Berkeley Heights Township is taking proactive measures to address concerns related to the housing development known as "The Hills" in neighboring Warren Township. Developer K. Hovnanian recently initiated mass tree clearing for the project, sparking unease among residents. It is crucial to clarify that "The Hills" is a Warren Township-approved development, but Berkeley Heights is working diligently to ensure that the project adheres to the approved plans while minimizing any potential adverse effects for Berkeley Heights residents.
Located adjacent to Berkeley Heights off of Emerson Road and Hillcrest Road, "The Hills" is part of Warren Township's state-mandated affordable housing settlement. While Berkeley Heights is required to accept sewer services for the development as per a state-mandated responsibility, the Township is trying to safeguard our community's interests and mitigate potential issues.
The Township's Zoning Office recently visited the portion of the site within Berkeley Heights' boundaries, a conservation easement, to verify adherence to the approved plans. In addition, the Berkeley Heights Police Department has posted signs detouring trucks from Emerson who try to cut through Free Acres to access the construction site, and has spoken to the builders to encourage their drivers to access the site from Route 78 directly, instead of utilizing Emerson Road.
Berkeley Heights actively participated in the application process to ensure certain commitments were made by the developers; the Township will work with our attorney to ensure compliance. Some of the key aspects addressed during the rezoning process include:
Traffic Study: A comprehensive Traffic Impact Study was conducted, addressing traffic impacts from both new developments in Warren Township and Berkeley Heights. Measures are being taken to adjust traffic patterns and signalization to mitigate congestion. Site Access and Buffering: Efforts were made to realign the Emerson Road Site Access to align with Northridge Way and move the interior road on the east side further west to create a larger buffer between the townhomes and Berkeley Heights properties on Rogers Avenue. Additional vegetation will be added to the buffer/tree conservation area to reduce the view of the new project from properties on Rogers Avenue. The entrance to the development will be on Hillcrest, to limit traffic on Emerson Road; Hillcrest is not in Union County.
Road Design: Although a split ingress/egress road on Hillcrest Road was initially planned, the expansion of wetlands on the site made it unfeasible. Instead, Berkeley Heights requested measures are implemented to ensure a safe and smooth traffic flow, including island installations to regulate entry and prohibit left turns.
Conservation Easement and Landscaping: A conservation easement will help protect the adjacent land in Berkeley Heights, supplemented with additional landscape plantings to improve aesthetics and reduce visual impact.
Despite being mandated to accept the sewer services for "The Hills," Berkeley Heights will receive a large sewer connection fee and require possible upgrades to the sewer system as necessary, to ensure our community's infrastructure can accommodate additional flow.
As the project progresses, Berkeley Heights will continue to prioritize its residents' welfare and maintain transparency about the ongoing efforts to address any concerns related to "The Hills" development in Warren Township.