Once again I urge Council to support the Redevelopment Plan that is before you tonight. This Plan represented five years of painstaking planning, numerous community meetings involving hundreds of West Windsor citizens, and the best judgment of our traffic and planning experts.
When this process began in April of 2004, its purpose was clear. Something had to be done about the area surrounding the second busiest mass rail facility in the state. Hundreds of West Windsor commuters were seeking safe and affordable parking that was not available. Further, there was no coherent and sensible circulation pattern for traffic that was clogging our local roads. At the same time, despite a magnificent school system, successful efforts to preserve open space, and so many other attributes, West Windsor lacked a Town Center.
The true purpose of the Redevelopment Plan was, and is, to provide the desperately needed parking, a modern road network to ease traffic and a Town Center, with substantial retail establishments near a transportation facility. This Plan will enable West Windsor to undertake these improvements without burdening our taxpayers, through use of private capital and federal and state financing. Private developers would be encouraged to contribute to the construction of garages and a road network by being able to undertake mixed-use construction. In turn, the federal and state financing would be directed to improve the station facilities and undertake a road network, including the Vaughn Drive connector, which would finally link our two major northwest arteries, Alexander Road with Washington Road (Route 571).
Unfortunately, the long delay in coming to this point has been costly. Nineteen million dollars that was allocated for the Vaughn Drive connector has been withdrawn from the state budget. Even before the recent economic down turn, the private sector has shown a reluctance to invest major capital in our infrastructure because of the uncertainty of our own resolve to move ahead.
Members of Council and many of the critics of the Redevelopment Plan have expressed a fear that this vital step in moving toward a Town Center would be a burden on the taxpayers because it would allow residential development on the west side of the Amtrak main line. Those fears are unwarranted.
First, it is estimated that at a full build out of an entire 350-acre redevelopment area, a maximum of 487 dwelling units, could be constructed. Twenty-nine of those units would be along Route 571, in conjunction with retail development as part of “Main Street.” The Plan limits housing units within the 25 acres site owned by Intercap Holdings, to 350 units. Any allowance for more residences above that level would be on the condition that the developer would make major contributions to the station area infrastructure.
Second, as Council is aware, the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District conducted an analysis of anticipated school children that would occur by development of townhouses and condominiums. This conservative analysis projected that 28 school children could be expected for every 100 dwelling units. Since this development is intended to be phased over time, and since the township will work very closely with the school board, the impact on the schools will be closely monitored. Impact on schools, services, the environment and taxpayers will be of paramount importance as any application for development is submitted.
To the extent that unexpected problems emerge, this Plan can be modified to meet different conditions as they arise. It is not a Redevelopment Plan set in stone. However, it is a Plan that will encourage much needed private investment; stimulate federal and state financing; and finally bring relief to an estimated 1,500 West Windsor commuters who have been waiting for years for affordable parking at the Princeton Junction station.
It is time to put unwarranted fears aside and finally adopt this blueprint for the benefit of all our residents. Respectfully, further delay cannot be an option.