A section of Mahwah may be exempt from Highlands Council building restrictions if the council accepts a proposal for creating an economic development “center” in the township.
Mahwah’s professional planner David Roberts explained the proposal to the township’s Planning Board Monday night. A center, he said, would designate an area of the township poised for commercial development. Areas in the center would not be subject to building restrictions set out by the Highlands Planning Area guidelines, which the township opted into late last year.
Roberts suggested proposing the Northeast chunk of Mahwah – running from the New York border to the Ramsey border along Route 202 and moving east – as a designated “center.” The area would include the Crossroads property, Franklin Turnpike, Route 17 and Ramapo College, Roberts said. If the Highlands Council accepts the proposal, inconsistencies in the land or mistakes in Highlands mapping systems would not impede future development, he said.
The area inside the proposed center has been designated in the current draft of Mahwah's new Master Plan as the areas of potential future development.
According to Roberts, a discussion about adding a center in the township came up because Ramapo College is working on its Master Plan, which includes a plan for constructing additional dormitory buildings in the future. Planning area restrictions may have prevented or stalled the construction if the college is not included in the center, Roberts said. “That’s what brought up the conversation about centers, and I definitely think it’s worth considering,” Roberts said.
Planning Board members Monday night questioned why a section of Fardale, specifically the area around Leighton Place, could not also be established as a center.
Roberts said creating two centers in one town would be “I believe, unprecedented,” and might be turned down by the Highlands Council. He also questioned whether or not the center designation would be necessary in Fardale, which may be exempt from many of the Highlands protections because it is in a sewered area.
Before submitting a request to the Highlands Council, the board requested Roberts invite Highlands Council leadership to a Mahwah Planning Board meeting to answer some lingering questions about the benefits of creating a center, and whether or not Fardale should or could be included in the designated area. Roberts said officials from Ramapo College would also be invited to the meeting that Highlands Council representatives might attend.