On April 25, our Master Plan subcommittee held a resident interest session for individuals to share their ideas about land use.
At the meeting, Monroe residents and Monroe’s Mayor Tamburro opted to interject themselves into Cranbury’s planning process by calling for a change of zoning from industrial to residential for a piece of land on the east side of Route 130.
What I found hard to believe was Mayor Tamburro of Monroe spending tax dollars to engage his planner to issue a report on a planning matter in which Monroe has no authority. It would have saved the Monroe tax payers money and accomplished more if Mayor Tamburro had simply picked up the phone and said, “Listen Jay I have a concern. Residents of mine are concerned about the potential warehouse. Can you tell me what is going on, are you looking at alternatives and can you help me guide a discussion with our residents?” Instead they issued a report calling for the area to be zoned residential and put Cranbury on the defensive.
If Cranbury were to consider Monroe’s plan it could add as many as 400 residential units which is close to a 30% increase of our total housing. This would impact our schools, our taxes, quality of life and decrease our home values which are predicated in large part on our taxes and school system.
I understand a Monroe resident wanting to voice a concern, but town officials should know better. Towns have no authority to step into another Town’s land use policy and thus the report and effort was a complete waste of Monroe’s tax dollars and time. As mayor, I sent a response, but ignored publicly commenting as I felt this was a political move and the goal of raising a concern accomplished. That was my view until Mayor Tamburro issued a press release calling Cranbury’s zoning into question requiring a public response.
To be clear the press release and planning report was misleading citing 408 acres of land including preserved land and wetlands and not the actual minimal amount of acreage that can be built (parcel in question is 14 acres). It was also inconsistent with over 30 years of Cranbury’s Master Plans which was known to Monroe’s mayor and planner. If that was not enough, it encouraged the illegal act of spot zoning.
Monroe would have saved a lot of tax payer money and time simply by recognizing the spot zoning issue and informing residents who asked that they have no authority to intercede and doing so for one piece of land would be encouraging an illegal action, but would place a call to our counterparts to understand the situation.
That Monroe would decide to avoid contacting Cranbury as first step and instead issue a report inconsistent with our planning process could be anticipated as it follows the decades of questionable planning practices in Monroe burdening its tax payers and school system. Monroe’s unchecked residential growth is causing increased traffic concerns, escalating taxes, creating a school system with children attending classes in trailers and a $146 million school referendum, which has failed to pass. Conversely, the Cranbury Master Plan works for our residents and school.
Whenever I speak with officials in the state, I am commended on our Master Plan and asked for advice. Our plan is a model of success. Our financials are solid protecting the tax payers during the 2008 economic downturn from large tax increases, allowed us to reduce taxes ten cents this year, maintain a AAA bond rating, maintain a low debt level, preserve farmland, keep the school rate flat this year and a number of the past 10 years and run a Blue-Ribbon K-8 elementary school. None of this could happen without the industrial zone and consistent planning.
One argument we hear from Monroe at all levels is that our warehouses impact the quality of life for residents in the two new communities that were built the last 5-10 years bordering this zone. Monroe made the move to zone this area for residential building with full knowledge and foresight of what Cranbury had planned. Smart planning would have incorporated our planning and generated revenue for Monroe. It was Monroe’s right to zone counter to Cranbury, but it is its elected officials’ responsibility to deal with the outcome and solve for the issue; not Cranbury’s to take on the same residential burden they did.
I empathize with Monroe residents and for our own residents in the position of living in an industrial zone who lived here before 1992. For that reason, we reached out to the land owner to see if they would preserve the land and the request was denied. We worked with a non-profit to see if they could negotiate a sale and the owners denied the request. Last week prior to the press release and seeing the report, I told Mayor Tamburro we’d welcome Monroe buying the land or seeing if a price could be reached where both Cranbury and Monroe would jointly preserve the land since our efforts were denied, Mayor Tamburro offered no response.
Anyone purchasing a home after 1992 would have our land use zones available for review. Anyone purchasing in the last 5-10 years would have seen the large warehouses and should have considered that the open farmland could be developed and looked to see if it was preserved. The purchase value of the property and tax payments should reflect or have been negotiated to account for the fact that they bought in an industrial zone. Instead it is Monroe’s view and expectation that Cranbury’s residents should allow our tax rate and school system to suffer to address the lack of accountability. The ultimate hypocrisy is that Monroe leadership seeks Cranbury’s sacrifice to accommodate its planning errors, while ignoring its own impact on other towns’ quality of life.
The total number of Monroe homes on Cranbury’s borders are near or at our total housing stock in the whole of Cranbury. Thousands of Monroe residents pass through Cranbury on a daily basis to go shopping, commute to New York and go to any areas west of Monroe. This burdens our infrastructure as evidenced by the significant cost of road repairs on the connecting roads and their growth will continue to negatively impact Cranbury. While the majority of truck traffic for our warehouses is never touching Monroe roads instead utilizing Route 130 to access the New Jersey Turnpike exits 8 and 8A. Yet, at no time have we told Monroe residents to change their planning or raised our concerns over their planning.
To summarize, my accountability is to the Cranbury tax payers and residents and ensuring our planning actions benefit our residents financially from taxes to home values and in maintaining a plan that enables our Board of Education to continue leading a successful school district. Not to fix Monroe’s problems.