The conceptual maps for the Alcatel-Lucent property presented in the Concept Map are frightening but not really very different from what I expected. The comments associated with the article are equally disturbing as nearly all of them are focussed only on the proposed age restricted housing. However, it seems clear that everyone seems interested restoring a use of the property that will restore the tax revenues it provided 10 or so years ago. I would love it to happen but let’s not get carried away and neglect the negatives that can result from allowing just anything on the property. The Office Laboratory use of the property was special but all of the proposed uses can have serious negative impacts that could well be greater than whatever tax revenue is forthcoming.
I am as disturbed as anyone with number and the layout of the proposed age restricted residential units. In the comments on the referenced article, Tony Cooper points out the incompatibility of the age restricted units with the needs of seniors and the likelihood that they will end up losing the age restriction. The problem with units that are compatible with the desires of seniors is that they would be much smaller and, if converted to unrestricted use, as is very likely (see comments on referenced article for reasons), they would be an even greater burden because we could expect the same number of school children and fewer tax dollars. In about 10 to 15 years, 185 houses would increase our school population by more than 250. Age restricted housing on the sight may appear to be compatible with the use of the original building becoming a home of commercial operations, e.g. retail, but, as discussed below, the traffic would be a more serious problem and inconsistent with senior housing.
The Mayor is quoted as commenting that that the locations shown on the plans would change dramatically the character of the property and would like the view from Crawfords Corner Rd. to be as it is today. I can’t agree more and it was great to read his comment! He is, in effect, saying that the property between the existing building and Crawfords Corner Rd. should be left as it is today. But where is there area on the site where the 185 units can be located without cramming them in such that those occupying the units will believe they are in some city. Regardless of how the residential units, age restricted and not, are located, they will change dramatically the character of the site. I have stated many times that the property included the best Open Space in town and is reflected in the value of surrounding properties.
I was very pleased to read that the Mayor wants traffic studies. But, the provisions in the Redevelopment Plan suggest that no one considered the traffic that could be generated by the uses permitted. It should have been a MAJOR consideration! I sent a letter on the subject to the Township Committee in 2011 and pointed out that the proposed uses of the existing building, without any additional construction on the site, residential units, etc., could be greater 12 hours of every day, 7 days of each week, than the peak traffic, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening of week days only, generated by the building when it was occupied by Lucent. And additional uses, including the residential uses, will add significant traffic. There was a major uproar when we changed the Zoning to allow additional OL areas because the expected TRAFFIC and that was when the present building was only a fraction of its present size. The increase in the OL zone was subsequently eliminated.
Trip generation estimates for different uses are available from several sources. The most official source is published by the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) and is available for a fee. However, there are other sources available online such as the San Diego Trip Generation Manual found at http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/documents/pdf/trans/tripmanual.pdf. It may be of interest that the Lucent use of the building, generated about 1/3 of the peak traffic indicated in the Manual for Office Lab.facilities. It is also true that eventual uses of the building may generate less traffic than the numbers in the estimates. However, even if the uses are successful but generate only 1/3 of the traffic in the estimates, the traffic will still be excessive. In my view, the more likely outcome is that they will not be successful, the building will disappear and we will be stuck with another "redevelopment" with the added-on uses of the property included in the starting condition.
Note that the Lucent building has about 2,000,000 sq. ft. of floor space. By comparison, the Holmdel Shopping Center on the Northwest corner of the intersection of Rt. 35 and Laurel Ave. contains 235,000 sq. ft. total of floor space in the retail part, less than 1/8 the space of the Lucent building. Note also that heating or air conditioning of any room in the building requires heating and air conditioning the entire building. And only one office has windows for natural light - the President’s office in building 3.
To make the proposed redevelopment worse, sewers are being permitted for service to all construction on the site. The Mayor has stated that septic systems cause pollution. Yes, failed systems can cause pollution but properly located, installed and used systems are not a problem. The many failures that occurred in the past were the result of a lack of enforcement of the related laws. It is my understanding that the lack of enforcement is a thing of past. In addition, I wrote a paper that I offered to the public in 2010 to explain a low cost addition to systems that is common in most states around the country and corrects the most common cause of failure of a properly constructed system. It is also a FACT that we are headed for a shortage of drinking water. The water company already limits its use in the Fall of the year. Septic systems return all water that we use to the earth where nature treats it and makes it available for reuse. Sewers pump it into the ocean. When approval to service the building with sewers was granted, it was stipulated that the service was for the building only. Sewer service sounds good if you ignore the longer term impact on the availability of our potable water supply but is a very serious negative, long term. Our Township Committee seems interested only in the short term.
The real problem is our Township Committee, and its decision several years ago to introduce a Redevelopment Plan, which takes away the requirement to conform to our Zoning Ordinance including all provisions of the law requiring notification of residents and public hearings. When the Township Committee said nothing when their Planner said the proposal was consistent with our Master Plan, it was clear that we were headed for a dramatic degradation of our rural character and property values that many of us had worked hard to preserve. I chaired our Planning Board from 1966 through 1970 and, in my day, her words would have been her last as Holmdel’s Planner. I learned, often the hard way, to be careful what you believe from your so called professionals.
Our Mayor is quoted, in the referenced article, as saying "Believe me, we are not sleeping on this, we have four lawyers and a team of engineers on the project." Why do we need 4 lawyers? One lawyer is usually too many. And why hasn’t the team of engineers contributed traffic estimates? And what have they said about the causes of septic problems in the past?