Woodstone—a 443-unit luxury apartment complex proposed for construction near MarketFair—was unanimously approved, 8-0, by the West Windsor planning board on June 13.
During three separate meetings over the course of two months, the planning board picked apart the proposal—from the environmental impact of different asphalts to the development’s novel “trash valet” service.
The board’s decision came two days before the June 15 deadline set by the Municipal Land Use Law to vote on the application.
The next step for developers, Woodstone at West Windsor LLC (a partnership between Fieldstone Properties and Woodmont Properties), is to file a construction permit, with no need to present to the full council. They hope to break ground by next spring at the latest, according to company officials.
Most of the apartments will be two-bedroom, making up 290 of the 443 units. There will also be 114 one-bedroom apartments, while the remaining 29 apartments will be three-bedroom.
The developers have also promised to designate 89 of these units as affordable housing, bringing the town closer to meeting its affordable housing mandate.
Earlier this year, Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that the township must provide for an additional 1,500 units of low- and moderate-income housing by 2025.
“I suspect that the inclusion of 20 percent affordable housing units in the Woodstone application, plus the announced decision by the judge may have prompted most people—including the planning board members—to lessen efforts to find reasons to stall or even reject the project,” said Gene O’Brien, planning board chairman.
He added that the unanimous approval of the planning board suggests that the members “were satisfied that this would be an acceptable project to help West Windsor satisfy its affordable housing requirement, while imposing adequate conditions to meet the high quality-of-life standards we have in this community.”
In the plan’s presentation, the developers unveiled a host of luxury amenities for Woodstone tenants such as a bocce ball court, a clubhouse with a 24-hour gym and a pool.
The 23-acre plot along Canal Pointe Boulevard, originally part of a 68-acre lot owned by the Princeton Theological Seminary, will also include a children’s playground, though the developers insist the mix of one-bedroom apartments (about a quarter of all units), along with strict occupancy limits, will discourage young families from moving in.
The developers claim their amenities will target another demographic—bocce instead of basketball or tennis courts, a dog run instead of another playground.
“The more kid-friendly amenities you put in, the more kids you’re going to get,” said the developer’s lead attorney, Henry Kent Smith.
The number of children this complex might add to the school district remains up for debate.
Princeton Terrace, a recent West Windsor development that is mostly two- and three-bedroom units, generated students at a rate of .84 students per unit. On the other hand, the existing Canal Pointe development generated less than .30 students per unit.
The developers insist Woodstone at Princeton will be more like its neighbor, Canal Pointe, than Princeton Terrace. The school district is less conservative in its estimates.
“We have worked with the school district, and we disagree enormously with the number [.84 students per unit] they’re suggesting,” said Stephen Santola, a Woodmont Properties executive vice president. “In our home mix, we have 100 market-rate one bedroom units. They will generate zero kids.”
School officials estimated at a board meeting last February that Woodstone could attract roughly 372 new students.
They would be enrolled at Maurice Hawk elementary school, Village upper elementary school, Thomas R. Grover middle school and High School South.
At the June 13 meeting, the town’s affordable housing committee also gave feedback that a single bathroom for a three-bedroom apartment could be uncomfortable for tenants, if not impractical.
Though developers were willing to compromise on a number of issues to please the board—such as creating extra parking spaces and installing a couple of electric car charging stations—they refused to consider building an extra half bathroom in these three-bedroom units, due to cost.
Santola insists there will be “no classification, no stratification of our residents. They will all share equally in the community’s amenities,” he says.
In this neighborhood of luxury apartments, tenants renting out the affordable units would not be charged the amenity fee. Their units would also be dispersed across all buildings—except for the three-bedroom apartments.
None of the handful of members of the public who spoke at the meeteing called for the board to reject the proposal. Instead, they suggested myriad smaller changes, such as increasing the number of parking spots, improving the plan’s flexibility to accommodate solar power in the future and confirming a legal precedent for dividing a property into taxable and nontaxable lots (currently the lot is tax-free as it is owned by the nonprofit Princeton Theological Seminary).