Development: Do You Prefer Retail or Residential?

What would you say if a proposed apartment and hotel complex were all retail space?

Development? It’s a hot topic in Hillsborough.

With the Planning Board hearing on the , and several storefronts now becoming vacant, Hillsborough Patch has to ask—would residents be more likely to accept the development if it were shops rather than housing?

For those who haven’t followed the Planning Board, the Green Village development—which is still undergoing a site plan hearing—is a 469-unit apartment complex, 130-room extended stay hotel, and a 20,000 square foot retail space, proposed for a section of Route 206 that’s across from United Rent-All. 117 of the apartment units would fulfill affordable housing requirements—which means the town has to build those affordable units somewhere in order to fulfill a state requirement.

The plan has been met with questions from residents who are concerned about traffic and flooding that could occur from both building on the site and from removing 75 percent of the trees there now.

Of course, the Planning Board can't outright deny an application. The board is required to hear the applicant's case, according to New Jersey Land Use Law and can only deny plans because of certain criteria—such as a plan that doesn't conform to zoning criteria. 

What do you think? Are you unhappy that the development—though the affordable housing units would need to be built regardless—are residences? Would your opinion change if it were all retail?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s what you need to know today:

  1. You Need to Know About Job Skills: The New Jersey Technology Council and New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development offers from 8:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday at DeVry University, 630 US 1, North Brunswick. Admission is free, but you’ll need to register here http://njtc.org/events/indevt.asp?dbid=%7B65A11D51-6DF3-E011-8994-0013725A113C%7D.
  2. You Need to Know About Volunteering: The needs five volunteers to lead its Lego Buddies program from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday. Teens can apply to volunteer by calling the Children’s Desk at 908-369-2200, extension 14.
  3. You Need to Know About Legos: The runs its Lego Club for children in grades one to five from 4 to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. Lego lovers will need mom and dad to register for the session by calling 908-369-2200, extension 14. The library provides the Legos, so please remember to leave personal creations at home.
  4. You Need to Know About Your Elders: The hosts a program on the basics of aging and home care at 7 p.m. Wednesday, where those attending can ask a registered nurse questions and learn about community services available. You’ll need to RSVP by calling 908-369-2200.
  5. You Need to Know It’s for Moms: The  Since the location shifts each time, you’ll need to email their membership chair-mom at mchw.info@gmail.com if you’re interested in joining the club. East of Route 206? You'll want to investigate the .
Laura Madsen March 06, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I think we need neither residential or commercial development here right now. Not until the economy improves. There are too many brand sparkly new and old empty houses here that are up for sale and/or unoccupied. And it's not just here, it's everywhere. It's not like we have a housing shortage. Eventually, new commercial development is something I would be ok with if more of the existing vacant commercial properties were already occupied. It seems as if Hillsborough is headed in the right direction, by filling up the empty buildings behind the movie theater off of Stryker with some new businesses, and Weis opening in the old Pathmark space soon; but on the other hand, when you turn around you've got Kmart leaving and Maestro gone. So it's like you win some/lose some in this economy. I think once the economy improves and the existing commercial vacancies fill up with new stores, then it might be time to think about new commercial buildings. I do know that it takes time to build new commercial venues, though. Has anyone learned approximately how long the Green Village project will take to complete? Are we talking a year or 5 years? Because if it's more like 5 years, then it might be a good thing because the economy would improve by then, I'd like to think, and then the empty housing/commercial structures would have a better chance of being filled.
Fran March 06, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I'm very surprised that with ALL the condos we have on the west side of highway 206 that we still haven't met the necessary affordable housing requirements. It's hard not to look at Montgomery as a comparison and wonder how have they met theirs? Hmmm I feel that for now we have enough strip malls going in our community, and until we fill up all the vacancies in our present ones, let's hold tight on starting any others. We all know too, what comes with a new small strip mall---a pizzeria, nail shop, and maybe a laudromat/dry cleaners too. Enough of these around the Boro IMO.
PatchFan March 06, 2012 at 02:04 PM
The question is irrelevant. You need to understand that Green Village is a result of COAH. Development should be determined by market forces; not by the artificial incentives created by NJ's Supreme Court and forced upon suburban and rural communities by COAH.
