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Save Hamilton Open Space
P.O. Box 2594
Hamilton, NJ 08690
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Below are some of the major local issues that affect development and
open space preservation in Hamilton Township.
A. Passive Recreation - About 118 acres or 8% of the land in the 25 targeted tracts is in this category. Passive recreation is defined as minimal changes to existing land, ie natural habitat. The 50 acres of Klockner Woods on Klockner Ave. that are being preserved are in the passive recreation category.
B. Active Recreation - About 410 acres or 28% of the land in the 25 targeted tracts is in this category. Active Recreation is defined as soccer fields, playgrounds, etc. The new soccer field on Kuser Rd. is in the active recreation category.
C. Farmland - About 955 acres or 64% of the land in the 25 targeted tracts is in this category. Farmland is defined as existing farms. The recently preserved Ellis Farm on Sawmill Rd. is in the farmland category.
The combined (conservatively) estimated value of all 25 tracts is $35 million. State approval of Hamilton's Open Space and Recreation Plan made the township eligible for increased state aid in the form of matching funds and low interest loans to preserve its remaining open space. Eligibility for state funds depends in part on whether Hamilton itself has a steady source of funding. When the open space tax was rejected several years ago, Hamilton bonded for $5 million to buy open space, but most, if not all, of that money has been spent.
SHOS recommends that Hamilton aggressively move to preserve the remaining targeted lands.
2) Redevelopment Zone
The Hamilton Council created a 1,000 acre Redevelopment Zone. It roughly follows the Amtrak rail line and includes the former American Standard property, the existing NJTransit Hamilton station, and the largely abandoned Suburban Plaza Shopping Center on Rte 33 near Klockner Ave..
The purpose of the redevelopment zone is to encourage redevelopment of abandoned and often polluted properties - so called brownfields.
Redevelopment plans within the zone are approved by the Hamilton Council. Hamilton's Redevelopment Agency is charged with insuring that building within the zone complies with the Redevelopment Plan's rules.
Hamilton's first redevelopment plan had three components: 1) A "transit village" that included housing, commercial and retail space, parking, a hotel etc. that was supposed to be built by NJTransit in the area around Hamilton's NJTransit station. 2) The American Metro office center located where the former American Standard plant was located. 3) A 680 unit housing development by Columbia Group adjacent to American Metro.
All together the plan allowed for 1,000 housing units and 1 million square feet of commercial and retail space. All three projects were governed by Hamilton's first redevelopment plan which included a Redevelopment Zone Map.
Much of the original plan has changed. The transit village (1 above) plan has been scrapped and the Columbia Group project (3 above) has been modified.
Further, the redevelopment zone could be nullified or at least challenged due to a 2009 NJ Supreme Court ruling.
3) Hamilton Wetlands
The type and location of wetlands are determined by soil, hydrology (water flow), and plants. Hamilton, in cooperation with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), produced a map that shows existing wetlands. Generally, wetlands cannot be built upon, although there are some exceptions. The map is a guide to wetlands, not a definitive study.
Based on the wetlands map, developers may be required by the Planning Board to determine a more precise "delineation" of wetlands. Typically, developers hire a private company to prepare a report, which is then given to the NJDEP for verification. Ultimately, NJDEP issues a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) that states the exact location and "value" of wetlands. Wetlands value determines the size of a "no-build buffer" around the wetlands. Typically, it's 50 feet, but wetlands of extraordinary value have a 300 foot buffer requirement. Streams classified as C-1 also have a 300 foot buffer requirement. (Hamilton has no C-1 streams.)
Residents within 200 feet of land being inspected for the existence of wetlands are required to be notified of the activity, and are invited to give comments to NJDEP. Public comment can, and has, influenced the NJDEP's decisions, and thus, the amount of construction permitted on a site.
4) Hamilton Natural Resources Inventory
In 1976 Hamilton commissioned a Natural Resources Inventory (NRI). An important use of the NRI is to influence land use and development decisions, including changes to the Master Plan. It contains "constraints maps" that categorize the entire township from "low constraint" (most suitable for development) to "no development". The level of constraint to be shown when planning a development is based on analysis of soil, vegetation, geology and water.
Even though it's nearly 30 years old, it's still valid. There's less undeveloped land left in Hamilton, but the factors the plan considers have not changed very much.
Save Hamilton Open Space supports an update to the NRI and more prominent use of its data in zoning, development, and land use decisions.
5) Hamilton Zoning
Hamilton is divided into 23 districts (zones), from single family residential, to highway commercial, to industrial, and even conservation. A map accompanies the zone list. There is no "open space" zone. All land is zoned for some type of use. The Hamilton Council can rezone land, make new rules for the existing zones, and create new types of zones. The Zoning Board can issue use variances that permit uses unintended by the original zoning. For example, a variance was granted for the Locust Hill II project to build a high rise apartment building on land that was not zoned for residential use.
Two new zones were created in Hamilton in November 2005.
6) Closing The Missing Link on the Assunpink Creek Greenway
A report published in 2000 by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. The creek forms the boundary between Hamilton and Lawrence Township. The report compiles and analyzes data, and input by citizens, government officials and professionals, and makes recommendations regarding the creation of a greenway along Assunpink Creek. A greenway would protect water quality, help control flooding, provide habitat for wildlife and provide recreational opportunities. Both the D&R Greenway and Sierra Club support this effort. Save Hamilton Open Space supports the effort to create this greenway.
7) Crosswicks Creek/Doctors Creek Watershed Greenway Plan
A report published in 2004 by the consulting firm, F.X. Browne. Hamilton and other municipalities along with private groups participated in the creation of the report. Like the Assunpink Greenway report above, this report compiles and analyzes information about the land along the two creeks, as well as efforts by municipalities and others regarding a range of measures to protect open space and stream corridors. It makes recommendations about the creation of a greenway along the creeks, as well as a system of trails. A greenway would protect water quality, help control flooding, provide habitat for wildlife and provide recreational opportunities. Hamilton and Mercer County are involved in this project. Save Hamilton Open Space supports the effort to create this greenway.
The Crosswicks - Doctors Creek Watershed Association, Inc. is a primary force behind creation of the greenway. Their monthly meeting schedule and other information is on their website. The public is invited. More information
|Save Hamilton Open Space P.O. Box 2594, Hamilton, NJ 08690 | 609-273-9173 | Info@SaveHamiltonOpenSpace.org|