The Lawrence Township Planning Board this week approved a change in the land use designation of a 37-acre parcel located along Quakerbridge Road where Costco Wholesale Corp. has expressed interest in building a store.
By officially changing the parcel’s from planned residential development to highway commercial, the planning board has cleared the way for the property owner to submit formal plans to redevelop the site with a Costco store and possibly other retail facilities.
The site in question is at the corner of Avalon Way, Quakerbridge Road and Lawrence Station Road, planning consultant Philip Caton told the board.
Commercial development on the property would need to be set well away from the neighboring Avalon Run East apartment buildings and suitable buffers installed to shield those residential units from the new Costco and other businesses that might be constructed, Caton said.
He suggested that any new development on the site be required to have pedestrian/bicycle paths linked to neighboring properties like the Avalon Run developments and Quaker Bridge Mall, with the intention that those paths would eventually be connected to the Delaware & Raritan Canal towpath and the Lawrence Hopewell Trail on the other side of Route 1.
The 37-acre Quakerbridge Road parcel is currently occupied by several vacant buildings that once were collectively known as the Princeton Research Center. In a memo to the board, Caton offered some background about the property:
“In 1995 there was some expectation that the center, which was being only partially used at that time, might rebound with new tenants and be a viable research and development facility. That did not occur and in an effort to facilitate redevelopment in 2005 its land use designation was changed by the planning board to Planned Residential Development. The zoning classification was changed by the council shortly thereafter to Planned Village Development which permits age-restricted (55 years and older) inclusionary development at a density of up to 10 units per acre.”
With the market for age-restricted housing having “disappeared for all practical purposes” and with Costco wanting to build on the site, changing the land use designation from residential to commercial makes sense for that section of town and the township as a whole, Caton said before board members voted to approve the change.
With the planning board now having changed the township’s land use map, Lawrence Township Council can now make a corresponding change to the parcel’s status on the township zoning map. Such a zoning change would have to be done via an ordinance first introduced by council and then approved by council at a subsequent meeting.
If the property owners and Costo submit plans to redevelop the Quakerbridge Road site prior to township council approving such a zoning change, the redevelopment plans would go before the township zoning board of adjustment for a variance.
If submitted after council approves such a zoning change, then the plans would be reviewed by the planning board.