2013-09-25 / Front Page

County asks Freehold Boro to OK Rt. 537 improvements

By CLARE MARIE CELANO
Staff Writer

Monmouth County officials are hoping the Borough Council in Freehold Borough will pass a resolution supporting a road improvement project that will seek to reduce traffic and congestion in the area of Park Avenue and Route 537, Freehold Borough.

Route 537 is West Main Street in the borough, and it is under the jurisdiction of the county.

Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore was joined by engineer Bruce K. Riegel of Hardesty & Hanover, and Lawrence M. Diffley, director of highway design, Cherry Weber & Associates, at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting to discuss a project that would improve a 2.8-mile stretch of Route 537 from a point just west of Gravel Hill Road, Freehold Township, to a point just east of Route 33 Business (Park Avenue) in Freehold Borough.

Officials said the purpose of the project is to improve traffic safety, reduce traffic congestion and provide better accommodations for various modes of transportation along the Route 537 corridor.

Officials want to minimize traffic signal congestion, especially at peak times, and to address what they called a high incidence of accidents along the Route 537 corridor.

The plan includes the removal of trees that obstruct sight distance and widening Route 537 to improve sight distance for vehicles turning from Enright Avenue onto Route 537.

The presentation noted that much of the Route 537 corridor is not compatible with bicycle riders or pedestrians.

County officials asked the council to pass a resolution supporting the project.

The council members listened to Ettore’s presentation, but did not comment on whether they would pass a resolution supporting the project. Borough Administrator Joseph Bellina said that in order to complete the project as it was presented to municipal officials, some property in the borough will have to be acquired by the county.

In other business at the Sept. 16 meeting, officials introduced an ordinance amending the vision and revitalization plan for the Freehold Center Core Redevelopment Plan that was adopted in 2008. A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Oct. 7.

Councilman George Schnurr said Mayor Nolan Higgins asked the council’s land use committee to look into the possibility of creating a streamlined process for land use applications.

The land use committee is composed of Councilman Michael DiBenedetto, Councilman Jaye Sims and Schnurr.

Currently, applicants for new businesses and developers in the redevelopment area in Downtown Freehold must appear before the Borough Council, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Land Use Board.

“The plan we devised will take the council out of the equation under most circumstances. The council will act as the redevelopment entity for Downtown Freehold as it always has,” Schnurr said. “The borough engineer will make an initial review of all concept plans provided by the property owner to determine whether the proposed use is consistent with the permitted uses and design requirements.

“The engineer will prepare a report to the mayor, the council and the applicant. If the proposed use is consistent with the redevelopment plan, the applicant will go on to the Historic Preservation Commission and the Land Use Board. If the application is rejected, the applicant would be allowed to adjust the plan to bring it into compliance.

“This process will help ensure that developers are following the use and design standards appropriately. Any plan which is not in accordance with the permitted uses cannot be submitted to the Historic Preservation Commission and the Land Use Board prior to the plan being reviewed by the mayor and council,” Schnurr said.

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