Howell Planning Officials Re-Examine Master Plan

Howell Township Municipal Building (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

HOWELL – Howell Township Planning Board officials took an opportunity at the most recent meeting to re-examine the town’s master plan, specifically when it comes to special economic district zones, or SEDs.

Board Attorney Ronald Cucchiaro said the master plan is required to be re-examined at least every 10 years. Even though Howell is not at that point yet, he said it’s a healthy exercise, especially for a growing town.

“The master plan is not an ordinance,” he said. “The master plan is a policy document that in broad terms recommends certain types of uses in certain zones.”

Board Planner Jennifer Beahm said there were some definitions that needed to be cleaned up because they were either vague or had questionable language. For example, shopping center needed to be defined, as well as indoor recreation versus entertainment, which she said was like the difference between indoor soccer and the now popular “escape the room” challenges.

Planning officials discussed changing or eliminating the use of special economic district zones, or SEDs, since they’ve received an increased volume of applications requesting the use of heavy manufacturing such as concrete and asphalt, which tend to carry residential nuisances like noxious odors and sounds.

Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro said that while the SED section was created to encourage economic development, officials may have overlooked some of these negative uses. Part of the problem is also that residential development is encroaching closer and closer to other zones in town.

Since SED sections are located throughout Howell, eliminating it entirely might open up a lot of non-conforming land uses. Beahm suggested making a general recommendation to review and evaluate this type of zoning throughout the township.