Pennington to seek public input on master plan reexamination draft in May Reexamination report

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The Pennington Planning Board will soon seek public input on a draft of its Master Plan Reexamination report as the board prepares to meet the state deadline in September.

A meeting for public input on the report that has been developed with a list of Planning Board recommendations is projected for some time in May, according to Andrew Jackson, vice chair of the Planning Board and chair of the Master Plan Review Committee.

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“If the public input goes well, then by July the Planning Board will have a document that the board can adopt and then submit to the county and state,” Jackson said.

Jim Reilly, chair of the Planning Board, along with Jackson presented the draft Master Plan Reexamination report to the Pennington Council at their April meeting seeking comments from Council on whether they had any differences or suggestions with what was in the draft.

Councilman John Valenza suggested that board should strive for some “consistency” with what was written in the draft on target areas for affordable housing from what was heard previously by Council from Borough Engineer Jim Kyle.

“In particular we had a discussion regarding the senior citizens center and the fact that it really was not an appropriate target for affordable housing primarily because it would be next to impossible to get public transportation back there,” he said.

“The places that we did highlight were not mentioned in the document and those would be the properties across from the Exxon Mobile gas station and Shopping Center on Route 31.”

Pennington’s previous two master plan reports were reexamined in 2005 and 2013 with an amendment in 2014. The original Master Plan was adopted in 1998.

The Planning Board recommends that the 1998 Master Plan is in need of an update.

“I think we are in desperate need of a new master plan. If you look at our original Master Plan, it is a paper Master Plan from 1998. We really need to have an online presence with this master plan,” Council President Kit Chandler said. “Spreading the cost over three years is very doable.”

There are three general areas the draft highlights that are not enough in the 1998 Master Plan.

“It makes no mention of several important current issues, including conservation, renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, climate change hazard vulnerability and mitigation, green buildings, and environmental sustainability. Nor does it include an economic development plan,” according to the report.

The seven elements in the master plan regarding land use, housing, circulation, utilities, historic preservation, community facilities, and regional planning need to have data and assumptions updated.

The third area involves the 1998 Master Plan, reexamination reports and amendment only being available as PDF files on the Borough website and that the Borough’s reexamination reports did not provide a comprehensive review of planning and objectives.

“The draft that has been created will satisfy the legal requirements for updating the Master Plan. The review includes a recommendation for doing a new master plan over a period of three years, which would spread out the costs significantly,” he said.

“So, if there is consensus that we should have a new plan, the board will make budgetary recommendations in the future to carry on the work.”

The Planning Board recommends that Pennington start a two-year update of the 1998 Master Plan to update existing elements of the plan and allow for new elements to be written in by 2025.

Furthermore, on the third area the Planning Board recommends that the 2025 Master Plan should be a living document on the Borough website with each element having its own webpage, according to draft documents.

“Even though we will do the new Master Plan over three years. We will create the elements as they go. As soon as they are ready to go, we can get it approved and it can go on to the website,” Jackson said. “Some elements may take three years. We don’t want to do these all at once.”

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