LOWER MAKEFIELD >> A proposed 100,000 square foot Wegmans Food Market is one vote away from final approval.
On January 25, the Lower Makefield Township Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend preliminary/final land development approval for Wegmans and Prickett Preserve at Edgewood.
With the nod of the township planners, the mixed use development will now go before the board of supervisors for a final vote.
The land development project, a joint venture by DeLuca Homes and Equus Capital Partners, proposes a 100,000 square foot Wegmans market, 200 luxury apartments and a clubhouse and a 55,000 square foot commercial village, with a 13,000 square foot pharmacy, a 3,000 square foot bank and 35,000 square feet of restaurant and retail uses.
The project is slated to be built on 37 acres in the township’s office research zone located on Stony Hill Road between Township Line Road and the Newtown Bypass across from Shady Brook Farm and nestled in between the north and the south campuses of the Makefield Crossing Corporate Center.
In early September, the board of supervisors opened the door to the project by approving a mixed use overlay district that would allow the OR (office research)zoned land to be developed with a mix of commercial and residential uses.
Prior to its vote, the planners heard from land development professionals who touted the project’s emphasis on landscaping and walkability with extra wide sidewalks, pedestrian plazas in the commercial village, pedestrian connections to all areas of the project site and the creation of a pedestrian link to historic Edgewood village via a new walkway/bikepath over I-295 on Stony Hill Road.
Another key element of the project, said the landscape architects, would be the preservation of two historic structures on the Prickett property - a farmhouse and a barn - that will be adaptively reused as commercial space and become a focal point of the commercial village and its civic open space.
“When we began to design this project we focused on framing those two elements at the central core of the village,” said Seth Shapiro, principle director of planning and urban design with Barton Partners. “That’s what makes this very different from any kind of typical retail center. It’s really about focusing on that central space.”
The standalone retail buildings, including the pharmacy, bank and restaurants, will surround the perimeter of the central village open space, which envisions community gathering areas with seating and movable tables, a synthetic turf field for exercising, an informal stage area, shade sail canopies, picnic areas and more.
“It’s almost like a shared space,” noted Shapiro. “Instead of curbing we are showing bollards. It’s an area that can be closed off. It could be pedestrian on certain occasions with wide open lawn, but also maintaining a lot of the existing landscape that is there today.
“These open spaces, gathering spaces and civic spaces located in between the buildings will really activate the plan,” predicted Shapiro.
The residential portion of the project will be “highly amenitized” with a clubhouse featuring a fitness center, activity rooms and swimming pool. In addition, the grounds in and around the apartment buildings will include green spaces with bocci courts, places to throw a frisbee and a dog park.
“The pedestrian linkages between the residential community and the commercial areas really sets this apart,” said Shapiro.
After hearing the update, the planners voted unanimously to recommend the approval of preliminary/final plans for the project.
In addition, the commission approved a number of requested waivers, including for the height of lighting standards at Wegmans (25 feet proposed where 20 feet is the maximum) to create a better distribution of light and to minimize the number of poles; topsoil protection (the developer said it will use as much topsoil that it can, but would have to relocate some of it); and the separation of parking from buildings in the commercial area. Some of the buildings in the commercial area are between 8 and 15 feet where 20 feet is required. The developer said it would install bollards for safety.
One waiver the planners did not support is for tree replacement. The developer said there is physically not enough room on the site to replace all of the trees required under the ordinance.
The plan would require the removal of 353 trees. Under the ordinance the developer would be required to plant 1,667 trees in their place or pay the township a fee in lieu. The developer is proposing to plant 687 on site leaving a deficiency of 980 trees.
The developer said it is requesting the waiver partly because it will be outlaying millions for offsite road improvements, which is above and beyond what is required under the ordinance.
The planners, however, recommended against the waiver noting that tree replacement is required under the ordinance and is unrelated to the road improvements.
“Our tree ordinance is not some arcane obscure ordinance developed 30 years ago by some bygone generation,” said planner Adrian Costello. “It was implemented less than five years and it was updated last year by the board of supervisors and I take that as a very specific direction of what a developer should do if it can’t or don’t want to replace all the trees they need to take out over a specific caliber. They can petition the board of supervisors and that’s totally appropriate. But as far as the planning commission is concerned I think we do not accept that request.”
Following the vote, the developers thanked the planning commission for the amount of time they spent considering the plans.
“We appreciate the amount of time you put into this and for allowing this to move forward,” said attorney Steve Harris.
The plan will now go before the board of supervisors for final consideration.