Monroe Zoning Board denies application for 206 apartments, retail citing bald eagle and congestion concerns

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MONROE – Citing concerns of a bald eagle’s nest and an already congested area, the Zoning Board of Adjustment denied an application to bring 206 apartments including 43 affordable housing units and retail to the area on Route 33 between Applegarth Road in Monroe and the East Windsor border.

More than 200 residents filled the Monroe Township Senior Center on March 26 to listen to more than three hours of testimony on the amended proposal SPII-LLC Housing Development.

Ahead of the meeting, Monroe Township Mayor Gerald Tamburro released a statement urging the board to reject the proposal.

“I’ve not been pleased with this proposal since its inception; it is yet another way in which developers use state affordable housing mandates to force more development into towns,” Tamburro had said, noting the proposal would include 43 court-mandated affordable units. “And now, the developer is still trying to squeeze as much development as possible onto this site, even with a bald eagle nesting ground. To me, this is absolutely unacceptable.”

In 2016, the application – pre-eagle landing – was approved for 163 market rate units and 43 affordable units, which included 105 townhomes of one- to three-bedroom units.

A year later, the application needed to be reconfigured and amended due to the eagle sighting. Since then Donna M. Jennings, of Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer P.A., Woodbridge, said the applicant studied what the impact of an eagle’s nest would be for the application and what would need to be amended.

The applicant reached out to Andrew Robbins, an environmental attorney, who consulted with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for what needed to be done to protect bald eagle nests.

The developer told the board they acted responsibly at great expense to ensure the property would be developed to not only bring great benefit to the township, but also preserve and protect the bald eagles that unexpectedly nested at the rear of the property.

The amended proposal reduces the scope of the project 10 percent from one- to three-bedroom townhome units to one- to two-bedroom apartments, according to the applicant. The 43 proposed affordable housing units, which are the only units with three-bedroom units, are consistent and continues to satisfy the township’s commitment to its affordable housing obligations. And the project provides a 660-foot buffer, the maximum required to protect bald eagles within 13 northeast states including Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Lorelai Totten, civil engineer for the applicant, said the application calls for a town center concept with four three-story residential over one level retail buildings and residential amenity services. Two of the buildings will have garages and driveways.

The proposal has 641 parking spaces, including 412 for residential.

In addition, a traffic light is proposed at the intersection of the development that will not only serve the proposed application, but also the Renaissance development across the street.

Scott Kennel, of McDonough and Rea Associates, Manasquan, conducted a new traffic study. He said the proposal produced 200 less trips during peak traffic times from 626 trips in the prior approved application.

The 42.32 acre site, at 1099 Route 33 west, is currently mostly a farm.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.