Franklin caught in development tussle


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Franklin Borough is caught in the middle of a dispute over whether a developer should be allowed to build a large apartment complex on Route 517.

JCM Investors is seeking to build 300 ap artments with no age restrictions on a 70-acre plot of land situated along Munsonhurst Road. The property is currently zoned to allow for 250 units restricted to senior residents age 55 and up.

JCM went to the Planning Board earlier this year to seek a variance. However, the request was denied because the Borough Council had not yet updated the municipal Master Plan to reflect a recommendation made by the Planning Board in 2016 to remove the age restriction and increase the permitted unit density on the property.

JCM threatened to sue, and as part of a settlement agreement, the Council on Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would adopt the Planning Board's 2016 recommendations. If approved, the changes would remove the age restriction and increase the maximum allowable number of dwelling units from 515 to 565.

But the Borough is now facing litigation from an opposing side if the changes are approved.

Ian Sherwood, owner of The Black Pegasus horse farm on Corkhill Road, said the proposed apartment complex has the potential to reduce his property value and income by one third. Sherwood said his farm backs up to the proposed construction site. If the development is approved, the rear of his property would lose both its pastoral view and relative seclusion. The introduction of concerns about security, pesticides and other disturbances from the apartment complex might lead clients who board their horses at his farm to look elsewhere, he said.

Sherwood said he also has concerns about the proximity of the proposed buildings to his property, as no site plan for the complex has yet been released.

To protect his interests, Sherwood said he is prepared to sue if the zoning ordinance passes.

Dawne Rowe, whose property borders the development site along Munsonhurst Road, said she is also opposed to the project and others like it.

“I'm just not opposed specifically to this plan,” she said. “I don't think some of these complexes, the pictures I'm seeing, are really in keeping what that our town is supposed to be: really residential, single families, a nice place to bring your kids up.”

Borough Attorney Thomas Prol said the ordinance introduced Tuesday will be referred to the Planning Board for their review. The Planning Board will have 35 days to issue a recommendation to the Council. The matter will then come back before the Council for a second reading and public comment. The second reading is currently scheduled for Nov. 14.



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