Curt Carnes March 06, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I think, at the end of the day, Hillsborough needs to remain a Bedroom Community. Retail, commercial, and high density development just leads to, too many problems and they are not the panacea they are made out to be. I know everyone is clamoring for tax reduction, and some look to retail, commercial, and high density development as a way to reduce our property taxes, however, they don’t, just look at your tax bill over the last ten years. No only do they not reduce taxes, but no-matter-how-you-slice-it, they need to go in someone’s backyard, and the old adage of “Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true,” applies here. Regardless of what many have been preaching, the single family four bedroom house, on an acre or two is not Hillsborough’s enemy, not even close, and if my memory serves me right, that house used to be known as the “American Dream,” but that dream seem to be fading! If it costs me a couple hundred dollars a year in taxes to keep Hillsborough the nice bedroom community with all of its neat little villages that I moved into close to 30 years ago, So Be It.! PS -- Why, no really WHY do we, or anyone else have to build “Affordable Housing?” Because some appointed judge somewhere said so? Is this really the America our forefathers put their and their families very lives on the line to create? Not in my book, and I’ll bet you not in their book either!
S.G. March 06, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Laura, your question regarding the Green Village buildout time is interesting. The Green Village and Gateway at Sunnymeade applications are related and I can't even remember how long Gateway has been just sitting there...at least as far back as 2004: http://www.hillsborough-nj.org/uppages/040115PBminutes.pdf http://hillsboroughnjjournal.blogspot.com/2010/04/tale-of-two-developments.html
Laura Madsen March 06, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Thanks for the info S.G.
Patricia P. Smith March 06, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Should Hillsborough remain a Bedroom Community by only allowing housing construction, the tax burden will keep increasing due to needed school expansion and provided services. Responsible development should be more just a few more large corporate enterprises that will help with ratables, while somewhat limiting increased traffic to rush hour. If the planning is well done, the location can be on a site with little impact to nearby homes. One caveat - building should only be allowed once the bypass is complete. It could also help our existing retail store owners with an increase of customers. I agree with Curt Carnes regarding Affordable Housing. I have never expected a handout; I have worked hard all my life with no assistance from the government and yet still achieved owning a home. Too many Americans now consider it the duty of government (federal, state, local) to help them get ahead. Hillsborough currently has too many high density developments. When I moved here over 30 years ago, Hillsborough was a beautiful town, having a good mix of rural and developed properties. Sadly, it is now overwhelmed with cars without the infrastructure to handle it due to poor planning in the 70's and 80's.
A Lop March 06, 2012 at 09:35 PM
What ever happened to the Amwell Road West project? I thought that was affodable housing!
BDVideo March 07, 2012 at 03:43 AM
All good points here.
Harold Levin March 07, 2012 at 11:48 AM
It looks like another empty slot could be where Maestro is located, have not seen life there the past 2 weeks. I urge the Township Committee to find a way to encourage redevelopment of older properties before destroying more open space. We do not want to become the next South Florida where a lot of properties sit empty and decaying while new ones are built across the street.
Curt Carnes March 07, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Patricia Looks like we moved here around the same time, I used to think I was an “oldtimer” until I talked to a “lifer” who told me about his farm on a dirt road we now call Amwell Road! Anyway, there are two common misconception about houses, schools, and taxes. 1) Many people get confused between the cost to educated a student, and the cost to add student to the school system. Because of this many think each new student to the system increases the budget by $15,000 - $18,000, (the cost to educated a student) which is incorrect. The cost the add a student is known as the marginal cost. Realistically it is just a few hundred dollars, and in fact it drives down the cost to educated a student! 2) Families have 2.5 children. Not even close anymore, more like 0.6. So truly, at the end of the day. A nice house on an acre or two, paying $12,000 a year in property taxes will pay for itself, and not impact your taxes! However waste in government and waste in the school system does!
Curt Carnes March 07, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Yes Harold, Maestro's is closed. However, none of that is on the shoulders of the TC. In fact, the TC should only be involved with the business of running the local government and nothing else. I just can't stress that enough! Fact: The businesses that stay open here stay open because "we the people" vote on them everyday with our dollars, and the businesses that close here, close because "we the people" don’t vote our dollars on them. That, sir, is how our economy works! Do you really think the TC could have prevented the closing of K-Mart, Maestro’s, Pathmark, and all the rest? The TC had nothing to do with them. "We the people" closed them, simply because we as free people chose not to spend our money in those places, for whatever individual reasons we each had! If you want to see this town and nation blossom, and you want lower taxes. Get the government out of the business of business and back to being a government that fairly and uniformly, governs its people! "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"____ JFK
Curt Carnes March 07, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Funny Thing -- Ever notice when a new business opens the politicians are all standing there, cutting ribbons, taking pictures for the press and their campaign literature, smiling and patting themselves on the backs for doing such a good job? Hummmm, anyone notice any of them at Maestro‘s, K-mart, Pathmark, the Learning Store, the Lobster Dock, Cost Cutters, and all the other places that closed saying, sorry, we the government messed up? Yea, I didn't either! Just thought I’d point that out!
