You can be in one place your entire life and not really know what’s around you and how things work.

That’s the abstract way of saying, I’ve lived in Franklin Park, NJ my entire life and have not even seen the half of it. They say “Ignorance is Bliss,” but I say “Ignorance is Bliss” to the person who is not trying to make changes to impact the community. I’ve been ignorant to the community I’ve grown up in and the reasons for the changes. Everything that I saw change, I interpreted as something that just happens or communities do because they want to.

The Rutgers University course, Introduction to Urban Planning and Design, has shown me a glimpse of how communities and cities are envisioned, designed, built, and all the steps between. Before the planning class, I didn’t know what a master plan was. I didn’t know what zoning or variances were, I was definitely clueless about the whole aspect of planning and how communities were formed.

Franklin Township was established in 1798.

I came to Franklin in 1995. I have gone through five schools within the same district (two elementary, two middle, and one high school) to get a high school diploma, thinking it was the norm of a township’s K-12 education system (not considering the rapid growth of the township). I have traveled the same road routes, unless construction or flooding tells me otherwise. I have seen businesses pop up without knowing why and how they are decided to be established and located in specific places. I have seen residential communities built thinking it was just something communities do.

With the Master Plan project, I’ve really gotten to see and know the strategy and fulfillment to my township’s development. And 20 years later, I can see in hindsight what I was experiencing as I was growing up, the Master Plan coming to fruition.

Franklin Township consists of three towns: Kingston, Franklin Park, and Somerset; which is surrounded by Kendall Park, South Brunswick, Princeton, Montgomery, Hillsborough, Manville, Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Highland Park, Piscataway, New Brunswick, and North Brunswick.

The major aspects of the master plan that I’ve realized I’ve witnessed, are the businesses that appear in certain zones, and the residential buildings and communities that have been built in certain areas, and the parks that were created.

I had a meeting with the Franklin Township Planner, Mark Healey, who explained to me the five major development categories in regards to Franklin since the Master Plan was established in 2006. He stated that there was a major redevelopment section along Route 27 near New Brunswick which focused on affordable housing. Second, that there were major senior citizen villages that have been built because of the influx of that age group of residents. Third, there was a adjustment to change an age-restricted housing community development to be non-age restricted caused by the recession. Fourth, there was a zoning amendment to add retail-overlay section on top of a light manufacturing and commercial zone. Fifth and finally, there was light industrial and office development in a certain area to bring employment opportunities and stabilize the tax base.

The class has given me a new perspective as I drive around Franklin Township, and has given me a reason and an incentive to explore and research more of the developments that are going on in my community.