Canal Walk Developer Wins Preliminary Approval For 63 Single Family Homes

12-16-15 Meeting - 3

Canal Walk’s traffic engineer, Gary Dean, speaks to the Planning Board at its Dec. 16, 2015 meeting.

The developer of the Canal Walk active adult community got most of what it was looking for Dec. 16 from the Planning Board, but it did not come easy.

Canal Walk Associates was looking for site plan approval for one part of its planned expansion, a 63-unit, single family home development bordered by Schoolhouse Road and Canal Walk Boulevard.

The developer was also looking for guidance from the board on where it would  likely win approval for the relocation of the development’s guard house, necessitated by the second part of its expansion: Enclave II, a 62-unit, 3-building condominium/apartment project.

The guard house’s location must be set before the final plans can be designed for the entrance to the Enclave development, Peter Lanfrit, Canal Walk Associates’ attorney, told the board.

It was the positioning of the guard house which drew about 40 Canal Walk residents to the meeting. They were concerned that the entrance gates were proposed to be placed in front of an area where cars could turn around – thereby potentially letting someone in on the pretense of them turning around – and by the timing of the gates for residents and guests.

In addition to subdivision and site plan approval, Canal Walk Associates needs the board to agree to an adjustment in the overall development’s General Development Plan. The original plan called for the area where Enclave II would be built to hold a nursing home, and for the area across the street to house a retail center.

In the end, the board gave preliminary approval to the 63-unit component of the project, and also suggested that the developer move the entrance gates to the other side of the area where cars would turn around. The board also suggested the developer look into creating an entrance and exit for residents only at one of the former construction entrances.

Gary Dean, the developer’s traffic engineer, said the gates will be designed so that only one – either the gate for residents, which is operated by a key card, or for guests, operated by the security guard – could be opened at one time. This, he said, was to eliminate the problem of one car shooting in front of another as the two lanes at the entrance merge into one.

But some Canal Walk residents were concerned that that could lead to accidents.

Leon Krals, a member of the development’s Homeowners Association, said he feared that a driver who is used to the gate going up instantly when the key card is swiped will “slam on their brakes” if the gate does not open. That, he said, will lead to rear-end collisions.

Krals said that drivers have hit the gate.

“Accidents happen when people don’t pay attention,” Dean said. “I can’t design for that, but in this case, we did.”

Dean maintained that the new arrangement is safer than what is in use now.

That didn’t sit well with Canal Walk resident Dina Luchs.

“You don’t live there,” she told Dean. “Whatever the Planning Board votes on, we have to live there. To say you can’t help it if people aren’t careful, well, we’ve seen it. It’s an issue.”

Several board members, including chairman Michael Orsini, questioned the placement of the gates before the turnaround area.

“It would make sense” for the gates to be moved, he said.

Township Councilman Ted Chase noted that the gates were put up to prevent unauthorized drivers from “proceeding further” into the development.

That could be subverted he said, by someone lying about wanting to turn around.

“What happened if the person proceeds further” after being given access, he asked.

“Then it’s a matter of calling security,” Dean said, to laughter from the audience.

Now that they have preliminary subdivision approval for one phase of the project and an idea of where the board would like to see the guardhouse, Cnal Walk Associates will return for the Feb. 3, 2016 meeting to seek further approvals for the rest of the project.

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