The redevelopment changes officials are proposing would only add 1,000 to 2,000 new housing units to the township.
The plan involves rezoning several commercial areas in town to allow for mixed-use development to be built. The areas the properties, which include the Mountainview neighborhood and the former State Farm, Drake’s, and Toshiba properties, are located in would be rezoned. The hallmark of the plan involves a new town center located on the ailing and underutilized Wayne Hills Mall property.
John Szabo discussed the plan in greater detail at a Planning Board meeting Monday night.
“One of the driving motivations for mixed-used properties is economics,” Szabo said. “You actually get a higher return on mixed-used development than you do on single-use properties.”
Mayor Vergano has welcomed the plan and sees it as a way of promoting economic growth and bolstering the town’s tax base.
Szabo gave several examples of mixed-used properties that have been successful in doing exactly that, including: the Voorhees Town Center, Livingston Town Center, and Washington Town Center in Robbinsivlle. All three incorporate retail and residential units and unite them using modern architecture: columns, archways, wide sidewalks, and awnings.
Szabo’s plan could also reduce the public’s reliance on cars and increase the need for more mass transit and environmentally friendly ways of getting around like bike riding. Improving and redeveloping the two Mountainview section and the NJ Transit Center on Route 23 South is a key part of the plan.
“We’re trying to accommodate different modalities of travel,” Szabo said.
Vergano and Szabo squashed rumors that low-income, Section Eight housing units would be incorporated into the plan. They did acknowledge that the township is waiting to hear how many affordable housing units officials must have as required by the state Council on Affordable Housing.
Officials want high-end units with $2,000-a-month rents attached to them.
“We’ve had discussions with developers in that price range,” Vergano said.
Residents were not permitted to comment on the plan during the meeting. Residents will be allowed to comment and ask officials questions at a special public forum at the board’s Sept. 9 meeting.