Surrounding communities rally against proposed Frankford mall

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:00

    LAFAYETTE - A sign on Route 15 in Lafayette, screams “NO MALL,” and petitions are being circulated at Olde Lafayette Village opposing a proposed shopping mall and residential development - not in Lafayette, but some five miles away in Frankford Township. In the talking stage for years, site plans for Sussex Commons, an outlet center proposed for Ross’s Corner and comprising 90 stores and 350,000 square feet, have been submitted for review and approval to the Land Use Board of Frankford. The project also includes residential units. Frankford resident Marianna Mathews has been actively circulating petitions in Sparta, Lafayette, Hampton, Wantage, and other surrounding municipalities opposing the mall. Her organization, the Citizens for Responsible Development at Ross’s Corner, claim the development will adversely affected not just Frankford but all the surrounding communities. She has even spoken to business owners in Byram who feel their small businesses along Route 206 will be affected by the giant mall. One of the concerns of the group outlined in the petition is increased traffic. The group claims the project will bring “unbearable truck, bus, and auto traffic to routes 15, 206, and 565,” and will overburden secondary roads and municipal services. It goes on: “The air and noise pollution will affect everyone within miles of Ross’s Corner.” Taking the cause to Sparta, Mathews said she spoke to store owners and residents who believe “it’s going to wreck the area.” Deeply committed to opposing the complex, she said she’s also approached shoppers at the Sparta Stop n Shop who are willing to sign the petition and support the opposition to construction of the complex. Mathews questioned the residential housing saying that low-income housing, which will be a necessary component of the project, will affect the value of homes and the character of the entire area. “When development at Ross’s corner was first proposed, we were promised a village scale center that would serve the needs of Frankford and surrounding communities,” reads the petition. The citizen’s group is chaired by Frankford resident Paul Sutphen, who said he’s been involved along with a number of people for two years. “It is an inappropriate location for such a large development that draws cars from hundreds of miles away,” he said. “It will be like Tannersville and Woodbury Commons, on such a large scale, drawing people from Secaucus to Scranton.” According to Sutphen, the developer said that the outlet mall will draw customers only from a 25-mile radius. He said that shopping malls of this size are usually located on interstate highways specifically for those “destination shoppers” who spend much of the day at such centers. They often come by the busload. He said that the complex also includes age-restricted housing, sometimes referred to as active adult communities, and will require affordable housing units. According to Sutphen, to meet the Council of Affordable Housing regulations, one housing unit will be necessary for every 25 employees at the mall and one unit for every eight standards units built. “It will overwhelm the road system, and impact not only Frankford but the entire region in terms of noise, pollution, traffic, and crime,” he said. Another concern of the opponents is what they say will be an increase in crime. Sutphen made reference to shopping malls that require a security station on-site because of the frequency of incidents. Both Lafayette and Frankford rely on state police for protection. Sutphen said that previous attempts to develop the land on such a scale were defeated because of sewer treatment concerns, but technology has made it possible to treat the waste water, and it is no longer a road block to the project. “I’m not against development,” he said, “but we are seeking a smaller version that would fit in with the smart growth and strategic growth of the county.” Lafayette Mayor John D’Angeli is also opposed to the complex. “I feel it’s going to be a nightmare on Route 15, especially since they want to add traffic lights in Sparta,” he said. “I feel it will not complement Sussex County,” D’Angeli went on. “We’ll need more security because malls become hangouts. It will cost the town of Frankford more than they make in revenue.” Additional traffic is a major concern to Lafayette, he said: “Route 15 is one lane and it’s almost impossible to add another lane, especially through Lafayette. We have lake traffic, Pocono traffic, and now this. It would be a nightmare. “In my opinion, it’s like they are raping the land when developers come up and get as much as they can out of it,” said D’Angeli. The Frankford Land Use Board and Frankford Township will meet at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Augusta Fairgrounds in the Farm Fund Building to discuss the project.