Lakewood’s planning committee voted to approve a much-debated “Master Plan” that will guide development in the rapidly growing town for the next 10 years. The plan attempts to balance the dual need for expanded housing to keep up with the rapidly expanding community as well as public demands to reduce congestion and retain aesthetic qualities of the town.
“It’s been a very long process, messy, but positive, overall, I’m happy with it,” Mayor Ray Coles told Hamodia. “It’s compromise on everyone’s part… It allows the town to take a breath and catch up, but it also keeps Lakewood a place where a young family can buy a house and start their lives.”
In recent months the Master Plan Committee listened to many hours of public testimony and canceled several scheduled votes while re-drafting in an attempt to accommodate different voices in the community. It was approved by a vote of 6–1.
The plan does call for a reduction of density in some areas as well as tying development to more hefty requirements for support infrastructure, most notably the widening of some major roads.
The most drastic change made by recent re-drafting affected the southwest corner of Lakewood between Cross Street and Route 9, where most residential building will be restricted to single family houses on larger plots of land than are being used for most other new homes in the town. It also designates new areas and preserves old ones as open space, putting over 20 percent of land into “permanent preservation.”
The 318-page document will now be delivered to the town planner, who will write up a set of ordinances to reflect the recommendations therein, each of which will have to be voted upon by the town committee.
Justin Flancbaum, chairman of the Master Plan Committee, said one of the key accomplishments of the plan was to diversify the types of homes being built in Lakewood.
“Developers and others recognize the need for a variety of housing opportunities,” he told Hamodia. “Some people can afford a larger property and want that option open to them; others have less means and need to have multi-family dwellings available.”
As Lakewood has experienced exponential growth in recent decades, congestion has increased multi-fold in many areas. The plan attempts to control this phenomenon as well.
“A lot of people are worried about traffic flow and the amount of time that it takes to get around town these days,” said Mr. Flancbaum. “We recommended widening a lot of major roads and we are hopeful that the county will help this get accomplished.”
The Master Plan also calls for an expansion of Route 9. While the road has become the town’s most notorious and longest gridlock site in recent years with the construction of many new developments and private homes on Lakewood’s south side, apparently, the recommendation is not a new one.
“One of the committee members has been involved in these issues for a long time, and he said that widening Route 9 was in the 1969 Master Plan also,” said Mr. Flancbaum. “The mayor has been engaged in serious discussions with the state about it, and some real improvements might be coming faster than most people think.”