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Save Hamilton Open Space

P.O. Box 2594
Hamilton, NJ 08690
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(609) 273-9173


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Statement: America's private land trusts have conserved almost twice the acreage in all the National Parks in the lower 48 states combined.


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Open Space Projects

Save Hamilton Open Space Projects
Below is the SHOS project list with the latest status of each one. Latest revision dates are noted for each project.




RURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION ZONE THREATENED (Feb 18, 2011)-
Beazer/Sharbel Commercial/Retail development

Beazer Homes Corporation and Sharbell Development Company are seeking to build a 325,000 square foot commercial and retail development on 95 acres located between Route 130 and Hamilton-Crosswicks Rd. Beazer/Sharbell had asked Hamilton to rezone the land to permit a "planned commercial development" and, following the rezoning, they wanted Hamilton to recommend to NJDEP that the Beazer/Sharbell property be included in a sewer service area. (NJDEP issues permits for extension of sewers and Hamilton's recommendation would help sway NJDEP to accommodate the Beazer/Sharbell request.)

Hamilton denied Beazer/Sharbell's request and after a court hearing Beazer Homes and Hamilton Township reached an agreement in May, 2010.

The agreement was that Hamilton would consider incorporating Beazer's request into its revised master plan. Further, if Hamilton did not accommodate Beazer's request for this change, Beazer was entitled to file a new complaint without the time limit for such complaints being applied.

Hamilton is now nearing completion of its master plan revision. SHOS anticipates that the developer will continue pressing for sewer line extension.

SHOS urges residents to become involved in the process and urge the township and Mercer County to retain the integrity of the RRC and deny Beazer's request for sewer lines and/or rezoning of the area to permit this development.

What You Can Do: Write a letter to the Trenton Times and contact local officials to urge them to support the RRC and deny Beazer/Sharbell's request. Find more information here....

Next Level Soccer Academy

Next Level Soccer Academy (NLSA) proposes to build a 350,000 square foot sports complex on a 52 acre farm at 183 Old York Rd. near the intersection of Old York and Sawmill Roads, across from Sam's Court.

NLSA will need a zoning variance and has filed an application for the development with Hamilton, but it was ruled incomplete. No Zoning Board hearing date has been set.

Meanwhile Hamilton's Division of Planning has strongly stated its defense of the RRC zoning, saying that, "This type of use is not permitted within the RRC zone." Also, "This office does not feel that the subject property is best suited for the proposed use." Also, …the applicant's proposed development "…is not in harmony and would not be developed in coordination with RRC zone standards." (Memo Dec 1, 2010 Robert Poppert, Division of Planning to Michael Guhanick, Land Use Coordinator)

Hamilton's Environmental Commission has strongly stated its defense of the RRC zone, saying that. "We strongly recommend that the applicant's request for a use variance be denied" (Memo Nov 12, 2010 Lester Finch, Chairman Environmental Commission to Michael Guhanick, Land Use Coordinator)

SHOS has legal counsel, consulting engineers, and a professional planner reviewing the proposal. All agree that the proposed use is not permitted and is incompatible with the objectives of the RRC.

Also, SHOS has begun community outreach and have contacted nearby residents to inform them of the proposed development. Without exception, all voiced strong opposition to the project.

SHOS is not opposed to such a facility or to NLSA. We simply believe the location is wrong. We urge NLSA to consider redeveloping land such as a vacant shopping center that is closer to densely populated areas.

What You Can Do: Write a letter to the Trenton Times and contact local officials to urge them to support the RRC and deny the NLSA request. Find more information here...


MASTER PLAN REVISION – IT AFFECTS EVERYONE (Feb 18, 2011)-
The Conservation Element of the Master Plan recommends actions to protect Hamilton’s natural resources that are identified in the Natural Resource Inventory.

Highlights from the Conservation Element (CE).

