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Planning Board Approves 54-Unit Housing Development on Route 206 in Belle Mead

By Caprice Benifield-Sanchez | Posted January 31, 2024


Planning board members recently approved the application for a multifamily residential community on Route 206 in Belle Mead, under multiple conditions.


According to the Environmental Impact Statement prepared by EcolSciences, Inc., “the development project consists of three two-story affordable housing apartment buildings with 18 residential units and 36 three-bedroom townhomes with driveways and two-car garages, for a total of 54 proposed residential units and associated parking.


Architect’s rendering of the housing units planned for Route 206.


The project also includes sidewalks, sitting areas, a play area, bike storage, a dog park and an enclosed trash receptacle area.” The developers are brothers Scott and Todd Van Cleef under Harlingen Associates LLC., who previously proposed to call the community Harlingen Village Square. According to a condition in the final resolution, “The word ‘Harlingen’ shall not be used in the name of the project.”


Members of the township expressed their dismay about the name of the property at the November 13 Planning Board meeting. Elizabeth Palius of Montgomery Township said, “The name absolutely should be changed because Harlingen is very special. It is one of four historic registered districts in the municipality. It is only that little village and it is certainly not this project.”


Jessie Havens of Montgomery Township said, “I know that the developer has every right to name it anything he wants. But, as he is quite well aware, it is a very unpopular thing that he is putting here, and it would help ease the unhappiness of the community if he could possibly find it in his heart to oblige us and give it a different name.”


The name Harlingen also appears in the name of the Township’s Van Harlingen Historical Society, founded in 1965 to help preserve the heritage of the Montgomery Township area and to interpret the area’s history through educational programs, publications and exhibits.


Scott Van Cleef said that the name “Harlingen” will not be used in deference to concerns raised by the Township Landmarks Commission. Van Cleef said that the new name of “Harlingen Village Square” is to be determined as his team is still discussing potential names. In addition, part of the property is on freshwater wetlands; thus, the board added a condition that Van Cleef “will comply with any restrictions on tree clearing that are imposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or NJDEP in connection with protection of endangered species.”


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Richard Schatzman, the attorney representing the applicant at the Jan. 8 meeting, said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t give a permit. What they do is they advise the Department of Environmental Protection.” Thomas Auffenorde, a professional water specialist and environmental scientist representing the applicant, said, “The majority of the property is not ranked as habitat for threatened or endangered species.”


However, Auffenorde said that the corner of the property and along the eastern edge of Fox Brooke is mapped as a rank-five habitat for federally listed species. “In this case, it’s a couple of bat species, Northern long-eared bat and Indiana bat,” he said. “The bats are the real issue here.” Auffenorde said, “It’s also mapped as a foraging habitat for bald eagle, which is a state-endangered species.” He said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would place a timing restriction for clearing trees on the project if they have reason to believe a project could impact the bats.


Another condition, according to the resolution, “The applicant shall execute and record a deed restriction with respect to affordability of the affordable housing units in accordance with township municipal ordinances, subject to review and approval by the township attorney.”


Michael Ford, a licensed engineer and planner from Van Cleef Engineering Associates, said, “On the southwesterly corner of the property is an area designated for the apartments. That’s 18 apartments, of which, 11 would be affordable housing and seven would be market rate units.” According to the site plan review, the residential development is a part of the township’s court-approved affordable housing plan and is deed-restricted for occupancy by low-and moderate-income households.

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