TOPICS of the Town

Town Topics

12 August, 1987 (~estimated)

TOPICS of the Town

Planners Offer Support For Firehouse Site

Planners Offer Support For Firehouse Site The Regional Planning 4 Board voted unanimously to express their preference, or a site adjacent to the Valley Road Building for a new firehouse. The vote followed an informal concept review of two possible sites on Thursday evening, July 30.

Two possible sites were under consideration for replacing the Chambers Street firehouse. The “Witherspoon Site” would locate the firehouse in what is now the visitor parking area for the Township municipal offices, a facility owned by the Board of Education. 

The second location under consideration at the meeting, the “Terhune Site,” would locate the firehouse on the triangle of land behind the existing public works garage, closing off Terhune Road between Witherspoon and Route 206. This plan would incorporate the public works garage into the facility. Both plans call for a pass-through design that would allow trucks to enter from one side of the building and exit through the other side, eliminating The need to go back in-to the garage. 

Although the Fire Company had not selected a preference between the two sites. the Board’s Professional Planner, Duggan Kimball, and the architect for the project. Jeremiah Ford III, of Short and Ford Architects supported the site next to the Valley Road Building.


In comments presented in a memorandum to the board by Mr. Kimball, and discussed by Mr. Ford at the meeting, the Valley Road location offered a good “fit” from a site design point of view and would be complementary to the scale and character of the neighborhood. It would screen the unattractive storage area in the Valley Road courtyard from the street, and would promote easy circulation to and from the firehouse. Parking, which will continue to be a problem in the area, could be relocated to what is now a lawn area at the corner of Valley Road and Witherspoon.

Commenting on the Terhune location, Mr. Kimball was critical of the narrowness of the lot, which could create design problems. He also noted that direct access onto Route 206 would not be an advantage because of heavy traffic. 


When Board of Education representatives were asked to comment on the sites, president Corinne Kyle and member Michael Tomlin raised questions about the safety of locating the building across from Community Park Elementary School. “On safety alone, the farther away from the school, the better,” commented Mrs. Kyle.

Mr. Tomlin also addressed the parking problem created by losing the parking lot, stating that “the income for maximum future use of the Valley Road Building is limited by park-ing.

Responding to safety concerns, board member Thomas Poole commented that it would be safer with a firehouse than the additional traffic from a fully used school building. He also noted that trucks leaving the firehouse would be traveling at lower speeds by the school than if they had a chance to accelerate. The relative safety of trucks traveling at low speeds leaving the firehouse was later supported by Fire Chief Kenneth M. Rendell, III.

Relocation of the Chamber Street firehouse has been a priority project since the Shand Report recommended the change over a year ago. Over 30 locations were considered before the selection was -nar-rowed down to the Valley Road-Witherspoon area sites, from which both the Township and Borough can be easily serviced. 


In addition to the new firehouse, plans are now under way for a new three-story administrative building and po-lice station with underground parking for 160 cars.

According to Mr. Kimball, the facilities committee decided not to consider incorporating the firehouse into these plans because of concern about too-many uses in a single structure and the delays it would cause in construction of the firehouse. Expressing concern about the scale of a “megastructure” containing police, fire, and administration he said, “We think this alternative would trans-form the character of the neighborhood. 


Walter Seligman, 14 Terhune Road, supported the location adjacent to the Valley Road Building, “although we’re not excited about a firehouse moving into a residential neighborhood.” He commented that there are no adjacent residential buildings to the Valley Road location where commercial buildings, playing fields and municipal offices provide a buffer zone to residents.

Assistant Fire Chief Mark Freda addressed concerns about noise from the firehouse. He stated that the fire company records show an equal distribution of fires occurring during the day and night, totaling about 250 fires a year. Mr. Freda said most calls are cancelled by police, who arrive at the scene first. Only 12 to 15 calls for major fires are actually answered in a year and no “sirens and honkers” have been proposed for the building, according to Mr. Freda.

Since the Valley Road property is owned by the Board of Education, plans for the new firehouse are halted until the school board meets in the fall.

—Alison Connors 

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