Goal 1: Protect Water Resources, Improve Water Quality, and Reduce Flooding
  • Hamilton needs a well head protection ordinance to keep drinking water safe - Mercerville, Hamilton Square and surrounding areas get drinking water from an aquifer (an underground layer of water) that is tapped by wells. Well head protection is critical to keep pollutants out of the water source.
  • All of our lakes and streams show impairment of water quality. The major cause is excessive stormwater runoff.
  • Using natural features to manage stormwater…is far less expensive than structural interventions… (and) improves habitats, water quality, public health, and quality of life.
  • One way to manage stormwater naturally is to preserve and maintain wetlands and floodplains.
Goal 2: Enhance Natural Habitats, Open Space, and Tree Canopy
  • Hamilton should adopt an official Greenway Map to facilitate the continuation of its efforts to create a greenway system along rivers and streams. A greenway is a linear open space that connects natural, recreational, and cultural points of interest.
  • Hamilton should preserve habitats that are essential for the survival of rare species. These areas are identified in the NJDEP Landscape Project.
  • Hamilton should strengthen its ordinance that addresses tree preservation. Specimen or heritage trees deserve added protection.
Goal 3: Protect Public and Environmental Health from Pollution
  • Use of native plants should be encouraged since they are naturally adapted to the local climate, require fewer pesticides, fertilizers, or watering to maintain.
  • The environmental and public health impacts of pesticides can be devastating. Hamilton should expand the practice of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on public lands, school grounds, and agriculture. IPM is a systematic approach to pest management that utilizes knowledge of the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. It is the safest and most cost effective option for pest management. Residents, too, should be encouraged to use IPM techniques like natural landscaping and safely disposing of leftover pesticides to achieve sustainable lawn care.
  • Encourage rehabilitation and reuse of contaminated sites. As of August 2010 there were 99 known contaminated sites in Hamilton. Remediation funding is available from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund and the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust. Hamilton’s Township Economic Development Advisory Commission and the Redevelopment Agency can be involved in securing this funding.
  • The Environmental Commission or other groups or individuals should monitor the status of operating permits for facilities with air permits. Two major facilities, Congoleum Corporation and the PSE&G Fossil LLC Mercer Generating Station are regulated by the federal Clean Air Act. Over 150 other facilities in Hamilton have permits.
Read the entire Environmental Resource Inventory

The Master Plan may seem distant and removed from everyday life, but it is the foundation for what happens in communities throughout Hamilton. A good example is “Rural Resource Conservation Zone Threatened” found in “Latest News” and the “Open Space Projects” story above. A developer wants to change the Master Plan to rezone a portion of Hamilton’s Rural Resource Conservation zone to accommodate a development that is currently prohibited.

SHOS urges residents to get involved in the Master Plan process by reviewing the Master Plan website, participating in meetings, and contacting Clark Caton Hinz or Hamilton’s Planning Department with suggestions. The master plan website, contains contact information and more.


SHARBELL HOUSING PROJECT AT ITALIAN AMERICAN SPORTSMAN’S CLUB
(Feb 18, 2011)-
Sharbell Land Development filed a plan to build 52 houses on 37.5 acres of land Sharbell acquired from the Italian American Sportsman’s Club on Kuser Rd across from Veterans Park. The applicant sought flood plain relief, a zoning variance, and preliminary and final approval of a major subdivision.

Local residents were concerned that some of the proposed houses were encroaching into wetlands and would cause neighborhood flooding. Since the land was formerly used for skeet shooting, residents were also concerned about lead contamination from pellets. Neighbors were also worried that a proposed street connection would create “cut through” traffic in their neighborhood.

SHOS joined neighbors in seeking to guarantee environmental protections.

Nevertheless, the Zoning Board granted preliminary approval of the project at its January 11, 2011, meeting.

Neighbors are appealing the decision to the Hamilton Council.

Read Trenton Times story about Development Approved

Read Trenton Times story about Resident Appeals

CARE ONE (Feb 18, 2011) -

At it’s June 9, 2009, meeting Hamilton’s Zoning Board denied a proposed expansion of the Care One assisted living facility located on Whitehorse-Hamilton Square Rd. near Cypress Lane. The vote was 5-2 to not grant at least eight variances to township zoning regulations. Denial of the variances effectively denied the development plan.

