At the May 3rd municipal meeting, a potential developer for the parcels of land commonly known as the Romerovski property informally introduced themselves and presented a proposed concept plan to the governing body and the public.
President Jeffrey Fernbach introduced his company, Fernmoor Homes, out of Jackson, New Jersey during the workshop discussion.
The 20-minute presentation started with some background from Richard Kaplan, the attorney for Roselle Park VP LLC. The entity is a partnership between developer AvalonBay Communities and property owner Israel Braunstein and his family. In 2009, the municipality reached a settlement with Roselle Park VP LLC that put a stop to a potential Builder’s Remedy lawsuit filed by the partnership against the municipality two years earlier. In 2007, Roselle Park VP, LLC filed litigation papers after the municipality adopted a “Romerovski Redevelopment Plan” that required retail space for the ground floor of one of the two-parcel lots – AvalonBay Communities only develops residential projects. The borough had also not addressed its COAH (Council On Affordable Housing) for decades and AvalonBay sued under the premise that it could address COAH by providing 38 Affordable Housing units out of its proposed 249 luxury apartments and the municipality had no right to deny development since it had no legal standing due to a lack of Affordable Housing, which is required by New Jersey Law.
Under terms of the settlement, the municipality would allow the project and address affordable housing through rehabilitation credits and senior housing. The developer had ten years to begin development.
Mr. Kaplan stated, “There came a time when AvalonBay became reluctant to proceed with the project and for the last several years, the Braunstein family has been working hard to find an appropriate company that is a redeveloper . . . who would partner with them to do the project.”
The partnership attorney remarked that the Braunstein family met with potential new partners before deciding upon Fernmoor Homes who look to move forward with the project. Mr. Kaplan added, “There is an agreement among the Braunstein family, Fernmoor Properties, and AvalonBay which will allow Fernmoor Properties to replace AvalonBay under the redevelopment agreement . . . subject to presentation to council and council’s blessing of this replacement entity as the experienced redeveloper.”
Douglas M. Angoff was then introduced as the attorney for Fernmoor Homes. He stated, “The purpose of this evening’s discussion is – under the redevelopment plan – [that] we’re supposed to introduce ourselves informally and then, later on, we’ll be happy to submit a formal letter of introduction.”
Mr. Fernbach then approached the governing body while Mr. Angoff distributed small handouts of properties built by Fernmoor over the last few years. The president of Fernmoor Homes remarked that his company has developments in New Jersey as well as Delaware and that they have been talking with the Braunstein family for some months, saying, “We’re ready to move forward.”
Fernmoor plans to keep the affordable housing component of 15% set-asides while reducing the number of units by 10%. The two buildings, which are separated by the Gordon Street Bridge will make use of an underground tunnel that existed when the structure was first made. In a nod to a part of its original history when it housed a radio station, the development will incorporate broadcast themes into the architectural details of the inside as well as the exterior of the development. Additionally, after considering on whether to keep the water tower, Mr. Fernbach stated that is was not economically feasible to do so since an estimate to just paint it was $400,000 and that it would be removed at their expense. He said that Fernmoor even reached out to cellular carriers, but none showed interest.
The developer did mention that the 2,000 sq. ft. which was set aside in 2009 for museum space will remain but that there is an opportunity to change it for another public use. The development will also have a private jitney service to transport residents from the complex to the Roselle Park train station.
Mr. Fernbach commented, “We’re not looking to come back for anything further on the redevelopment agreement or redevelopment plan. We’re looking to move forward to the planning board subject to the blessing of the mayor and council of the borough that we are an appropriate replacement partner with the Braunsteins to move forward.”
The architect, Richard W. Arzberger from Sonnenfeld+Trocchia Architects out of Holmdel, was introduced and he presented a preliminary concept plan for the redevelopment site.
The project would have 218 apartments with 33 of them being affordable housing units. Both buildings would be four stories in height and surface parking would remain at one space per unit.
When asked if there was a concept of a layout of the units, Mr. Azberger responded that there were no unit plans designed yet, but he did offer a breakdown of the footage of each of the units:
The presentation ended with Mayor Carl Hokanson reiterating that it was only a concept plan and that they would be coming back. Councilman-At-Large Joseph DeIorio – who was mayor at the time of the AvalonBay litigation while now-Mayor Hokanson was Council-At-Large – stated that, at this point, all the information and material provided will be forwarded to the municipality’s redevelopment attorney so they can review the current redevelopment plan and agreement to see how it could, might or might not be modified into a new agreement.
More information on Fernmoor Homes can be found on their website (link).
Copies of the material provided at the May 3rd Mayor & Council meeting are included below for review, download and/or print:
Download Fernmoor Homes’ Preliminary Concept Plan (May 3, 2018)
Download Fernmoor Homes’ Handout Material (May 3, 2018)