Edison zoning board not ready to vote on controversial plan for Charlie Brown’s site – My Central Jersey

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EDISON – It won’t be until after Easter that the township Zoning Board of Adjustment will vote on a plan to build 23 age-restricted townhouses on the site of the former Charlie Brown’s restaurant on Plainfield Road.

Following a five-hour hearing Tuesday where more than 20 residents and two experts spoke in opposition to the plan, the board scheduled to resume the hearing and vote on April 26.

Residents have been fighting the project since last year because they say it’s too intense of a development in a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Markim Developers is seeking approval to build 23 age-restricted townhouses on the 2-acre golf course-zoned property at 222 Plainfield Road next to the Metuchen Golf and Country Club and homes along Edgewood Road.

The development requires a use variance which can only be granted by five votes of the seven-member panel.

Steven Tripp, Markim’s attorney, said the 55-and-older age restriction is the most significant change to the application since last summer after concerns were raised by residents and the board. He said the age restriction could be enforced in deed restrictions.

Other changes to the original proposal, known as the $15 million The Links of Edison project, include a building height reduction from 35 feet to 33 feet, prohibiting left turns out of the site, eliminating balconies on the south and north buildings and adding 8-foot-tall trees to provide additional privacy for neighboring homes. The proposal also now includes elevators in each of the three-bedroom, four-level units.

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Edgewood Road resident Anit Patel said the revised plans are not acceptable. 

“You’re cramming too much into a 2-acre lot. It doesn’t fit the character of the neighborhood,” Patel said, adding the tall townhomes create privacy concerns for nearby residents like him. “The application need to be denied.”

Katherine Liseno of Edgewood Road said she lives in a special neighborhood where people care about each other and the neighborhood.

“The application doesn’t conform with the character of the area,” said Liseno.

Tripp’s traffic expert Elizabeth Dolan, based in Somerville, said with the age restriction, the number of trips generated from the site would decrease, especially during peak hours because the residents are older with more flexible hours.

But one zoning board member said he understood that is accepted practice but added “it’s not reality.”

Traffic has been a worry since the project was first proposed. The development is proposed along a section of the road near the entrance to Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Woodbrook Elementary School and near the Metuchen border and Saint Joseph High School.

Paul Phillips, the applicant’s planner, said the isolated restaurant site is well suited for a townhouse development. The Charlie Brown’s has been closed for about two years.

“It took a pandemic to close the restaurant. There is a hunger for a family restaurant to reopen on the site,” said Edgewood Road resident Anthony Martin.

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Phillips said with the township’s changing demographics there is very limited market-rate age-restricted housing in Edison. The 2,300-square-foot units are expected to sell for about $500,000.

Phillips said he did not study demand for this type of housing and a board member questioned if the units don’t sell, would Markim look to remove the age restriction. Tripp said it’s almost impossible to get a deed restriction lifted once it’s approved.

Peter Steck, a planning consultant hired by group of Edgewood Road residents, said 23 units on four levels for people age 55 and older in a large but narrow design results in overcrowding on the site. He said senior housing is not age 55 and older, but 62 and older. 

“Fifty-five and older just means you don’t like school kids,” he said, adding the property is not suited for townhouses at this scale. He said six single-family homes on a cul-de-sac, or another restaurant would be a more appropriate use.

Email: srussell@gannettnj.com 

Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.