MLUB Rejects Storage Facility Proposal On Westfield Avenue

The Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) rejected the final site application for a proposed storage facility along West Westfield Avenue across the street from The Castle during their September 17th meeting.

The applicant returned and adjusted their application to apply recommendations made by the board at the preliminary hearing in August. Major changes included increasing the setback from five (5) feet to 25 ft. in the front of the building, giving more sidewalk space; increasing the side setbacks from five feet to 10 ft.; and increasing usable floors from four stories to five floors. The building was previously five stories bot the top of the building was simply a clock. The change in the plan had the fifth floor for storage but it would be smaller than the other floors and set back further to give the appearance from the street that it was just the clock. A correction was made in the number of units. At the August MLUB hearing, the number of storage units given was 1,005. That figure was corrected to 534 units.

After testimony regarding the changes and the removal of all but two variances – one for use and the other for a setback in the rear of the building – the board discussed the application.

“I thank you for taking the board’s requests into consideration and changing it,” said MLUB Chairman Loren Harms, starting the comment period of the application. He remarked that during the two hearings he had someone do research on storage facilities and had received articles about them from Florida and South Carolina. In the material he was provided, he said that there was a building boom years ago when storage facilities were being constructed but when the boom ended, the use of storage facilities ‘did not pan out’ and now they are seen as being underused.

Mr. Harms stated, “The other thing I did, myself, was I looked at my master plan and looked at it to see where our master plan was taking us. In the master plan, it said to look for the future of Roselle Park and what we wanted Roselle Park to look like . . . and, at this time, I am not fully sure that this particular site is a good site. It’s not a permitted use so we’d have to grant that and looking at it from the master plan, this one does not bring me pedestrian movement in the area.”

[If] this thing here becomes – I don’t know – an eyesore later on down the road, my community is stuck with it.” – Loren Harms

“This board went over the master plan just a couple of years ago and this is what we wanted to have,” continued Mr. Harms, “We wanted more of a… I’m not going to call it a village because that’s what I think people in town here want to try and call it and get it to look like that – but we were looking at having pedestrians walking, coming from areas, walking down the avenue, going down to a restaurant, going to a retail, to whatever it might be . . . This, to me, doesn’t give me that. It doesn’t give me the pedestrian that I need to have here. We wanted to – or at least I did, I shouldn’t say ‘we’, I won’t speak for anyone – I wanted to see my town to look like a place that people wanted to come. A storage building in this particular location, I’m not sure it’s the right spot . . . [It’s a] nice looking building. Again I have to say to myself, what’s it going to look like in three years [or] four years when it’s not being used?”

The chair referred again to the master plan and concluding by saying, “[If] this thing here becomes – I don’t know – an eyesore later on down the road, my community is stuck with it. We don’t have anybody coming in here and buying it, ripping it down, and building something else . . . 534 units, I’m not feeling good about it.”

He then asked if any other members had any input or insight to provide to the discussion. Maul Baiamonte interjected, “I’m, just going to continue . . . basically, what you’re saying which was something I stated last month regarding the use. I think that the benefit of doing something like this really doesn’t benefit the community. It doesn’t create a lot of jobs. It doesn’t create a lot of pedestrian walkways. It doesn’t create an environment [where] I’m not going to say to my family ‘Hey want to go walk to the storage facility?’ I’m also in agreement with Loren where I think that this particular proposal underutilizes this particular property. I do applaud you for the revised plans to eliminate some of the variances but I still think the use remains a problem . . . In your testimony, I don’t see any special reasons to grant the variance. I’m not convinced enough based on your testimony. That’s pretty much where I stand.”

Glen Costello also stated that he agreed with the chair’s comments, adding “I had some reservations when you first proposed . . . I just don’t know if it’s the right fit for that particular area.”

With no other MLUB members adding to the discussion, a vote was proposed to reject the application. The vote was 6-1 to reject the storage facility with Messrs. Harms, Costello, Baiamonte, John Kennedy, Peter Picarelli, and Greg Delano voting to reject and Mr. Jerry Vitale voting in favor of the facility.