2009-09-10 / Front Page

Local groups continue fight against 10 homes

Hearing on Foerter Farm plans set for Sept. 16
BY VINCENT TODARO Staff Writer

Despite some mitigating moves by East Brunswick, a plan to develop the Foerter Farm still does not sit well with some area residents.

Opponents who have been attending Planning Board hearings on the application have discussed environmental concerns and quality-of-life issues such as traffic. The board has so far held three hearings on the plan for 10 new homes between Riva Avenue and Farrington Lake. The next hearing is set for Sept 16.

According to the applicant, the farm would be subdivided into 13 lots, including 10 for the new homes; one for the existing farmhouse; another for the greenhouse, farming uses and open space; and one for storm water management. Most of the new lots would be about 1 acre in size, although the farmhouse lot would be closer to 2 acres. The open space area being preserved would be nearly 13 acres.

The plan calls for disturbing only about one-third of the total 29-acre property, according to the applicant's engineer, Justin Yost.

Nona Henderson, a member of the Association to Preserve Our Safe and Peaceful Neighborhood, an ad hoc group formed to fight aspects of this proposal, said neighbors are concerned about what they consider to be an intrusion into their neighborhood. The group's main objection is a road that would be created to access the new homes from their development. Henderson said she and her neighbors feel the new homes should connect directly to Riva Avenue, rather than channel vehicles onto what she described as quiet residential roads such as Garden Terrace North, which will be extended to the new homes, and Farrington Avenue.

The residents' group has submitted a petition and has made its feelings known to the Planning Board, as well as the mayor and Township Council.

Alan Godber, board president for the Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, said his group fears that the project would result in further polluting Farrington Lake.

He said one fear is that owners of the new homes will remove trees located on nearby steep slopes. The homeowners may prefer a view of the lake, and cut down the trees that obscure that view.

"I doubt people will not want a view of the lake," Godber said.

The board has indicated that cutting those trees would be illegal and would present an enforcement issue, which is not something the board can act on. The township would also lose a bulwark against sediment flowing into Farrington Lake, he said. When there are heavy rains, the tree roots, as well as current vegetation, soak up much of the water flowing down the slopes, he said, adding that the roots also hold the soil together.

The water flowing down the slopes would include sediment and would ultimately end up in Farrington Lake, Godber said. The result, he said, would be erosion of the water bank, and a negative impact on water clarity and fish life.

"You will expose slopes to erosion, and there will be more erosion in the lake," Godber said. "And that landscape [of trees] will disappear."

Godber dismissed the idea that a detention basin will stop this process. The basin, he said, will only slow the process, he said, as the water will eventually make its way into a pond, and then the lake.

"Eventually almost all the water will go into the lake," he said. The storm water runoff, he added, would include pesticides from the farmland soil, which is an issue because Farrington Lake is used as a source of drinking water for towns such as Milltown and New Brunswick.

Godber said his organization would prefer to see the land maintained as is.

Henderson said her group has 102 residents in 47 households that united as a result of the application. The group does not oppose all aspects of the plan, but is particularly against the roadway connection.

Although testimony on behalf of the applicant has indicated there would be a minimal traffic increase, the group believes that traffic on their roads will increase by 25 percent. Among other concerns, she said the additional vehicles would make neighborhood streets less safe, as there are no sidewalks.

In addition, about 50 trees would be cut down to accommodate the new road, she said, adding that this will take away from the current residents' view.

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