Franklin introduces new zoning ordinance

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:50

    FRANKLIN-With emphasis on "flexibility," the Borough Council last week unanimously approved on first reading its new land use ordinance. The ordinance, which was passed by the planning board on Aug. 16, is designed to allow Franklin the flexibility it needs to accommodate planned, upcoming development in the borough, partly along the lines of age-restricted housing tracts, and specifically to clear the way for the long-awaited Gateway Project along the Main Street corridor. "We tried to put flexibility in each zone to meet the plan," explained planning board chairman John Cholminski to the council. "We can only entice people who want to invest in our town to invest in it the way they want to invest in it. I think we all have the same goal in mind, and that's to get Main Street going again. We hope this is the one that works." The ordinance, which is awaiting its second and final reading next week, contains 15 different zones, said Jim Kilduff, the borough's director of planning and community development. These includes both portions of the former New Jersey Zinc Co. tract along Main and Sterling Streets, with the upper targeted to hold commercial and industrial development, and the lower housing units, including age-restricted housing. Also, the former Franklin Hospital land at the top of Hospital Road will be zoned for five units of housing per acre instead of the 2.9-units under the current code. However, the council approved the first read with the understanding that the word "every" would be removed from a proposed clause requiring that the town would make "every attempt" to save buildings of historic value. Instead, the ordinance that is expected to be approved on final reading will require only that "attempts" be made to save historic buildings from being swept away by developments. That has worried some who want to see the 96-year-old hospital survive. "I would say the changing in the wording is unfortunate, and it indicates the direction that the governing body is going," said Franklin Historical Society president Betty Allen. "I think we have to decide if we want to see our town history that we've inherited remain, or whether we want to be identified as a town that has a WalMart." Jeff Fletcher of Technology General warned that the hospital may be doomed. "I would bet that the hospital probably will be demolished and someone will come in and build a multi-family complex," said Fletcher, who favors age-restricted housing instead. "And then you're going to have a lot of kids. And [people] are going to look at this council and say, ‘Why on earth did you let this happen?' And I'll tell you there's going to be repercussions."