In Your Opinion: Say ‘No’ To The ‘KMart Apartments’

By Arnold Schmidt.

I urge all concerned Franklin citizens to attend the Township Council’s December 14th meeting and our Zoning Board’s meeting on January 6th.  We need to voice our opposition to the huge multi-million if not billion dollar Levin Corporation levinmgt.com from turning the existing Kmart building on the corner of Easton Avenue and JFK Boulevard into a 200-unit, 4-story apartment building. 

It’s not our job to bail Levin out due to their apparent mismanagement of this property that likely chased away Burger King, UFO and more, and probably dissuaded others from moving in. 

Not only does this huge corporation want a hardship variance to allow these 200 residential units, they want a variance to allow them to build 4 stories high in one of, if not the most densely populated areas of Franklin – currently over 10,000 residents within one square mile of this site, variances Levin wants because of issues they may have caused, whether it is due to high rental high rental rates being asked or letting their property fall into disrepair to make it appear undesirable for potential retail business owners.

Approval of these variances could entice additional retail property owners throughout Franklin to request variances to allow them to build residential units and eventually, slowly but surely, turn Franklin into a major urban area.  If denied why wouldn’t these other property owners sue Franklin for not being treated equitably?  

Allowing more areas in our township where developers can add residential units will eventually increase our need for more schools and other infrastructure requirements, resulting in higher property taxes. Of course more traffic, pollution, and flooding all become part of this equation. The applicant’s paid experts will disagree and testify in front of our Zoning Board that this will revitalize this area. I’ve never heard a so called expert disagree with what their clients want. Why? Because their livelihoods depend, in part, on contracts with these developers.  

We have a Master Plan and a Land Use Ordinance for a reason – long-term planning. We need to stick to our plan and not fearfully react whenever there is an economic downturn by exacerbating the problem with bad short-term decisions. Reject this just like the Grandparents’ Park was rejected by voicing your opinion. Unless we let our thoughts be known directly to our elected officials and their appointed officials on the Zoning Board, we will have 200 apartment units in place of the old Kmart building. 

The Kmart site would be the first of many dominoes to fall and Franklin will eventually become the next New Jersey municipality with a population of 80,000 to 100,000 residents.  This is a retail property and must remain fully retail.  Nothing, absolutely nothing good can come from this proposal!     

The December 14th virtual Council meeting, at 7 p.m., can be accessed from the Township website. The Zoning Board meeting is currently scheduled to be in person at the municipal building on January 6th at 7:30 p.m., unless due to Covid issues the State changes this to a virtual meeting.

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