The Princeton Planning Board unanimously approved a proposal to build 65 affordable rental apartments on the site of the former SAVE animal shelter, on the corner of Herrontown Road and Mount Lucas Road, at its June 20 meeting.

The Princeton Planning Board began the public hearing on the application, submitted by 900 Herrontown Princeton LP, at its June 13 meeting but ran out of time to complete it. The board agreed to wrap up the public hearing and vote at its June 20 meeting.

Property owner Charles Yedlin had received approval in 2016 to build a two-story, 25,000-square-foot office building on the property, but scrapped the plan when he was approached by developer RPM Development Group/900 Herrontown Princeton LP. The Princeton Council rezoned the land earlier this year to permit affordable housing on the site.

The application before the Planning Board calls for building 65 affordable rental apartments on the 3-acre property, town Planning Michael LaPlace told the Planning Board. The property is bordered by Herrontown Road, Mount Lucas Road and Old Orchard Lane.

The proposed building would be constructed in an L-shape, with three stories on the south side of the lot bordering Old Orchard Lane, and a four-story wing on the west side adjacent to several two-story office buildings on Herrontown Road. There would be 75 parking spaces for cars.

The main driveway entrance to the development would be off Herrontown Road. There would be another entrance and exit on Mount Lucas Road, but vehicles could only turn right to enter and turn right to leave.

Kevin Kavanaugh, RPM Development Group vice president of development, told the Planning Board that the company has developed more than 40,000 affordable housing units in New Jersey since its founding more than 30 years ago.

RPM Development builds, owns and manages the affordable housing developments, and "we have a pretty good track record," Kavanaugh said.

The property would be deed-restricted for affordable housing for 45 years, Kavanaugh said. Tenants would pay up to 30 percent of their income in rent.

The company focuses on constructing developments that are environmentally sustainable, he said, adding it is in the company's "best interests" for its buildings to operate as efficiently as possible.

Engineer James Chmielak told the planners that the 75-space parking lot would be at the rear of the building, on the south side. The applicant will include two charging spaces for electric vehicles, plus 22 bicycle parking spaces.

Chmielak said the applicant would both save as many trees as possible and also plant as many trees as possible, in addition to providing a landscaped buffer between the development and the homes on Old Orchard Lane. The buffer would include evergreen trees for year-round screening and a 6-foot-tall wood fence.

Chmielak said the applicant would incorporate an area for composting at the suggestion of the Princeton Environmental Commission, and also include the infrastructure for solar roof panels that could be installed at a later date.

Describing the proposed building, architect Anthony D'Agosta said there would be a common laundry room on each floor. The building will be "sprinklered," which means there would be sprinklers that are activated to help extinguish a fire. Energy Star-rated gas ranges and furnaces would be included in each apartment.

When the meeting was opened for public comment, planner Carl Peters, who was retained by the Old Orchard Lane Homeowners Association, outlined his client's opposition to the proposed development - beginning with the lack of a full traffic impact study.

Peters said there is no information about the route those cars will take - how many would use the Herrontown Road driveway and how many would use the Mount Lucas Road driveway, which he said is too close to Old Orchard Lane.

The applicant's traffic engineer, Nicholas Verderese, said the development would generate about 22 trips during the peak morning rush hour and 29 trips during the evening peak rush hour. It would have little impact on the surrounding roads, he said.

Princeton Land Use Engineer Jack West pointed out that the rental apartment complex provides for two driveway entrances and exits, which means the traffic would be divided between Herrontown Road and Mount Lucas Road.

"I'm comfortable (with the plan). The traffic works. I know the area," West said.


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