The Village of Lansing accepted an offer to dedicate Northwood Road to the Village in a 4/0 vote Monday.  The privately owned road was at the center of a fierce controversy in 2012 when a proposed development put the spotlight on a small piece of the Village, including public roads, that is isolated because there is no public thoroughfare connecting it to any other public road.  While the vote doesn't quite finish the process of taking over the road, Village officials view it as a long-awaited victory for the Village. 

"All of Northwood Road, that is privately owned now, will be dedicated to the Village," said Village Attorney David Dubow.  "It will become a Village road.  They will design it with a boulevard effect.  From the moment this is completed the Village will maintain it, repair it, control it, snow plow it -- do everything they would do anywhere else in the Village on a public road."

Village officials have been trying to negotiate the dedication of Northwoods road for at least a decade.  Coventry Walk and Yardley Green are stranded with no connection to any other public road.  It may have been possible to extend Coventry Walk to meet Janovar Drive or the Lansing Trails developments, but the acquisition of Northwoods Road creates a public connection to Warren Road.

An agreement was nearly completed eight years ago, but a change of ownership toppled the negotiations back to square one.  Currently the New Jersey-based Solomon Organization owns and manages the apartment complex.  In 2012 massive neighborhood resistance to the proposed Lansing Reserve project included the road in the controversy.  With no public access to the 23 acre lot between Dart and Northwoods Drives, the Village sought to acquire Northwood Road, in part to connect the 65 townhouse development with Warren Road, and in part to connect roads to the north to Village roads to the south.

Neighbors, including the owners of Northwood Road, were incensed, arguing that an unacceptable rise in traffic and potential crime would ensue if the development was approved.  A plan for inadequate road access to the property from Dart Drive added fuel to the fire.  Eventually the developer pulled out of the project, and sold the parcel to the Village for use as parkland.  Over the past few months the owners have been in negotiation with the Village to set conditions under which both parties could agree to transfer the road.

The parcel that was to have been Lansing Reserve development is the middle of three parcels that are zoned for potential development.  The eastern-most parcel has direct access to Warren Road and the western parcel to Graham Road, but the middle property had no public access roads.  The Village halted consideration of the development and a committee was formed to study the problem.  Eventually the developer pulled out, and the Village purchased the land for use as a combination of a municipal park and a forever-wild area.

Dubow says that the more than $300,000 land purchase was part of the Village's strategy to aussage objections that officials hoped would lead to Northwoods Road being handed over to the Village.  The Village has agreed to what amounts to deed restrictions on the road, including foregoing connecting the road to Bomax and/or Janovar Drives, possibly adding an emergency access road that would be gated to prevent normal through-traffic, bending Village rules to allow Northwoods Apartments to keep its sign on Warren Road and allowing Coventry Walk to continue to terminate in a cul de sac.

"Buying that property changed everyone's view of what we were trying to do.  Now that property is there for the benefit of everybody in the Village, especially that neighborhood," Dubow said.  "We're working out their ability to continue to have access to their property, but having the Village take over that road."
northwoodsmapNorthwood Road (circled in red) connects Warren Road with Coventry Walk

Dubow says that a long-standing plan for reworking the road into a boulevard-style arrangement may negate the necessity for a separate emergency vehicle access road.

"Now with the lessening traffic that the boulevard effect of the road already serves as two ways to get in and out.  You're unlikely to have an accident that would expand to both sides of the boulevard."

The plan also includes sidewalks and a reworking of existing parking spaces so they will not impact through traffic.  Deputy Mayor Lynn Leopold says that a public park will be constructed on part of the Village's new land, preventing future development that neighbors so strenuously objected to.

"That middle parcel will never be developed because it will become a park," she said.  "That will be a park so it diminishes significantly the potential use of that road.  The other two parcels have access either to Warren Road or Graham Road.  It solves a lot of problems."

The acceptance of the road is not final until the Trustees reaffirm it after holding a public hearing, which was set for July 21st at 7:35pm.  The final acceptance of the road is likely to be put to a vote that evening after the public hearing.