MILLBURN, NJ - An application by the Summit Medical Group for seven variances and five design waivers to build a new 60,000+ square foot building on the corner of Chatham and Woodland Road in Short Hills was the focal point of the Millburn Board of Adjustment meeting at Millburn Town Hall on Monday night. The building would replace the current three buildings at the site, including a gas station (not currently in use), a professional office building and a medical office building.
Earlier on Monday, Maureen Bennett, the Media Relations representative for the Summit Medical Group, said that many specific details of the plans cannot be released at this time simply because everything is still in the earliest planning and application stages. At this point, anything and everything can change. She repeatedly stressed that the Summit Medical Group values its relationship with the Short Hills community and intends to make every effort to be sure that the architecture of the proposed expansion "…matches the character and scale of the Village of Short Hills." She indicated that the Group had done considerable research before beginning this project and is operating with the best interests of the Short Hills neighborhood in mind.
In preliminary interviews, some neighbors of the Summit Medical Group reacted positively to the planned expansion of the facility. Jim Cook of the Citgo Station, located across the street, said it sounded great and only complained, "They're moving too slow." Like many others, he would like to see the abandoned, weed-covered gas station, which currently occupies part of the planned site, replaced by a more attractive building. He thinks it will be great for the neighborhood.
Lynne Ranieri, curator of the Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society Museum, provided the Summit Medical Group with documentation of the stable that originally existed at the corner of Woodland Avenue and Chatham Road in Short Hills. She says everyone she has talked to is "thrilled" to hear that the Summit Medical Group is planning to build a larger group of offices in the neighborhood. She noted how convenient it has been to have medical care so close to home for everyone in this area.
The Short Hills offices of the Summit Medical Group have strong roots in the area. They have had pediatricians, obstetricians, gynecologists, cardiologists, internists, and dermatologists at their present site.
Dr. William Tansey introduced the proposed development at Monday night's meeting. He assured the Board and the public that as a long-time resident of Millburn/Short Hills involved in community development, he was personally committed to protecting the character of Short Hills while providing a service and updating the medical center. Dr. Tansey said that for two and one half years he had posted the displayed architect's renderings of the plan for the projected office expansion and solicited opinions from his patients and from associates. He welcomed criticism and carried concerns back to the planners. He described the new offices as an improvement rather than a replacement. Dr. Tansey noted that people he talked to were concerned about the appearance of the building and the parking problems, and he said they did not want an emergency room introduced to their neighborhood. "We really want to look residential," he said. Dr. Tansey also noted that, "We do not want sirens and we do not want an ambulance bank and neither does anyone in the neighborhood."
The architect, Thomas Fantacone, spoke of trying to "meld the vocabulary of the community into the building." He pointed out how the plans took the Flemish bond to match the train station, giving a patterned façade to the brickwork. The clockwork tower on the corner of the building is intended to give a village feel to the project.
Other neighbors of the Medical Group were not so easily convinced. Some were concerned about the size and height of the new building. What will the hours of the new doctors be? Will there be late night lights? They expressed worry about increased traffic. The dentist, who is part owner of the adjacent building, worries about sanitary sewage lines, with which he has had trouble through the years, being disrupted during construction.
Joseph Steinberg, Chairman of the Board, proposed to carry the discussion over to the Board of Adjustment meeting on October 4th and his motion was seconded and approved. As a result, the hearing regarding Summit Medical Group's application will continue on October 4th.