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Township Council To Levin: No Residential Tower In Rutgers Plaza

Will send its message through Township Attorney.

The Township Council is going on record opposing a plan by Levin Properties to build a 4-storey residential building in Rutgers Plaza.

In a rare move, the Township Council is inserting itself in a Zoning Board of Adjustment application, opposing a plan to build a 4-storey residential building in Rutgers Plaza.

The Council voted to take the action at its December 14 meeting, after an equally rare Executive Session at the beginning of the meeting.

Levin Properties of Plainfield, which owns Rutgers Plaza, has an application pending before the Zoning Board for the residential building, targeting as the site the former Kmart and connected buildings.

The Board is scheduled to take up the application at its January 20, 2022 meeting.

There was no discussion on the motion, which was offered by Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt (D-At Large).

The resolution directed township attorney Louis Rainone to appear before the Zoning Board “to argue that the Levin application constitutes an abrogation of the Township Council’s zoning authority and direct the Township Manager to provide the necessary resources to that purpose.”

There was no further explanation as to why the Council believes that the application abrogates the Council’s zoning authority. Rainone did not respond to an email seeking clarification.

Township residents, many of whom have taken to social media to express their opposition to the plan, thanked the Council for the action.

Arnold Schmidt said the project would have ramifications across the township.

“This is a township-wide quality of life issue,” he said.

“We don’t need more residential properties … that will require infrastructure upgrades and … will result in the need to build more schools,” he said. “We don’t need to bail Levin out for possible mismanagement of their properties.”

Bill Connell said the project is a “precedent-setting issue that I don’t feel good about.”

“I think this is just opening up a Pandora’s box,” Connell said.

Alex Strauss said that he supported the Council’s move, and charged that Levin has made a “half-hearted” effort to replace Kmart.

“Levin is trying to use Franklin as a guinea pig,” he said. “The luxury housing market is currently hot, so they’re trying to make a killing at our expense.”

Jim Johnston said he opposed the project because it would require more infrastructure, which in turn would lead to increased taxes.

“We should not be in the business of bailing out commercial developers,” Carl Peters told the Council. “If (Levin) can’t find suitable suitors for his land, he should sell it.”

Jeffrey Dowd was the only resident to speak in favor of Levin’s plans.

“There is massive demand for housing, and that housing has to go somewhere,” he said.

“There is a lower demand for retail,” Dowd said. “This is the perfect site. It’s right next to a supermarket.”

Levin’s plans call for the construction of 200 units, with 61 1-bedrooms, eight affordable one-bedrooms, 99 2-bedrooms, 24 affordable 2-bedrooms, and eight 3-bedrooms.

Of the 200 units, 20 percent will be set aside for affordable housing.

Plans also call for a 2,950-square-foot club room, a 1,930-square-foot fitness center and 3,580 square feet of residential storage.

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