Rocky Hill Mayor Outlines Borough’s Strategic Plans, Long-term Investments
By Rikki Massand | January 17, 2022
As Mayor Bob Uhrik begins his fourth year as Rocky Hill’s mayor, he noted priority topics to address in 2022. The list begins with Rocky Hill’s municipal water infrastructure.
Rocky Hill Looks at $5 M Water System Investment, or Selling to a Third Party.
Rocky Hill is in the process of installing a treatment system to remove PFNA/PFOS compounds, and anticipates resolving the problem in 2022.
Rocky Hill officials must plan for the future of its water system — a basic service used by all residents, he told The Montgomery News. Issues with water treatment, firm capacity, and an aging infrastructure will be the key issue in 2022.
Uhrik described the water issue as "complex" and one that "needs to be reconciled.” He expressed gratitude to the borough's Water, Sewer & Environmental Committee, especially to council members Jenn Walsh and Susan Bristol, as well as Borough Engineer Rob Martucci for working to improve the water utility.
Affordable Housing High-Density Development on Princeton Avenue
Since 1996, David K. Schafer of Jupiter, Florida — owner of a 15-acre property on Princeton Avenue, bordering the Van Horne Park and the Princeton Business Center — has sought to develop his land.
The property has been the subject of litigation for many years. Most recently, Schafer had filed a builder's remedy lawsuit against Rocky Hill on May 3, 2018 captioned David K. Schafer v. Borough of Rocky Hill et als., Docket No. SOM-L-587-18 (the "Builder's Remedy Lawsuit"). His builder's remedy suit rested on Rocky Hill's obligation to provide affordable housing.
Rocky Hill’s Master Plan calls for cottage zoning on the Schafer tract. However, Schafer now proposes to build a total number of 78 residential units — this represents a compromise from the once-proposed 120 townhomes or 250 apartments that Schafer had insisted on seeing built, and the 60 cottages that Rocky Hill had envisioned on the green space.
A 78-Unit Development Proposed for Rocky Hill would increase the number of households by 28 percent.
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Mayor Uhrik says Rocky Hill "did not ask for" a builder's remedy lawsuit. "Every town in New Jersey is facing the same, and it is a reality we were ordered to deal with," he said, referring to the Mount Laurel Doctrine. "It is not a simple land use plan, but actual litigation in Superior Court."
Being a court matter, Rocky Hill Borough Council was not permitted to discuss in public any aspects of the proceedings.
"Residents should know there was an excellent team on their side," Mayor Uhrik says. "The best of Rocky Hill stepped forward: Councilwoman Irene Battaglia is a professional engineer; Councilwoman Susan Bristol is an architect; Tamara Lee is a superb planner along with our engineer Tom Decker. Most importantly, our attorney John Ursin [for the affordable housing case] has been the best that we could possibly hope for and led the charge in this very complicated legal process."
The most important point to be made, the mayor said, is the Rocky Hill affordable housing settlement agreement will "avoid a court trial wherein a judge would decide the case and impose the remedy we would be forced to live with."
"In settling the litigation, we had to compromise, but I feel we could not have gotten a better resolve or fairer choice," Mayor Uhrik said.
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Affordable Housing and Water
Princeton Avenue resident Irina Efremova posed questions about the Princeton Avenue tract’s potential development, stating concerns about water pressure and volume on pipe networks, the sewers and flooding issues. Mayor Uhrik noted that the borough’s aging water system will not be able to support it.
“The developer will have to find a source for water or a connection with an adjacent water system," he said. "For stormwater there must be engineering involved to not cause flooding off-site. Engineering reports detailing this will have to be parts of their future plans.” Borough council has only approved an ordinance related to the tract; development plans remain in the concept stage. Nothing is formally proposed until an application and preliminary site plan come before the Rocky Hill Planning Board. The municipal process involving the site plans will include requirements to meet for water utilities and stormwater control, for all residential units and facilities to be developed.
Rocky Hill Borough recently had several resignations of key professional positions, including the positions of borough clerk, borough attorney, and borough chief financial officer. And, the borough planner retired. Council named a new borough CFO, Cameron Keng, at the December 20 council meeting. Keng is primarily the CFO of Franklin Township.
Borough Attorney Steven K. Warner of firm Ventura, Miesowitz, Keough & Warner in Summit was appointed in late 2021. Warner represents more than a dozen municipalities and local government agencies. He currently serves as the Attorney for the Zoning Boards of Adjustment for the Townships of Warren, Bernards, Bridgewater, Berkeley Heights, Readington, and Watchung. He also serves as the attorney for the planning boards for Summit, and the townships of Morris, Chatham, Branchburg, and Bernardsville, and the borough of New Providence, as well as for the Joint Land Use Board for the Borough of Chester. Warner also serves as redevelopment counsel for Manville and Middlesex.
Rocky Hill Borough Council is expected to appoint a new borough clerk at its next meeting.
Traffic Through Town
Traffic is another BIG topic in Rocky Hill.
Mayor Uhrik noted it as a 2022 priority, and an ever-present issue requiring the local government to seek solutions, “beyond our town" as a part of a regional effort.
“It can’t be solved overnight, or even in the near future," he said,"especially with half of the council being brand new. Still, I present traffic as a priority. Unfortunately, we can’t just put up signs and disallow trucks. The partners to work with include Montgomery Township, Somerset County, the State of New Jersey, and the NJDOT. We must talk with all these entities and see how we can come to agreements of handling an onslaught with increasing traffic through the borough."
Mayor Uhrik participates in the New Jersey Conference of Mayors’ virtual meetings, and he’s attended the annual League of Municipalities conference for information-gathering and exchanging ideas with other officials and state office representatives.
The next Rocky Hill Borough Council Meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 19, at 7 pm. Council meetings will be moved to Google Meet starting with this meeting. Information on meeting dates, agendas, minutes, and supporting documents are available on the Rocky Hill Borough Website.
The Rocky Hill Planning Board reorganizing meeting will be Thursday, January 20, at 7:30pm on Google Meet.