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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Master plan topic of Planning Board special mtg.

courtesy photo

HAMMONTON—A lengthy discussion of the town’s master plan was the main topic at a special meeting of the Hammonton Planning Board held on Jan. 31.

At the meeting, the board reviewed the master plan and discussed policy statements and supporting strategies.

Board members Michael Pullia and Jonathan Baske did not attend the meeting where councilman Jonathan Oliva led the discussion for 41 pages of the master plan created by town planner Stuart Wiser. Within the 41 pages were prior policy statements, the 2023 recommendations based on policy statements and supporting strategy, as well as new policy statements or supporting strategies, according to Oliva.

After Oliva spoke, each board member expressed thoughts on the master plan.

Oliva related three bucket items relating to the reports, providing members topics to discuss.

First was reading it through and feeling strongly about the plan; second was reading and having an issue with it, possibly agreeing or disagreeing; and the third was reading it to determine if something is missing in the plan that would be important to include.

Board member Ralph Cappacio spoke first and said he had no opposition to the plan. Michael Messina followed, agreeing the plan was appropriate and that the changes made were more beneficial than those before it.

Board member Edward Wuillermin spoke of his observations, the first being the policy statement regarding cluster housing, multi-family development in appropriate locations in order to increase opportunities for affordable and other housing.

Wuillermin asked Wiser which housing types and appropriate zones the board wished to encourage or discourage regarding cluster housing. Wiser responded that the plan was a reaction to prior recommendations, which include expanding cluster housing.

“The conversation regarding undue density and maintaining the current feel of Hammonton led to the recommendation that’s listed there and says clustering beyond what is currently permitted is no longer deemed appropriate,” Wiser said.

Wiser added that the plan does not eliminate clustering in mass, but its intent is to maintain the clustering scheme. An affordable housing plan is in place and there are no

inconsistencies, according to Wiser. According to Wiser, the goal is to preserve what the town has in terms of housing and start more planning as to what the town’s future is going to be.

Wuillermin claimed that in previous attempts, the board hoped to develop a medial/hospital-related zoning district extending into the easterly side of the White Horse Pike (Rt. 30) to the town boundary.

Wiser said previous master plans sought to use the former Kessler Memorial Hospital building as an anchor for such development. He said it didn’t make sense to use that section of town and that the medical zoning uses should be focused instead on the other side of Route 206.

“We’re recommending that no affirmative replanning of the Kessler side focus on medical needs to happen anymore,” Wiser said.

“If someone wanted to come in and open up a medical office, I don’t think anybody would object to it. The goal is to the extent that there would be any affirmative action to try and create a setting for a complex, more appropriate on the White Horse side,” he said.

Wuillermin brought up district boundaries, especially those in regard to the New Jersey Pinelands. He stressed being protective of that area and having some discretion as the town grows. Wuillermin was concerned that the board not adjust boundaries between agriculture production areas and the Pinelands town.

“If you take the built area out, wetlands and wetlands buffers out, the area that’s left that you can look forward to some future development in town is not great,” Wuilllermin said.

“I don’t think we should be adjusting boundaries between [agriculture] areas and the Pinelands town too lightly. Within the Pinelands town itself, we can treat those boundaries between zoning districts as much as we want because if it makes sense to change them, let’s change them,” he said.

Wiser said the best way to address Wuillermin’s concerns was for the board to review each particular zone, referring Section 6 of the master plan.

“Section 6 effectively has a chapter that addresses each particular zone, with recommendations as to moving zone boundary lines, adjusting language in the ordinance, adding or deleting things,” Wiser said.

Board members Chris Kalani, Raymond Scipione and James Matro had no opposition to the plan. Dr. Michael Hozik also did not oppose, but addressed his concern that the board not approve development that will harm the character of the town.

Chairman William Olivo wanted clarification on signage, particularly downtown and on other buildings. Olivo felt the board had not put emphasis on signage in the past. His concerns were to maintain the character and historic preservation of the town. He claimed the signage ordinance is light and feels there needs to be a deeper look into the issue.

Wiser responded that the recommendation is to review the signage regulations to ensure that they support the economic development goals of the municipality while not detracting from community character.

He added that the language can be tweaked but warned that in tweaking it, the signage ordinance could become a project of its own.

“I think the one thing I would be careful about is that would be a project in of itself,” Wiser said.

“I don’t think it’s something we want to review as part of the review of the ordinance after it’s adopted, rather than doing it as part of specific recommendations and graphics as part of the master plan,” Wiser said.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in town hall.


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