Steve March 07, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I prefer neither Retail or Residential development, but commercial in those areas already zoned for it. Retail does not provide jobs that pay well. Commercial development for small and medium business that may include high tech, pharma, etc can provide better jobs. That will attract professional people to Hillsborough, that will buy the vacant homes and patronize the existing retail buisisness.
Curt Carnes March 07, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Sadly Steve, the government holds all the cards on this one. I assume since you favor commercial development (for good reasons) the area near your house is not zoned commercials. However, it is near someone’s house, because of the law know as -- It has to go somewhere. Zoning is just another political tool the politicians use to control us, “we the people” and it is important to remember “we the people” or you “the homeowner” have no real legal recourse if the government wants to change the zoning behind your house to commercial, and that brings an undesirable commercial industrial to your backyard! Hey Just saying! Me? I was happy when some vacant land around me got filled with really nice houses from Beazer and Toll Brothers. Oh sure, I’d still love to have the fields there, but I’ll settle for knowing nothing else (like an undesirable) can be built there now! I’ll say it again -- The a new 4 bedroom house on an acre or two that pays $12.000 a year in property taxes is NOT Hillsborough’s enemy!
Steve March 07, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Curt, I searched hard and long when I was home searching. Did my research, it is all about location, location, location. If you pick a home near busy highway and through roads near commercial sights because you chose to get more home over the location, then you have to deal with it. I don't mind the new 4 BR homes, but I don't see many of them going on an acre or two, more like 1/3 to 1/2 an acer. And I agree they are good ratables. I like to see 4br homes go up on the Green Village development site vs apartments.
S.G. March 07, 2012 at 10:37 PM
There are three components to the Hillsborough Township Affordable Housing Plan: Amwell Road East, Amwell Road West, and Route 206. For additional information... http://hillsboroughnjjournal.blogspot.com/2009/02/coahagain.html http://www.hillsborough-nj.org/documents/HTahppExecSum.pdf
Curt Carnes March 08, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Steve, I too worked very hard to find the house I live in now. I’m in a little secluded neighborhood off Mountain View road. Two of my direct neighbors have lived here since the development was built back in the sixties! Just for reference, there is a field to the south of our development. When I moved here it was zoned and used for agriculture, and is still used for agriculture. However, 10 or so years ago the township changed it’s zoning to HS, AKA Highway Zoning. If you look at a zoning map you see folks in my neighborhood a good half a mile away from Rt206, could suddenly find themselves looking out at this http://www.hillsborough-nj.org/documents/ordinances/2008_-_20_hs_highway_service_district.pdf instead of the cornfields they have been looking at for the passed 50 years You might find this interesting too: http://www.nj.com/messenger-gazette/index.ssf/2010/05/hillsborough_creates_new_zone_for_affordable_housing.html Did I mention… Zoning means nothing when the politicians can just throw a couple whereas, wherefores, and pay a lawyer or two and then just willy-nilly change the zoning to fit their, yes their needs, not “We the Peoples” needs? What area of the township do you live in?
Steve March 08, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I am in the Sourland Mountains, so I live on the Mountain in that is the view for Mountain View road. My home was built in the 60s. I heard that the last development that happened here in the 90s was controversial as well. The land at the very top was supposed to be preserve land, but then with some political dealings they were allowed to build. Some very nice homes but it goes to show even preserve land can be repurposed.
BDVideo March 11, 2012 at 10:09 AM
I often wonder (though I could probably dig around and look it up) what exactly is "affordable" housing? I know someone in the "nicest" (i.e. the one they show to potential residents) of the Claremont "Luxury" Apartments. They are about the cheapest they can find, (around $1,500/mo. for 2 bedrooms, last I heard) and they deal with rain leaking in, drafty windows, and recurring mold problems. There's one dad, one mom, one kid, one on the way. One paycheck, just barely getting by. They're just above the poverty line. They checked out Pike Run and were told there was a waiting list. So I wonder if there would ever be anything they could afford here, or anywhere within a practical distance to the guy's job in the Princeton area.
BDVideo March 11, 2012 at 10:16 AM
I agree with Laura that we can hold off on development, or wait long enough so the projected finish date coincides with a reasonable expectation of a better economy (if that's possible) and the completion of the 206 bypass, as someone else mentioned. I believe that development is not a magical cure for a town's woes. "If you build it they will come" is a great line from "Field of Dreams," but remember, it's just a movie. The phrase gets quoted as some kind of economic dogma.
Geraldine Mancuso March 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Hillsborough needs more retail businesses. There are so many empty store fronts. The township will start to look very run down if something isnt done soon. More big box chain stores and restaurants would do very well. There is a huge residential boom. The supply and demand are not being met. How about an On the Border, Carrabas, Joanns crafts, a Fairway or Trader Joes????


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