An online petition asks East Windsor Township officials to reconsider the approval of two rental apartment complexes on a former dairy farm.
The Planning Board approved the two complexes – Camelot at East Windsor and Amaranth at East Windsor – at 641 N. Main St. last year.
More than 350 people have signed the petition, which has been circulating on www.change.org since mid-June.
The petition calls on township officials to hold a “well-publicized forum” to explain why the site was chosen for the rental apartment complexes.
Developer Kaplan at Tacony LLC, Highland Park, received approval to build 406 rental apartments on the 28.4-acre property at a Township Council meeting on Oct. 18, 2021. A resolution of memorialization, which officially records the board’s action, was approved on Jan. 10.
Mayor Janice Mironov said the township has “no legal authority to reconsider a legally granted development approval that occurred nine months ago.”
The township does not own the property, and “therefore cannot unilaterally just decide that it should not be developed or used,” she said.
Camelot at East Windsor consists of 295 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, including 65 apartments set aside for low- and moderate-income households. The rest are market rate units, according to the application.
Amaranth at East Windsor is made up of 111 age-restricted apartments. It is targeted for persons who are at least 55 years old. All of the one- and two-bedroom apartments are market rate units, according to the application.
Petition concerns include the increase in traffic that will be generated by the two apartment complexes. The new developments are expected to attract more than 600 residents in the 15 three-story apartment buildings, according to the petition.
The developments are anticipated to generate 155 new trips during the weekday morning rush hour and 184 new trips during the weekday evening rush hour, according to the Planning Board’s resolution of memorialization.
Additional concerns include the “lack of information about the project as it made its way through the planning approval process between May and October 2021. The Planning Board minutes were not available during that time, and local residents said they were not aware of the application, according to the petition.
Mironov said the file, including the application, all updated filings and all professional reports are – and were – available for public review throughout the proceedings. There had been a series of discussions, proceedings and hearings over several years regarding the property, she said.
“The township Planning Board attorney reviewed the legal notice provided to the surrounding properties on two occasions and confirmed on the Planning Board record that the application complied with all legal notice requirements,” she said.
Notice of an application before a Planning or Zoning Board must be given to property owners within 200 feet of the property by certified mail, and by publishing it in the official newspaper for legal advertisements, according to the state Municipal Land Use Law.
In the case of a condominium development such as the neighboring Wyckoff’s Mill, the notice it made to the person authorized to accept notices, the Municipal Land Use Law said. The individual unit owners do not need to be given notice.
Nevertheless, the petition asks township officials “to hold a well-publicized forum explaining why other sites – an unused land in the southeast corner of the township around Airport Road and Etra Road or the vacant land across the street from 641 N. Main St. – could not be used for the same purpose of creating (affordable) housing.”
The Camelot at East Windsor and the Amaranth at East Windsor developments grew out of a lawsuit settlement between the township and the nonprofit Fair Share Housing Center. The township was sued over its alleged failure to provide its fair share of affordable housing.
The settlement agreement approved by the New Jersey Superior Court in 2017 listed the dairy farm at 641 N. Main St. as one of nine properties that could be developed to meet the township’s obligation to provide its fair share of affordable housing.
The nine properties are listed in the Housing Element of the township Master Plan. None of the properties suggested in the petition – the areas around Airport Road and Etra Road, and the land across the street from 641 N. Main St. – are listed as sites suitable for affordable housing.
The www.change.org petition acknowledges that the township has a legal obligation to provide affordable housing, but “the imposition of this many people right next to a small, two-lane road (Main Street) can be expected to add significant traffic and noise pollution to both Hightstown and East Windsor.”
The petition also said that the township Master Plan states “preservation of green space and farmland is a priority for the township. Implementing the development and eliminating one of the last historic farms in the township directly contradicts that goal.”
Mironov pointed out that “the development uses on all sides of this property (at 641 N. Main St.) are multi-family, both in Hightstown and East Windsor.” The Wyckoff’s Mill condominium development borders the property, and there are other homes nearby, she said.