Over the past two years, the Planning Board, in coordination with the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development endeavored to and did create a comprehensive development plan designed to guide and move the City of Trenton through the ensuing years up to the City’s 250-year anniversary in 2042. The Plan was informed by multiple community engagement sessions in which residents articulated their visions for the City of Trenton.

The Plan’s goal is to help the City of Trenton to become a cultural and economic hub, fostering a diverse local economy, cultural creativity, safe and walkable neighborhoods, environmentally sound planning, and a multi-modal transportation network.

Trenton 250 won the President’s Award from the New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association due to the extensive public input process and clear articulation in the Vision Element.

The Board finds, as noted by one of its members, the state ignoring the vision expressed is “insulting.”

In implementing the new Master Plan, the City of Trenton has conducted a review of existing zoning and has re-designated and redefined areas in a manner that the City finds to be most advantageous to achieving the goals espoused in the Master Plan.

The area in which the subject tract lies has been designated and defined as a “Neighborhood Residential High Density” Zone.

The specifics of the zone call for residential zoning at 15 to 40 units per acre, conditionally permitted apartment buildings, and small neighborhood-serving commercial uses all of which is to be permitted to a height of no more than three stories.

The area is otherwise designated to promote multi-model means of transportation such as bike paths supported by complete sidewalk networks that promote connectivity within the neighborhood.

While the Planning Board notes that the NJEDA has included a 3,500 square foot area for commercial or retail use, the Planning Board did not find that the State articulated nor evidenced a strong commitment to the neighborhood-servicing commercial uses envisioned by the City’s Master Plan.

The Planning Board finds that the project is not transit-oriented and ignores the intent articulated in the Master Plan to concentrate business development within the downtown core.

The Planning Board finds that the project is wholly detrimental to the plan envisioned, potentially destructive of the area affected, and specifically disrespectful to the time, work, efforts, and expectations of the City of Trenton, its servants and its residents.

The Planning Board strongly recommends that the State of New Jersey reconsider the plans presented and to seek to meet the needs of the State in coordination with the vision of the City of Trenton as developed and extensively detailed within the Master Plan.

At the meeting, the NJEDA presented to the Planning Board the testimony of its professionals and presented the architectural plans (and) the boundary and topographical survey.

The Board had at its disposal and discussed the review letters prepared by Lanning Engineering, memos from Lanning Engineering, the report of the Taylor Design Group, and the Department of Housing and Economic Development Land Use and Zoning Survey.

These reports and findings were discussed with the representatives of the NJEDA at length. Upon hearing the presentation of NJEDA and upon reviewing the exhibits and reports, the Planning Board heard almost universal condemnation of the project from the members of the public. It is worth noting this was the most public attendance at a Planning Board hearing in at least the past three years.

Furthermore, the comments from the public included specific feedback that the Planning Board wishes to relay to NJEDA, without prejudice to the Planning Board’s general rejection of the plan:

  1. The NJEDA should consider as part of this plan the renovation and repair of the Canal Banks parking area that the applicant proposes to utilize to provide additional parking for relocated State employees. The state has responsibility for the maintenance of its downtown parking facilities, yet the suggestion to address the poor layout and the lack of connection to the downtown, particularly considering the adjacent, similarly state-owned, D&R Canal State Park, was met with blank stares and a response that there were no planned improvements. The Board finds that this is a missed opportunity at best.
  2. The NJEDA should redesign the facades of the structure proposed to increase its architectural and visual interest. The residential buildings along West Hanover Street, even though some of them are vacant, have beautiful historic details, none of which were even remotely referenced.
  3. The NJEDA should add recycling receptacles to accompany the proposed trash receptacles on the site and make same in accordance with materials similar to the building.
  4. The NJEDA should move the bike racks as discussed in the Taylor and add a canopy to protect the bike racks.
  5. The NJEDA should work with the City to provide distinctive crosswalks at the property in accordance with City specifications and recommendations.
  6. The NJEDA should actively encourage all employees and guests to park in the designated parking areas provided and to take such measures as are necessary to ensure that the facility’s employee and visitor parking demands do not burden the surrounding neighborhood.
  7. The NJEDA should work with the City Planner to construct tree grates that do not present hazards and that are compatible with the area.
  8. The NJEDA shall provide a deed for consolidation of the lots and should any new lots be formed or should any new lot lines need to be drawn, the NJEDA will return to the Planning Board for subdivision approval.
  9. The NJEDA should work with and comply with the recommendations of the Trenton Sewer Utility and Trenton Waterworks.
  10. The NJEDA should replace all curbing as recommended by Lanning Engineering
  11. The NJEDA should take such steps as are necessary to screen and dampen the noise from the proposed generators.
  12. The NJEDA should reconsider the placement of the garbage dumpster, which was proposed to be situated directly adjacent to a pedestrian path.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this matter. Kindly receive and review the comments from the Board and act in a matter consistent with the statutory scheme governing such reviews.

The board unanimously finds this project to be incompatible with the City’s Master Plan and encourages the NJEDA to rethink this project in its entirety.

This article was originally published in the December 2018 Trenton Downtowner