of development is referred to as an inclusionary project.

The property is owned by Gerald Baldachino, who presented the township with the initial plan to develop the lot on Perrineville Road.

At the start of the May 11 meeting, Christopher Huss, the superintendent of schools of the Millstone Township K-8 School District, asked questions about the proposed development’s potential impact on the township’s schools.

The district consists of a primary school, an elementary school and a middle school.

Huss said a residential development of this size is estimated to bring between 50 and 120 students into the school district.

While Huss said that number of students would be sustainable in the district’s total enrollment, he also said there could be other impacts on the school district, such as if the new students require special education services or are English as a Second Language pupils.

“No formula can predict those special circumstances,” he said.

The superintendent said all students in the school district are offered bus transportation to and from school. He asked if the proposed development would have an outlet or a way for a bus to turn around.

The applicant’s representatives said the development would have two points of access for vehicles.

Giunco noted that the Hexa Builders application cannot be denied based on the potential number of children who may enroll in the school district. The attorney and the applicant’s other representatives emphasized that the residential development is a permitted use in the zone where it is being proposed.

As part of a settlement agreement involving affordable housing, the members of the Township Committee adopted an ordinance that rezoned the Perrineville Road property from rural preservation to rural multi-family.

The development proposed by Hexa Builders conforms to the new zoning at the site and does not require a variance.

Potential traffic issues associated with the proposed development were also a concern raised by board members and members of the public.

Traffic engineer John Rea, representing the applicant, said the application would be discussed with Monmouth County officials because Perrineville Road is under the jurisdiction of the county.

Representatives from Millstone will be permitted to attend the meeting with the county, although Giunco questioned the necessity of municipal officials being present because the county will ultimately be responsible for the road’s safety.

Planning Board member Steve Lambros was critical of what he said was missing information, including information from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and details about the proposed development’s storm water management.

“I have not seen an application with this many conditions,” said Lambros, who has been a member of the board since 2004. “It’s important for the applicant to come here completely ready.”

Giunco said the basic elements of the proposed development were provided and said other factors would be conditions of the board’s approval.

The application was not concluded that evening. The board members initially sought to carry the public hearing to July 13, but Giunco took issue with the length of time between meetings (May 11 to July 13).

The application was carried to June 8. The Hexa Builders application will not be heard that evening, but the date of a special meeting when the application will be heard is expected to be announced at that time.

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