County Engineer Demands Wider Shoulders in Sergeantsville

Must the 604 shoulder be widened in Sergeantsville? County Engineer Jim Martin has weighed in on the Perimeter Properties development opposite the Brethren Church and adjacent to Delaware Township School.  His answer is “yes”.  The question is: how wide?  Mr. Martin informed both the Township Clerk and the developer that a nine-foot shoulder along 750 feet of road frontage would be required.

The Hunterdon County Land Development standards, approved by the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2000, describe the road “improvements” that the County Engineer can demand. The standards also give the County Planning Board leeway to make exceptions for “villages, hamlets and historic areas”. In his preliminary demands, the County Engineer, who is a member of the County Planning Board, had decided to make no allowances for the historic character of Sergeantsville; he even asked the developer for more pavement than the six feet that County Land Development Standards suggest.

At the July 13 meeting of the County’s Development Review Committee (DRC), members of the Delaware Township Road and Bridge Committee (RBC) asked for relief from the requirement to widen Sergeantsville’s main street. The RBC showed photos of intersections of County Route 604 with the three township roads in the project area – Rittenhouse Road, Delaware Drive and Lower Ferry Road. All have minimal shoulders of one to two feet. The RBC rested its characterization of the width of County Route 604 on these photos, and concluded its presentation by asking for relief from the requirement of a 9’ shoulder.

The Road Dept. periodically films every stretch of County roads, and the photo used in the County Engineer’s presentation was taken from those films. The County Engineer’s assistant, Henry Wieczorek, showed a photo of County Route 604 viewed from the intersection with County Route 523; the shoulder here is 8’8” wide and it is used as a parking area for the businesses at that intersection. The County Engineering Dept. views this as the typical shoulder width throughout Sergeantsville, and indicated that it could be used as a traffic lane.

As further support for the demand for widened shoulders, County Engineer Jim Martin characterized the new road through the Perimeter Properties subdivision as having been intended as an alternate route for northbound traffic on County Route 523 seeking to avoid the intersection with County Route 604.

The Post has reviewed the County’s Land Development Standards and found that they call for only a six-foot shoulder on county roads along major subdivision frontage, not the nine feet that the County Engineer demanded. And allowance for exceptions in historic villages is a prominent feature of the LDS, which mentions several times that certain design standards may be waived for development in villages, hamlets and historic districts, if deemed appropriate.

The Post has also reviewed Township Planning Board minutes and learned that the new road is not designed as an alternate route to County 523.  A detour through the subdivision would be longer; the roads are narrower, with lower speed limits and more turns and stops. This is by design, with the purpose that the new route not be used as an alternate to Route 523.

The DRC notified the Township Clerk of its decision by letter this week. It proposed a “compromise” to allow a six-foot shoulder, which, while narrower than the nine feet the County Engineer originally demanded, is still the full width called for in the County Land Development Standards. The DRC “compromise” was discussed at the July 18 meeting of the Delaware Township Planning Board. The Land Development Standards allow applicants to appeal DRC decisions to the County Planning Board. The Township Planning Board has informed the DRC of its decision to appeal.