The community planning consultant for a group of residents opposed to a proposed ordinance that would change the zoning of the 147-acre Honeywell property to allow the construction of 235 townhomes on the site in addition to expanded office use, testified Thursday night that there are too many loose ends with the proposal in its current form.
The planner, Peter G. Steck, said the governing body, if the proposal is approved, will not be able to make changes to the zone district once a development application is filed, so it's important to get it right the first time.
Among the concerns Steck raised were that the proposal only would require the developer to make a good faith effort to create a quiet zone at a railroad crossing at the site, instead of mandating the creation of the zone; it doesn't outline the order in which "phases" of the project would be completed and gives a 20-year timeframe that's too long; and the Great Lawn on Columbia Road and Park Avenue, which Steck said is the compensating feature that allows the office and laboratory use at the site to make sense in the first place, could have townhouses built on a portion of it.
He also questioned financial projections, and said the property's designation as a critical environmental site, for reasons officials said they have not yet determined, is a "red flag."
About 30 residents attended the fourth special Township Committee meeting Thursday night to continue hearing testimony and public input on the proposed ordinance.
Township officials and professionals said concerns about phasing and environmental issues would be covered by other laws and could be addressed later in the planning process.
Mayor Peter Mancuso decided to end the 8 p.m. meeting around 11:50 p.m. and scheduled a fifth and possibly final hearing for 7 to 11 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1.
After members of the public speak at that meeting, the governing body could offer their own comments and discuss the ordinance and then vote on it. Mancuso allowed for the possibility that a sixth hearing could be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3, if the hearing was not completed.
The Township Committee could vote to approve the proposed ordinance as is, approve it with minor changes, make substantive revisions and send it back to the planning board, or vote against it. Four votes are needed to approve it.