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Middletown planners approve residential development at former Foodtown site

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Middletown planners approve residential development at former Foodtown site

The Middletown Planning Board has given Toll Brothers’ philosophy “Choice is Everything” new meaning after its members voted to approve the company’s proposed 350-unit residential development, but declined to allow roof decks as an option for buyers.

Under a plan put forth by Toll Brothers, a roof deck would have been a feature a buyer could have selected prior to the construction of a luxury townhome. Private roof decks would have been an additional charge.

Roof terraces were a concern expressed by residents and board members during a Sept. 4 hearing in Middletown on the application. Professionals who testified on behalf of Toll Brothers advocated in favor of the roof terraces.

Following a hearing that lasted more than four hours, board members voted 5-3 to approve Toll Brothers’ application to construct 350 residential units at 853 Route 35 in Middletown.

Testimony indicated that 280 residences will be three-story townhomes to be sold at market rates. A separate parcel on the same property will have three buildings with 70 apartments designated as affordable housing for individuals whose income meets certain guidelines.

The property is currently home to Circus Wines, Beer & Spirits and is the former location of a Foodtown supermarket. The redevelopment initiative is an effort led by National Realty and Development Corp.

Testimony on behalf of the applicant, Toll NJ XII, LP/Middletown Walk, was presented on Sept. 4. Attorney John Giunco, who represents the applicant, brought to the meeting architect Jeremy Greene, engineer James Kennedy, and Matt Markovich, a division vice president with Toll Brothers.

During public comment, residents cited concerns with the application, many of which were specifically with the proposed roof decks.

Board members asked the applicant’s representatives questions about safety and the types of activities that would be permitted on the roof decks.

The Route 35 property neighbors Carriage Drive. Residents of Carriage Drive and other streets have said the construction of more than 300 homes near their backyards could negatively impact their quality of life.

Resident Laura Patten said, “We were confident that any new development that would happen behind our home … would not be homes that are completely out of character to the surrounding neighborhoods.

“After seeing the plan for this development, we became concerned for a number of reasons. The lack of open space compared to our neighborhood, the increased traffic on already crowded roads and the influx of additional kids on the school system,” she said.

Some people said residents in the new development who use a roof terrace would be able to see into their backyard.

After more than four hours of witness testimony and public comments, Township Committeewoman Patricia Snell, who sits on the board, made a motion to approve the application without the option for a roof deck.

“The problem with the roof decks was troubling to me since the prior meeting. I looked over all the information and everything you provided … at this this point I would like to … accept the application without the roof decks and have no roof decks at all,” Snell said.

On a roll call vote to approve the Toll NJ XII, LP/Middletown Walk application, Chairman John Deus, Vice Chairman Carl Rathjen, Snell, Vlad Berson and Alex Czaplicki voted “yes.”

Board members Howard Brey Sr., Kevin Colangelo and David Merces voted “no.”

With that approval, the applicant was also granted a variance for a 15.3-acre parcel for which no development is proposed. A variance was needed to create an undersized 15.3-acre lot where a minimum lot size of 20 acres is required, according to a legal notice that was published in connection with the application.

Individuals who purchase a townhome will have the option of purchasing additional features such as a backyard deck with or without a staircase.

According to previous testimony, a clubhouse with a pool would only be available for residents of the 280 townhomes because tenants of the apartments would not be part of the homeowners association.

The apartments will be managed by a separate entity. A recreation area for use by residents of all three apartment buildings would be created.

The development plan also includes a previously approved commercial component.

Representatives of the applicant could not be reached for further comment.

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