RESIDENTS READY TO FIRE BACK AT AVAYA
Four Ponds architect Ned Gaunt gave the first look at color drawings of the proposed homes at the former Avaya property in Lincroft. Below, an opponent of the plan in a t-shirt worn by many in the audience. (Photos by Stacie Fanellii. Click to enlarge)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
As a development company’s team of professionals continued to lobby for approval by Middletown’s planning board of a major residential community in Lincroft, opponents of the plan anxiously waited their turn Wednesday night.
That time is still weeks away, as testimony on the proposed redevelopment of the former Avaya property continued with more traffic study findings and the introduction of the 342-unit housing plan’s schematics that were met with familiar boos in a crowded meeting room.
Waiting patiently for their turn on the floor, three residents who’ve hired an attorney to counter the studies and findings by representatives of Four Ponds Associates sat listening to details of the unfolding plan to convert the 68-acre property from commercial to residential use.
John Rea, a traffic consultant for Four Ponds, presented an updated study of the surrounding area, which he said reinforced his position that the creation of 342 units on the site would have minimal traffic impact on the neighborhood and the heavily traveled roadways of Middletown-Lincroft Road and West Front Street.
Responding to the board’s concern that the initial study, conducted in March 2010, didn’t accurately reflect real-time situations on local roads, Rea pulled out findings from another report from May that showed traffic on the roads would increase by less than two percent.
“I’m very confident these numbers are very accurate,” said Rea, whose offices are in Manasquan.
But what Rea’s studies don’t reflect, residents pointed out, is the impact another potential development nearby will have. The prospect of 190 more units at Bamm Hollow Country Club, residents argued, will further compound already serious traffic woes.
“I’m sad that this is even a consideration for the area and for the neighborhood,” said Caryn Laferlita, of University Drive. “I understand your traffic study is probably great, and the architect will probably make [the development] look beautiful, but I really don’t think it’s great for our town.”
Rea said it’s not his job to look into the future of other possible developments, and Bamm Hollow representatives would have to make their case for traffic impacts when the time comes nobody knows when that will be for them to go before the planning board for project approval.
“They’ve got to incorporate our traffic into their study. That’s the way it is,” Rea said.
Once neighbors were done logging complaints about heavy traffic, speeding and enforcement in the area, the project’s architect went before the board to give a brief overview of what some of the units will look like.
The 342 townhomes will be broken into groups of four-, five-, six- and eight-unit buildings, said Ned Gaunt of the Red Bank firm Kaplan Gaunt DeSantis.
They’ll be “traditional architecture” with vinyl clapboard, composite shingle roofs, small areas of stone, Gaunt said, and “different expressions will be exhibited so that we get a variation throughout the development.”
In one floor plan of a corner unit, Gaunt showed a two-car garage, dining room, living room and eat-in kitchen in approximately 1,880-square-feet of space. An interior unit, within about 1,980-square-feet, had three bedrooms, a dining room, two full bathrooms and a two-story living room. The project will also include one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable housing apartments in four buildings.
Near the main entrance will be a 3,000-square-foot clubhouse outfitted with meeting rooms, offices, “probably a little workout room” and other amenities, Gaunt said.
More details will be presented to the board it the next hearing on September 7.
Meantime, residents opposed to the plan said they will continue to prepare for their crack at the project.
Jeffrey Blumengold, of Lehigh Drive, said Ron Gasiorowski, an attorney he and two other residents have retained, will counter expert claims and studies in the hope the board will reject the project.
“We’re assessing what has been proposed and the testimony, and will, at the appropriate time, challenge during cross-examination,” he said.
The contingent of those against the plan is large. Residents have made it routine to show up at meetings in t-shirts with a red slash through the number ‘342’ and shout in disapproval when a speaker is testifying. Members of the township committee have voiced their disapproval of it, as well, calling it a cram-job from the state to provide affordable housing even though the town meet’s requirements, they say.
Many residents say the project will exacerbate traffic, put a strain on the school system and add density to a quiet neighborhood where quality of life is high-priority.
Though she was talking specifically about traffic coming out of the property, resident Debbie Piperno made a comment that brought the crowd to a standing round of applause, and seemed to sum up emotions shared by neighbors and town officials through the entire process.
“As you push the dominoes down,” Piperno said, “somebody gets screwed.”