A Proposed Housing Project Would Tarnish the Harlingen Historic District in Montgomery Township
By Barbara A. Preston | Posted May 18, 2023 (Updated May 19, 2023)
Montgomery Township has another large development in the pipeline—this one to help satisfy Montgomery Township's legal mandate to provide a third round of affordable housing units.
The developers — brothers Scott and Todd Van Cleef — propose to call it Harlingen Village Square. To be clear, it is not a village and it is not square. It is a 22-acre property on Route 206, just north of Harlingen Road, that would host 54 units in the form of three two-story apartment buildings with 18 residential units (11 affordable and seven market units) plus 36 three-bedroom rowhomes. A portion of the site along the Fox Brook is wetlands.
A hearing is set before the Montgomery Township Planning Board for June 12.
An architect's sketch of a multi-family housing structure proposed for Route 206 in the historic Harlingen section of Montgomery Township.
The Montgomery Township Landmarks Commission is not happy with the developer's use of the historic name "Harlingen." The actual Harlingen village is an official Historic District that has been added to the New Jersey State Registry of Historic Places.
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.
Calling this new development “Harlingen Village Square” is totally unacceptable, according to a memo from the Landmarks Commission.
The developer’s "marketing" plan uses the historic charm of the real Harlingen community as a draw. The integrity of the name "Harlingen" would be lost when the modern construction of rowhomes and three apartment buildings would exceed that of the historic homes in the district.
"This is an attempt to jam something wholly alien into the heart of Montgomery that appears to have only two redeeming features: It counts toward a court-mandated quota of affordable housing and brings sewers where they are badly needed," according to the memo.
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The historic village of Harlingen was built around the Harlingen Dutch Reformed Church on Route 206, which was organized in 1727. When the church was incorporated in 1801, the congregation adopted the name “Harlingen” in recognition of the devoted service and recently lost Rev. Johannes Van Harlingen. The church is still active.
"If the developer is not willing to change the style and structures of the development to meet the historic style of the State and National District, we strongly recommend that the project be totally hidden from view in every direction, by the use of high fencing and concentrated use of vegetation, trees, shrub and vines," according to the Landmarks Commission memo. "This would also protect the visual appearance of Route 206/Van Horne Road."