MLUB Approves Westfield Avenue Redevelopment Plan Ordinance

On Monday night, the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) unanimously voted to approve the recommended development plan ordinance for the area along West Westfield Avenue that includes the former Domani’s Restaurant along with five other properties. In a special meeting called just to hear the application, Anthony Kurus from Neglia Engineering – the municipality’s engineering firm and the MLUB’s planner – presented the report to the MLUB and highlighted points. Originally, the plan consisted of eight (8) properties but one property on each end – Skinner & Cook on the east and Surgent’s Elite School of Gymnastics on the west – formally asked to be removed from the original study and subsequent redevelopment plan. Joseph Baumann, the redevelopment counsel appointed by the governing body to assist with this particular project was on hand to answer any questions and address any issues as well.

Stating that the governing body will consider the recommendations from the MLUB and then decide on whether to adopt the plan, Mr. Baumann stated, “This documents determines what are going to be [the parameters] for that site. What are the setbacks, what’s the height limitations, how many units of residential can be there, what are the permitted uses.”

Mr. Kurus explained, “Basically, this plan contains the guidelines that set the standards for the construction of new buildings and other improvements within the redevelopment area. The plan was prepared based on input we received from the borough, input that the borough received from any potential redevelopers as well as our review of the master plan, the New Directions plan, and the current zoning ordinance. The goal for the redevelopment plan . . . is to promote the creation of new multi-family housing and mixed use development with multi-family housing in order to take advantage of the borough’s proximity to the train station and access to mass transit to provide new development and new housing options and new businesses in the borough of Roselle Park.”

The master plan that Mr. Kurus referred to was the 2009 re-examination not the current master plan review being conducted by the MLUB. Mr. Kurus stated that the approximate area the six lots was 1.92 acres and that most of the properties were underutilized even though most properties listed fell under the criteria that they were along the smart growth area. The planner affirmed that the standards and the guidelines within the redevelopment plan would supercede all provisions of the zoning ordinance within the re-designated area only. If there is any situation where zoning issues are not specifically addressed in the redevelopment plan, then the borough’s zoning ordinances would be applicable.

Permitted uses for the redevelopment area include residential multi-family apartments, townhouses, or senior citizen housing and retail or commercial use – including a restaurant, banks, professional offices – as long as it is accompanied by residential use. Mr. Kurus read a list of guidelines, which included:

  • Maximum building coverage will be 90%
  • Maximum impervious coverage will be 90%
  • Maximum building height will be 72 feet
  • Minimum front yard setback will be zero (0) feet
  • Minimum side yard setback for both sides will be three (3) feet on each side
  • Minimum rear yard setback will be zero (0) feet
  • Maximum density will be 120 units per acre
  • Landscape area shall be no less than 5%
  • Parking for residential multi-family units will be 1.5 spaces per apartment

It should be noted that although the actual redevelopment plan states that impervious coverage is to be 90%, Mr. Kurus stated that it would be 95%. An impervious area is a combination of building and parking lots, sidewalks, pavement, that are covered by impenetrable material. The building coverage is the amount of the area that can be covered by a building. The maximum height of six stories – or 72 feet – is the current restrictions in place for the B-3 zone.

When asked by MLUB chair Harms to clarify the zero feet front area setback, Mr. Kurus stated that it could be a possibility with the setback being set from the sidewalk, not the street and subject to New Jersey Department Of Transportation (NJDOT) recommendations. A breakdown of the units using the 120 units/acre is listed below. There was no mention of whether the acreage included the footprint or if any proposed retail space would be taken into account but utilizing either scenario, the proposed 210 units development falls within the ratio.

(minus 5,100 sq. ft. for retail)1.8067

Mr. Kurus said that the 1.5 spaces ratio was a deviation from New Jersey Residential Site Improvement Standards but he added, “Per our analysis, this deviation is warranted due to the redevelopment area’s accessibility to transit service and the presence of stores and services within a reasonable distance to the redevelopment area.”

He also stated that there were regulations for townhouses and senior citizen housing but that it was not anticipated that such units would be constructed. The maximum area for retail use was 7,500 sq. ft. per use and that it would be located at street level. It was expected that there would be only one retail space at 5,100 sq. ft.

Alternate MLUB member Paul Baiamonte asked about the parking space ratio and was told by Mr. Kurus that the NJ standards list 1.8 spaces for a one-bedroom unit and two spaces for a two-bedroom apartment. Mr. Baiamonte asked how the 1.5 ratio was determined. Mr. Kurus said, “It’s a standard we’ve seen utilized for redevelopment projects that are in close proximity to mass transit and train stations. We’ve seen them as low as one space per unit but we felt like 1.5 was sufficient for this redevelopment area given the location.”

MLUB member Glen Costello inquired about the number of units per acre and wanted to know if that number would change if there were affordable housing or senior citizen housing apartments. He was told by Mr. Baumann that the 120 units are the maximum regardless of type of units. He did add, “The affordable housing issue will be dealt by mayor and council.”

Mr. Baumann explained that, once approved, any changes to the redevelopment area would require a plan amendment.

A suggestion during the public hearing portion of the meeting included a request to have someone conduct a school age children (SAC) impact study to show the possible increase in the student population from the development. Given the 210 unit development proposed might increase by 400 people, that would be a 3% in population which could impact not only the school district but services as well.

Mayor and council will hold a special meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. to approve the actual plan and name the developer. Although never stated during the MLUB meeting, it is understood that the developer to be named will be Meridia Living, who has projects in Linden and Rahway. The meeting is to be held at borough hall.

A rendering of the proposed development is available below to view/download. A copy of the redevelopment plan is also included:

Download File (PDF)

Download File (PDF)