Planning for snow

By on March 5, 2014

Warwick Twp. plows through development issue

A disagreement which had emerged with regard to the meaning and purpose of trails included in the new Traditions of America development for homeowners 55 years of age and above appears to have been resolved.

At the Feb. 26 Warwick Township Planning Commission meeting, members were asked to consider the final subdivision plan for phase two of the development. Chris Venarchik of RGS Associates as well as Nathan Jameson, Chief Investment Officer and Operations Manager with Traditions, were both on hand to review next phase plans. This next phase will construct 53 new homes, 45 of which will be single family homes with the remaining eight to be duplexes.

However, a disagreement arose over plans to plow the trail system which will be constructed as part of the overall development. Some of those on the planning commission felt the trails were part of the system of sidewalks and therefore should be cleared of snow. Developers conceded that while sidewalks are not planned for every part of the development, an extensive network was planned and did not include the trails.

“This weather just brings forth the issue of no sidewalks in this development,” stated planning commission member Dan Garrett. “Do we really want to make (residents) walk the streets in snow and ice?”

Fellow commission member Thomas Zug shared Garrett’s concern after Venarchik explained that the internal sidewalk network was a supplement to the trail system.

“I think that is a stretch.” said Zug. “I would expect the trail to be clear since that is part of the circulation as substitute for some of the sidewalks we said you would not have to provide.”

As planning commission members grew more firm in their view that the trails should be plowed, Jameson raised his defense of not doing so.

“Throughout the township trails are not required to be plowed because some like to cross country ski,” explained Jameson. “We didn’t come in and say no sidewalks and no trail. We came in from the start with a trail.”

And that is when things got a bit testy.

“I disagree!” said member Craig Kimmel. “The reason we allowed fewer sidewalks was because they did connect with the trail and the trial was in lieu of additional sidewalks.”

Jameson was firm in his disagreement with that point.

“Well you can disagree all you like but perhaps when we look at phases three and four we will need to require more sidewalks for those,” added Garrett.

Kimmel added, “So just plow the trail and we move on.”

Unfortunately, as Jameson pointed out, it is not that simple. He explained that to do so would be at considerable extra cost to the property owners. This in turn would affect the $179 per month Home Owner Association fees which would need to be assessed to both future homeowners as well as those who have already purchased homes in phase one.

“Are you requiring this for the benefit of the township or the resident?” questioned Jameson. “We are trying to respect the monetary contribution of the HOA members. I’m concerned that they will be forced to pay for this, yet they will not use it because they will use the sidewalks. We have sold 65 homes with the expectation that the budget is the budget. This is an issue!”

In the end, planning commission members were unconvinced.

“It is important that the trail is maintained to the same level as other sidewalks,” stated Kimmel. “From our view it is no different because it is part of the pedestrian access. They don’t have to use it. They can use the street. We cannot make them walk on it, but we can make it be plowed.”

The commission unanimously recommended approval of the Phase Two Final Land Development Plan, but on condition the trails be plowed.

Since the meeting, Traditions of America has come to agree that the additional cost of plowing the trails is a good value to the community and will now plan to clear the trails along with the sidewalks.

“I probably had my own recollection of earlier conversations,” stated Jameson in a telephone interview. “Upon review, we feel our agreements reflect maintenance obligations including snow removal.”

Asked who would ultimately shoulder the additional cost, Jameson conceded it would be homeowners, but added that cost should only be roughly $2 per month more. The current HOA fees will remain constant for at least the first year, but according to Jameson, those fees are typically reviewed annually to consider inflation and the costs of running the community in today’s dollars.

For additional information on Warwick Township Planning Commission, please visit their website at www.warwicktownship.org. The website for Traditions of America can be found at www.traditionsofamerica.com. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your feedback and questions via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

by Gary P. Klinger

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