The proposed addition to the existing Care One facility was 62,000 square feet (50% more than allowed by code). It would have more than doubled the size of the existing 58,000 square foot facility.

SHOS supported residents of Society Hill II, the condominium complex located behind the proposed development, who argued that Care One should follow existing zoning rules. Approximately 70 people attended the final meeting in a battle that stretched over two years and numerous Zoning Board meetings.

Society Hill II residents organized as REEL DC (Residents for the Enforcement of Existing Land Development Codes) to oppose the variances sought by Care One. Among their concerns were an inadequate storm water management plan, decrease in property value, increase in traffic, a reduction in the buffer between homes and Care One from 150 feet (required by code) to 15 feet (in places), elimination of scores of trees in the buffer and on the site, and construction of a new roadway behind the proposed facility. Also, if the plan had been approved, residents who currently view trees from their homes would have seen a 400-foot long building instead.

Experts in planning, environmental, and legal issues testified in support of Society Hill II residents at the Zoning Board meetings.

Status: Care One has not filed plans for another development on the site but continues to work with NJDEP to create a compliant storm water management plan.

Residents' Website

Trenton Times stories about Care One


 

Statement:  85% of Hamilton is already developed.

LAURA AVE (Jan 16, 2011) -

Residents in the Cornwell Heights neighborhood opposed the Gres Kaluzny LLC application to build 16 houses and a retention basin on 7.7 acres of a former farm at the corner of Laura and Evelyn Avenues saying the development was was too dense and out of character with the neighborhood. Major concerns were potential flooding and increased traffic in the quiet neighborhood (along with similar impacts from the nearby train station development).

The property is adjacent to Assunpink Creek, and was recommended as a site for a park in "Closing the Missing Link on the Assunpink Creek Greenway", a report by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Hamilton's Planning Board approved the application on March 10, 2005 with the condition that NJ DEP and/or the Mercer County Soil Conservation District approve the storm water management plan.

Photo of Laura Ave. propertySHOS appealed the approval contending the Planning Board was responsible for approving the storm water management plan, that NJDEP and MCSC had no authority to approve it and therefore would not act to determine compliance (and even if they did, the public would not be able to participate in their decision) and further, that the plan submitted was not compliant with new state mandated rules. Three other environmental groups, the Sierra Club, NJ Audubon Society and Save Barnegat Bay joined SHOS as amici curiae in the appeal.

In July 2006 the NJ Appeals Court remanded to case back to the Hamilton Planning Board saying that "the other governmental agencies may not act or the public may not have an opportunity to be heard on any final storm water management plans". The court also said no lots were to be sold until the agencies approved the storm water plan and until "the Planning Board has reviewed and approved the final plans at a public meeting".

No approvals from NJDEP or MCSC were obtained but the developer sold lots and 16 houses were built anyway. With two days notice the Planning Board heard the matter at its Feb. 22, 2007 meeting. SHOS was not notified but inadvertently discovered that there would be a hearing. The Board denied SHOS's request to postpone the meeting, approved the final development plans, and memorialized its approval (the final step in the approval process) in a resolution adopted April 12, 2007.

SHOS appealed the Planning Board's decision, but the court again ruled against SHOS, saying the "Authorization to Discharge Stormwater" issued by the MCSC and NJDEP Bureau of Nonpoint Source Pollution constituted approval of the storm water management plan.

On November 7, 2008, the court remanded the application back to the Planning Board to hold a hearing and rule on the adequacy of the storm water plan.

A Planning Board hearing was held on November 12, 2009. Against the objection of SHOS lawyer, the board did not follow the court's order to determine whether or not the stormwater plan was adequate, but took testimony from the applicant's engineer on a revision to the existing plan.

SHOS experts disputed the applicant's engineer's conclusions but were unable to complete testifying before the Board.

Over a year later on February 10, 2011 the applicant's lawyer appeared briefly before the Planning Board to update them on the applicant's progress on developing a new storm water plan.

