myCentralJersey.com

April 6, 2010

By JARED KALTWASSER STAFF WRITER

North Brunswick council gives preliminary nod to transit-village

NORTH BRUNSWICK —The Township Council narrowly approved the introduction of a zoning ordinance Monday night that would allow a mixed-use transit village on the former Johnson & Johnson site at Route 1 and Aaron Road.

The ordinance passed on first reading by a 3-2 vote. Councilman Carlo Socio was absent. The measure will be up for a public hearing and final adoption on April 19.

"We just see it as a major plus for North Brunswick and for the residents of North Brunswick for many years down the road," said Councilman Bob Davis, a former Planning Board member.

Councilman Ralph Andrews, who currently sits on the Planning Board, noted that township officials have been studying the idea for about five years and crafted the ordinance in such a way that it would only allow the full transit village to be built if NJ Transit builds a train station on the site, which sits along the Northeast Corridor rail line.

Still, the current absence of a train station — the central feature of a transit village — was enough for Council President Bob Corbin and Councilwoman Cathy Nicola to vote "no" Monday.

"I voted "no" based on the lack of a sound commitment from NJ Transit for a train station," Nicola said. "That, coupled with the housing component, which I wasn't in favor of, pretty much formulated my decision."

The ordinance would allow developer TOD Associates to build a first phase of the transit village immediately. That phase would include box stores, part of a mixed-use "Main Street" and 300 housing units. Nicola noted that the housing in a transit village is designed for rail commuters, so she does not want any housing built without the promise of a train station.

The second phase of the development, which the ordinance states could not be built until construction begins on a train station, would bring the housing total to 1,875 units.

Mayor Francis "Mac" Womack, who supports the transit village concept, acknowledged that in theory the ordinance could result in the Phase One section of the development being built and open for many years without a train station.