It looks like Plainsboro will have a redevelopment project of its own. If history is any indication, this redevelopment will be a lot less complicated than the one that is currently consuming West Windsor’s municipal government.##M:[more]##
For one thing, Plainsboro’s redevelopment will apply to only one property: The 156-acre FMC site, the planned future home of the University Medical Center at Princeton.
Plainsboro commissioned Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates of New York to report on whether it would benefit the township to pursue redevelopment designation for the site. On August 13, the planning board heard Paul Phillips’ presentation of his firm’s 28-page report. At its meeting on August 20, the planning board voted 7-0 to recommend that the township committee declare the site an area in need of redevelopment.
At its agenda session on August 22, the township committee discussed the report on the redevelopment designation investigation. It is expected to vote on the issue on Monday, September 10.According to the Phillips Preiss Shapiro report, “much of the FMC facility meets one or more of the ‘area in need of redevelopment’ criteria.”
The property has 19 structures, many of which have reached a state of disrepair or obsolescence. “Significant portions of the property are in various states of disuse and/or are adversely affected by obsolete layouts and designs,” reads the report.
The approval of the township committee would charge the planning board with the task of developing a redevelopment plan for the site. “It puts the planning board and the township in a position to have more flexibility with regard to developing a plan consistent with the goals of the township.” said Mayor Peter Cantu. “We will be able to come away with a plan that works to the best interest of the township, with regards to both planning and financial impact.”
“It would increase Plainsboro’s ability to negotiate as a partner in the process,” said Township Administrator Robert Sheehan. “It would empower us to negotiate a developer’s agreement.”
At the outset of the process, Mayor Peter Cantu said there could be other advantages as well. “It could provide us greater flexibility in protecting the Plainsboro taxpayers from a fiscal impact point of view and could represent an opportunity for dealing with the tax exempt portion of the property,” he said.
“Our responsibility to meet the affordable housing obligations that this project drives may be better addressed through a redevelopment process,” said Cantu.
Sheehan said the township currently meets its affordable housing obligation, and that there is no possibility that the site would include another housing development.
Hillier Architecture, the company hired to plan West Windsor’s redevelopment, designed the plans for the new UMCP. In what was perhaps a reference to West Windsor’s complicated and currently stalled redevelopment process, Cantu said Plainsboro expects that its redevelopment will be a positive and productive process.
“This should not be a contentious situation,” Cantu says. “We are only looking at this single site. Clearly a lot of the issues that have troubled other redevelopment projects do not exist here.”
Sheehan says the state may need to make a final approval to make the designation official. He said the township anticipates no problem with getting the state’s approval. “We are in good standing with the state. We are a model community with regard to our planning practices.”
If the state grants its approval, the planning board would then be asked to prepare a redevelopment plan, and determine the framework for the planning and public review of the proposal. “The redevelopment approach will not reduce the public’s opportunity to participate in the planning process,” said a statement released by the township.
The latest site plan calls for several of the existing FMC buildings, including the main structure, to be demolished. Three existing FMC buildings would remain and be incorporated into the medical center. As proposed, the main hospital building would be glass and brick.
UMCP submitted its site plan to the township in December, 2006. The plans include at 636,"000 square foot hospital with the potential for 324,"000 square feet of expansion. The medical offices would be 120,"000 square feet, with a possible expansion of 120,"000 square feet. A long-term care facility would be 120,"000 square feet. The proposal includes a continuing care retirement community that would include up to 400 units of age-restricted housing.
The FMC tract is bounded by the Millstone River, Route 1, Scudders Mill Road, and the connector road between Scudders Mill and Plainsboro roads.
Meanwhile, Plainsboro is looking for a replacement for Ernest Freeman, who left his post as director of community development. The position has been re-titled. The township is now advertising its need for a new director of planning and zoning.