Meanwhile the drainage basin on the property has failed - as SHOS predicted - and Mercer County Mosquito Control has issued a report citing an ongoing mosquito problem due to poor drainage. Other stormwater plan components have not been implemented.

Due to the lack of applicant action to request a new hearing, the Planning Board, in a highly unusual action, sent a notice to the applicant and the public that set a hearing date of Nov. 10, 2011.

A few days prior to the scheduled meeting, the applicant tried to submit a new storm water plan to the township. The township requires plan submissions at least ten days prior to Board meetings along with an escrow payment. Since both provisions were violated, the town refused to accept the new plan.

The meeting was held anyway and the applicant promised to submit a revised plan along with the escrow payment, and to allow SHOS to review the plan for compliance.

Also, at the November 10 meeting the Board heard testimony from Dr. Christopher Obropta from Rutgers University regarding the storm water plan. (The Board previously hired Rutgers to review storm water issues in Hamilton including Christopher Estates.) Dr Obropta‘s testimony supported SHOS’s contentions about non-compliance and SHOS’s recommendations for changes required to make the system compliant. The board again decided not to vote on the initial storm water management plan submitted in 2004 as ordered by the court.

The board set a new hearing date of January 12, 2012 to review a new (third) plan.

The applicant submitted their third plan and the escrow payment to the township the following week.

SHOS filed a motion with the court to compel the Board to vote on the original plan.

At the January 12, 2012 meeting the board voted down the initial (built) plan and the 2009 revision, declaring both to be non-compliant with Phase II storm water regulations.

Status: The applicant is revising the third plan, which is scheduled to be heard by the board at its March 8, 2012 meeting.

LEVIN PROPERTIES (Feb 18, 2011) -
A concerted effort by residents convinced Hamilton to oppose the original Levin plan (2004) to build a 200,000 square foot shopping center on 30 acres of woods at Klockner Ave and Nottingham Way next to the largely vacant Suburban Plaza center. The Planning Board denied Levin's application but Levin appealed and the court ruled in their favor. The Hamilton Township Planning Board and Save Hamilton Open Space appealed the judge's decision. The NJ Appeals Court sided with the lower court in favor of Levin, thus opening the way to build the center.

The Hamilton Planning Board voted on July 13, 2006, to appeal the decision to the NJ Supreme Court and SHOS joined the Planning Board as an intervener in the case.

Photo of Levin Farm flowers in a fieldSHOS’s argument was that traffic impact on the surrounding neighborhood should be a legitimate reason for denial of the application. (Current case law prohibits off site traffic impact to be used as a basis for denial of an application by a Planning Board.) The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, again opening the way to build the center.

In February, 2008, Levin filed a Reauthorization of Freshwater Wetlands permit in order to fill isolated wetlands on the site. NJDEP denied the permit and Levin asked for an “administrative appeal” by NJDEP. SHOS’s environmental consultant contacted NJDEP to review the relevant documents. NJDEP issued an approval listing our consultant as a commenter, and in May 2008 issued a letter finalizing agreement. However, our consultant never received the documents from NJDEP and thus never reviewed them.

SHOS requested a stay of the approval to allow time for our comments. When NJDEP didn’t respond, SHOS went to the Appeals Court and contended that we were deprived of our due process right to comment on the final decision. After a settlement conference, NJDEP agreed to withdraw its approval and let SHOS comment. After a review of the plans SHOS’s consultant issued a report on October 2, 2008 saying settlement didn’t comply with NJ storm water regulations. NJDEP denied approval of the revised permit application based on that report.

Status: As of November 2010 Levin and NJDEP continue working on a new settlement document. SHOS will review it and comment on it.

Statement:  NJ is the most densely populated state. It is the 10th in U.S. population, but the 5th smallest state with only 7,400 square miles.



Save Hamilton Open Space P.O. Box 2594, Hamilton, NJ 08690 | 609-273-9173 | Info@SaveHamiltonOpenSpace.org
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