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June 27, 2008

Retirement-home developer offers tour of previous state projects


HILLSBOROUGH —The developer of Erickson Retirement Communities — proposing to build 1,500 units inside a gated a community on Hamilton Road — wants neighborhood residents to visit the company's other state projects.

Representatives of the Maryland-based developer told the public Thursday during a review of the project's concept plans they would organize visits to its two campuses at Cedar Crest in the Pompton Plains section of Pequannock Township and Seabrook in Tinton Falls.

Similar to those campuses, the developer is proposing a maintenance-free, campus-style community for senior citizens, ages 75 and older on the east side of Roycebrook Golf Course, which is owned by Billy Casper Golf Co. The site is south of Central Jersey Airport and two township cemeteries.

About six months ago, Erickson entered a contract to buy the property from Billy Casper. However, the developer is yet to submit a formal application before the township's Planning Board. The first step on Thursday was providing a concept review plan to the board and offering the public a chance to voice their opinions on the project.

"The intent of the meeting was for Erickson to present as much information that is available at this time to the board about the project so moving forward, they can make an informed judgment on ERC's rezoning request," said Beth Bresnahan, spokeswoman for Erickson.

About 150 people attended Thursday's meeting at the municipal complex.

Residents — mainly living in the Claremont development and on Millstone River Road, repeatedly criticized Erickson for what they referred to as "scare tactics" involving frequent references to what could go on the site as it is currently zoned under a "worst-case" scenario. Neighbors of the property also asked why the development was gated and had private security when current residents feel the area is safe.

"It's going to have major traffic. Hamilton Road is a mess now," said Michelle Harris, a resident living near the site. "That's what scares me the most."

Susan Fenyar, who lives on Millstone River Road, said, "It's very difficult particularly during rush hour to get in and out of our driveway."

Stuart Lieberman, an attorney hired by some Claremont residents to protect their interests, spoke briefly opposing the project. A representative from the Stony Brook Watershed also said the organization had concerns, including the construction of the high-rises where the clubhouse's septic field currently is located.

Others favored the project, stating the services Erickson would be providing are needed by senior citizens. If the project is approved, Erickson also said it would help pay for cost of the sanitary sewers — estimated at about $5.5 million, or $25,000 per house, which can be paid by a 20-year assessment. The sewers are expected to cost $1,627 to $2,000 annually per household.

"We hope to, and look forward to, working collaboratively with the board and the community at-large to address concerns related to the proposal through the planning process," Bresnahan said.

Due to the lateness of the hour, the concept review plan has been carried to a another meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Municipal Complex on South Branch Road.

Correspondent Susan Gulliford contributed to this story.

Pamela Sroka-Holzmann can be reached at (908) 707-3155 or [email protected].