Plan for apartments at Rutgers Plaza in Franklin met with residents' opposition

·3 min read

FRANKLIN (Somerset) – A petition opposing a plan to build apartments at the former Kmart in Rutgers Plaza has gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

No date has been scheduled for the township Zoning Board of Adjustment to hear the application of Levin Properties, of North Plainfield, to demolish the vacant Kmart in the Easton Avenue shopping center and build in its place a four-story apartment building called The Cosmopolitan at Somerset Town Center.

The plan calls for 69 one-bedroom, 123 two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom units.

Of the 200 units, 20% would be designated as affordable – eight one-bedroom, 24 two-bedroom and all the three-bedroom apartments. Though the township has met its current affordable housing obligation, the units would be used for any future obligation.

A rendering of the Proposed Cosmoplitan at Somerset Town Center where Kmart used vto be in Rutgers Plaza.
A rendering of the Proposed Cosmoplitan at Somerset Town Center where Kmart used vto be in Rutgers Plaza.

Design of the M-shaped building includes two courtyard areas, a pool, 2,950-square-foot club room and 1,930-square-foot fitness area.

The plan calls for a dozen electric vehicle charging stations, eight in the area of the apartment building, two in the area of the multi-tenant retail building and two in the area of Stop & Shop.

The 106,480-square-foot Kmart closed in the 266,157-square-foot shopping center three years ago.

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The plan was originally scheduled to be heard at the zoning board's Jan. 6 meeting, according to a legal notice published by Levin Properties and a meeting agenda posted on the township's website.

However, board chairman Bob Thomas said that the board has "yet to receive any paperwork" on the project, adding that he was not sure when a hearing would be scheduled.

The plan was rescheduled for a public hearing on Jan. 20, but that was put off because Levin had failed to publish a notice of the new hearing date.

No new hearing date has been set.

An online petition started by Katherine Sportack opposing the proposal had gathered 1,027 signatures by 2 p.m. Thursday. The goal is to get 1,500 signatures.

The petition argues that the apartment building will create more traffic on Easton Avenue and JFK Boulevard

"The new development will eventually require more traffic lights on JFK and potentially adding additional lanes to accommodate the new flood of traffic on already crowded roads," the petition says.

"There is no need for additional homes in Franklin as there have been many new developments on nearby Hamilton Street … many of which barely have any tenants," the petition continues. "It makes no sense to create a logistical nightmare for those of us who already live here."

Some signers of the petition commented they wanted the shopping center to remain as stores. One signer said that he is "tired" of having to go to Bridgewater for Target and Manville for Walmart.

A traffic report prepared by Langan Engineering and Environmental Services for Levin Properties concluded that the apartment building would generate less peak hour traffic than the Kmart and improve the traffic flow at the nearby intersections.

However, the petition disagrees with that conclusion, saying "everyone with a brain knows this is beyond reason."

Under state law, because the zoning board is considered a "quasi-judicial body," petitions cannot be accepted as evidence during a public hearing.

Email: mdeak@mycentraljersey.com

Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Franklin residents oppose plan for apartments at Rutgers Plaza