Critics link office plan with Route 92

By: Sharlee Joy DiMenichi , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 01/08/2004

Say Forrestal project could pave way for Turnpike spur.

   Some residents and officials opposed to Route 92 are expressing concerns that a 1.8 million-square-foot office complex proposed for Route 1 could increase the likelihood that the toll road will be constructed.

   Opponents of the highway say the traffic that could be generated by the complex could be used by supporters of the road as further justification for the highway.

   Supporters of the 6.7-mile, limited-access roadway say Route 92 is needed to alleviate traffic in the region and to provide a link between the N.J. Turnpike and the Route 1 corridor. The highway would run from the Turnpike at Exit 8A to Route 1 near Ridge Road.

   Critics of the road say it would draw traffic onto the narrow roads in Kingston, destroying the character of the village; would attract development to the south eastern corner of the township, currently slated for low-intensity development and open space preservation; and would destroy wetlands.

   A general development plan for the 150-acre office park, which is being proposed by Princeton Forrestal, the development arm of Princeton University, was approved in November. A portion of the site plan will be reviewed by the Planning Board on Wednesday. The general development plan is a mini-master plan for the development.

   The office park — which will run approximately from the Plainsboro border to Ridge Road and is bordered by Route 1 — required the creation of a new land-use zone, the office corporate zone, and the rezoning of 78 acres from residential use to office corporate. The office corporate zone would allow five-story buildings and a hotel, which are not allowed in the office park zone. The remaining 72 acres already were zoned for office park use.

   In exchange for the rezoning, Princeton Forrestal promised to preserve 214 acres of property — 128 of which would be owned by the township, with the rest being co-owned by the township Princeton Forrestal and Middlesex County.

   The property's location and the amount of employees the development is likely to generate have some critics of Route 92 concerned. A Princeton Forrestal study has pegged the number of employees at the complex at about 7,200.

   Councilman Ted Van Hessen, who voted against the rezoning in April, said the proposed office park could increase the chance that Route 92 would be built. He said traffic from the park could create what state and federal environmental regulators would view as an overarching community need, giving the Turnpike the right to fill wetlands along the route.

   "It adds a traffic generator right at the terminus of Route 92," Mr. Van Hessen said.

   Robert Von Zumbusch of Kingston said increased traffic brought by Route 92 would be a boon for the Princeton Forrestal Center and for the proposed complex.

   "There's no question that some of the so-called stakeholders in the area, such as Princeton Forrestal, are in favor of this (Route 92) because it brings the traffic right to them," Mr. Von Zumbusch said.

   Critics have pointed out in the past that the proposed Route 92-Perrine Road interchange would take traffic from the Turnpike directly into Princeton Forrestal Center in Plainsboro.

   But South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese, a longtime foe of Route 92, said he did not believe the proposed office complex would create traffic problems or increase the likelihood that the spur would be constructed.

   Mayor Gambatese said that not only did the land deal not invite Route 92 traffic, it would also give the township more traffic control than they would otherwise have had. The developer's agreement prohibits direct access to Mapleton Road/Academy Street and an internal road is planned as part of the general development plan that would direct traffic onto Route 1 rather than local roads.

   Mayor Gambatese also said the open space the township gained in return for rezoning enabled South Brunswick to control the flow of traffic.

   "If anything, it blocks the flow of traffic into Kingston because we own all that land," Mayor Gambatese said.

   Mr. Gambatese said that Princeton Forrestal officials could have built the office complex on nearby land the company owns in Plainsboro, which would have left South Brunswick with no say as to what kind of impact the traffic would have on the township. Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu has long endorsed constructing Route 92.

   David Knights, director of marketing for Princeton Forrestal, said that while Forrestal officials support Route 92, negotiations on the developers' agreement began with officials from Princeton Forrestal and the township taking differences on Route 92 off the table and focusing on common ground.

   Mr. Knights said there is no causal connection between constructing the proposed office center and the roadway being built.

   "We believe the need existed for an east-west connection in this part of the state long before we existed," Mr. Knights said.