MIDDLESEX TWP — Supervisors voted to deny tentative approval to the proposed Grey Hawk planned residential development at a Wednesday night meeting, potentially opening the township up to legal action from the developer.
Supervisors voted 2-0 to deny the plan, with Supervisor Chairman Mike Spreng abstaining due to a professional relationship with the developer.
The vote came after two hours of forceful and, at times, emotional opposition from residents concerned that the plan would bring traffic problems, pollution, safety risks and the elimination of rural land in the township.
The Grey Hawk plan calls for 108 units, including 76 single-family homes and 32 attached homes, on 52 acres on Overbrook Road near the intersection with Bowser Road.
Throughout the meeting, officials seemed set to approve the plan, arguing that it met township ordinances.
“I've tossed and turned with this for weeks,” Supervisor Donald Marshall said. “I'm abiding by the law of Middlesex Township. How do I tell the (developer) no after that?”
Resident T. Lyle Ferderber said citizens still wanted supervisors to deny it and would support them, come what may.
“We have your backs,” Ferderber said.
Asked whether they had consulted with legal counsel, supervisors pointed to township Solicitor Mike Hnath, who said he has been discussing the plan with officials since it was proposed. Still, many in the crowd urged a denial.
“Let them sue us,” said resident David Fowler. “The citizens of the township will defend it.”
Fowler argued that the plan didn't follow township code, citing sections of the comprehensive plan that emphasized preserving the rural areas. Hnath said Fowler was only referencing sections of code that supported his argument, and pointed out other sections that appeared to support the developers' proposal.
Others argued the plan would lead to an increase in traffic, storm water runoff and damage to Glade Run Lake.
Other residents proposed solutions and alternatives the township could consider to resist the plan or reduce its density. One resident suggested commissioning a study of Glade Run Lake to prove the development would be an environmental threat.
Marshall questioned why those in attendance did not make their concerns known sooner.
“Where were you eight months ago?” he said. “Our meetings are the same every month.”
The plan had already been recommended by the planning commission, officials noted.
Others in attendance argued developments like Grey Hawk shouldn't be permitted in rural areas at all, and said that the township's PRD ordinances were flawed. Residents submitted pictures of property damaged by ongoing development.
Hnath pointed out that over the years, the township has tightened rules around PRDs, explaining that until 2012, they could be placed anywhere in the township. Zoning changes have since restricted them to certain districts.
Following public comment, Marshall made a motion to deny the plan. Brash seconded the motion and the crowd erupted in applause. Marshall quieted the crowd by saying he expected their full support for whatever comes next.
“I heard a lot of good talking about how everyone's going to back me,” he said. “Time to walk the walk now.”
Neither supervisor offered an explanation for their decision. After the meeting, Hnath said the township would send an explanation for the denial to the developer. He said the developer could appeal the decision to the courts if they so chose.
Township officials and representatives for the developer could not be reached for comment Thursday.