Allentown asks Upper Freehold Township for cooperation on development

There has been much discussion regarding the Upper Freehold Township Planning Board public hearing that took place on June 13.

The board adopted a Housing Plan Element and Fair Share Plan. This affordable housing plan is required by the state.

Members of the Allentown governing body, including Mayor Greg Westfall, Borough Council President Thomas Fritts and Councilman Rob Schmitt, and Municipal Clerk Laurie Roth were in attendance and spoke on behalf of Allentown. Councilman John A. Elder III was also in attendance.

We should all be proud of our many residents who attended, filling the room, and speaking up to protect our historic village.

One of Allentown’s primary concerns is that the Stein property is behind the homes on Probasco Drive in the Indian Run development.

We would prefer this property remain undeveloped. Preservation is our ultimate goal, but unfortunately this is not something our neighbors in Upper Freehold are interested in.

Allentown’s governing body will not give up and we are working on a variety of options.

Here’s the good news:

• The Stein property is not in a position to be developed for affordable housing. Upper Freehold is not required to develop this area.

• The state recognizes Upper Freehold does not have a public sewer system and that the property is near Allentown’s sewer district which has a restricted capacity. Even with Allentown’s construction of a new waste water treatment plant, the capacity prevents Upper Freehold from being able to use it for new development.

• The price to develop this wetland property is cost-prohibitive, which is why it is still vacant today.

Here’s the bad news:

• Although Upper Freehold is not required to develop affordable housing on the Stein property, the parcel may still be developed commercially.

• There is an interested party who would like to develop this parcel to house a large warehouse(s).

• This interested party wants a variance from the Upper Freehold Planning Board to go from a 35-foot height restriction to a 55-foot height restriction.

• This would be considered a major commercial distribution center.

We want to preserve our vista. We want to protect our historical integrity. We want to reduce traffic. We want to reduce commercial traffic. We do not want an increase to our policing costs.

We do not want lower home values for our residents. We desire to eliminate the environmental impact of a project like this on our community. We want to protect our way of life.

Mayor Westfall, Council President Fritts, Councilman Schmitt and Municipal Clerk Roth spoke about this on June 13.

We urged the Upper Freehold Planning Board, Mayor Stephen Alexander and the Township Committee to work with us so we can better understand one another’s needs and prevent this disastrous project from being implemented.

Regarding our next steps, a meeting was held at the request of Allentown on June 19.

Mayor Westfall, Council President Fritts, Councilman Michael Drennan, Robbinsville Economic Coordinator Hal English and Planner Ann Bell, and Upper Freehold’s township administrator, Dianne Kelly, as well as representatives of several open space trusts, were present. We will keep you updated on our progress.

This guest column was submitted by Allentown Mayor Greg Westfall and the members of the Allentown Borough Council.

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