A new commercial/retail center may be coming to Route 1 in West Windsor.
On May 22, the West Windsor Planning Board heard a concept plan to rezone a parcel of land on U.S. Route 1 in order to develop new storefronts, including a restaurant, agricultural supply store and extended stay hotel.
The 12.49-acre wooded property is situated on Route 1 north between the Square of West Windsor shopping center (Lowe’s and Trader Joes) and the Princeton Service Center office complex.
The property is currently zoned as ROM-1 (Research, Office, and Limited Manufacturing), though the plot has been largely vacant since 2006.
The applicant, HSC West Windsor LLC, is requesting that the property be rezoning to B-2, which allows commercial and neighborhood center business uses.
The planned restaurant— potentially BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse—will be near the front of the property and closer to Route 1. The building is planned to be 9,585 square feet in size.
Farther from the highway will be a Tractor Supply Company in a 19,097-square-foot building. The Tractor Supply Company has over 1,700 outlets around the country, and supplies equipment such as tractor and trailer parts, fencing, and power tools.
Planned for the rear of the lot is Woodspring Suites— an extended stay hotel, which would have a 128 rooms in four stories in a 13,355-square-foot building.
The concept plan was presented by Joshua Sewald, principal of Dynamic Engineering Consultants.
Sewald emphasized that the concept plan fits in with West Windsor’s goals and needs. As detailed by the township’s 2018 Reexamination Report of the Master Plan, there are more than 2.1 million square feet of approved office space that has yet to be constructed, and more than a half million square feet entirely vacant.
Sewald noted that due to the decreased demand for office space in the West Windsor area, the B-1 rezoning would be appropriate.
Before presenting to the Planning Board, the applicant had previously met with the township’s Technical Review Committee, which helped refine the plan and provide comments for future improvements.
At the meeting, members of the Planning Board and Technical Review Committee shared their comments, concerns, and suggested areas for improvement.
Though this development is not predicted to increase traffic during peak hours due to the tenants’ times of operation, there are still concern about road configuration.
Currently, those looking to enter the Square at West Windsor have to take an access lane, which then merges back into Route 1. However, drivers exiting this new property may attempt to go to Route 1 directly, instead of using the access lane, and this weaving could cause traffic concerns.
Since Route 1 is a state road, any decision regarding road reconfiguration would be made by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Another concern is how this development will affect nearby stores.
Aaron Brotman, representing the Square at West Windsor Tenant’s Association, noted that the currently proposed road linking the two properties may cause restaurant parking to overflow into their property.
Brotman also noted that Lowe’s and the Tractor Supply Company have a 60% overlap in product offerings.
In regards to the specific property, one issue was B-2 zoning allowances for a hotel. Specifically, B-2 zoning only allows hotels conditionally, based on the fulfillment of certain requirements. While the Technical Review Committee indicated many of these requirements had been met, one of the few that had not been fulfilled was of impervious coverage, which indicates the percentage of land covered by manmade surfaces.
The current proposal has 53.5% of impervious coverage on the land, but B-2 requirements only allow a maximum of 50%, to prevent water runoff and drainage problems.
Since the board hopes to stay away from spot zoning, an illegal rezoning of small parcels to fit a particular proposal, members affirmed that the applicant should revisit their plan to ensure it can fit the B-2’s conditional uses.
Another issue in regards to the extended-stay hotel, initially brought up by board member Curtis Hoberman and echoed in public comments by Council President Alison Miller, was the issue of hotel saturation.
Extended Stay America is just a few minutes away from the proposed location, with Homewood Suites also in the area, and other hotels already in planning. Miller noted she did not want to see a race of who can built a hotel first.
Councilwoman Linda Geevers, who also sits on the planning board, said she was concerned about the property potentially adding school children to the already-overcrowded WW-P school district. However, since the average stay at Woodsprings Suites is 22 days, this seems unlikely.
Township Landscape Architect Daniel Dobrimilsky said that the location currently has some forestry, which is part of the township’s preservation plan.
However, the larger area of this preservation is nearby Duck Pond Park, so this rezoning was not deemed to be a critical loss to the township’s preservation and wildlife space.
Township traffic engineer James Kochenaur said he hopes to see real-time traffic data from the tenants’ other locations in order to allot the right amount of parking space and leave the rest as greenspace.
Overall, the planning board said that the concept plan was substantially compliant of the necessary regulations
If approved, the rezoning would occur as part of West Windsor’s Master Plan review in the upcoming year, andteh developer would appear before the planning board with an official site plan application.