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In Your Opinion: Keep Rural Areas Rural

Submitted by Barbara Lawrence, Middlebush.

Keeping Rural Areas Rural is a goal in the Township Master Plan. That is the basis of my objection to Zoning Board of Adjustment approval of the applications by the Dada Bhagwan Vignan Institute and the Sai Datta Mandir to build temples on South Middlebush Road.

Building large structures and large carparks in this protected area of South Middlebush Road is not compatible with the goals and priorities in the Township Master Plan that was designed to protect rural areas, agricultural land, and historic heritage.

I can understand why these properties are appealing for development. The land is  open and flat. But it is open precisely because it is protected and it is protected because the residents of Franklin value open space and have repeatedly voted for its preservation. 

Moreover, I want to remind us of the historic and cultural significance of South Middlebush Road (SMBR). It is designated both within the Six Mile Run National Historic District and as a Township Designated Scenic Byway.

Many of the Township’s inventoried historic resources are located along the Township-designated Scenic Corridors and many of these roads run through one or more of the historic districts within the Township.

The working farms and three individual historic sites on South Middlebush Road, all contribute to the scenic and historic character as well as supporting designation as a national historic district.

The township master plan theme, “Keep Rural Areas Rural”, is elucidated in several master plan components; Historic Preservation, Farmland Preservation, and Open Space.

Historic Preservation Master Plan Component

This area was farmed by the Lenape People. In 1701 it was purchased and the tract was then divided into separate farmsteads. One of these farms, the Stoothoof-Gunther farm, designated with the Six Mile Run Historic District, has been farmed continuously since 1740. The Gunther family reported finding Lenape and Dutch artifacts. Perhaps there are artifacts on the subject property.

The HP Plan notes that Historic character of the Township is deeply rooted in its agrarian ancestry and its concentration of Dutch farmsteads. The plan’s goals include protecting the Township’s cultural heritage by: encouraging the continuation of farming as a viable land use, guarding the Township’s historic resources from incompatible design and/or land use, and retaining a harmonious setting for historic and architecturally significant buildings, structures, and places within Franklin Township.

Core strategies of the Farmland Preservation Master Plan Component are intended to protect farmland. Plan goals are to focus on preservation of prime agricultural lands, maximize efforts to preserve active farms, and urge the State to dedicate all viable land to be used for agricultural purposes.

Preserving areas of scenic and/or historic value is a goal of the Open Space and Recreation Master Plan Component. The plan outlines a number of “land preservation areas” that provide structure, guidance and direction in the Township’s land preservation efforts. Many of these land preservation areas overlap the historic districts within the Township.

In addition to the township’s master plan the County Agriculture Development Plan states that Somerset County wants to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture when selecting Agricultural Development Areas.

Finally, I reiterate that the Franklin Township Master Plan states clearly the goal to KEEP RURAL AREAS RURAL. Agriculture preservation is a fundamental goal of the Township Master Plan.

In conclusion, I know that South Middlebush Road will not return to the environment of 40 years ago, when I could safely take a walk down the road to Laird’s store. I know that there are priorities for religious institutions. Yet I feel that it is important to state my position:

I do support preservation of Franklin’s scenic byways, historic districts and agricultural heritage.

I do not support approving variances that will violate the goals of the township’s well-researched and well-thought-out plans.

I do not support the development of this major intrusion into the township’s historic, cultural, and agricultural resources.



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