Planning Board Grants Site Plan Approval for Municipal Complex

The Municipal Complex Redevelopment Plan. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Planning Board members. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Planning Board members. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The land in dark green will be protected wetlands. The rest of this image shows the Department of Public Works. Dark gray is new pavement, yellow, existing building, dark yellow new salt dome. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
A schematic of the area after redevelopment is finished. Dark yellow is the municipal complex, dark gray new pavement; red, a new sidewalk along Park Avenue and green is landscaping and buffering. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The current police department and Berkeley Heights Town Hall buildings are outlined in blue on this diagram. Construction of the new building will take place without tearing down the old ones. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
An aerial view of the existing surrounding property, with the property to be redeveloped outlined in yellow. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Township Planner Mike Mistretta speaks at the Planning Board. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
A rendering of the view as drivers enter the Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex from Park Avenue. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The Police Department is on the left. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Park Avenue is on the left, while the train tracks are on the right. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The original plan called for the complex to be developed in four phases. Now the plan is to do Phases 1 and 2 together and Phases 3 and 4 together. It will save money and cut off 90 days of work. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Plans for the main level of the Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The upper level of the Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The lower level of the municipal complex. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Elevations of the Municipal Building. The main entrance will face Park Avenue. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Listening intently to residents as they ask questions.
Resident Charles Pratt points to the rendering which shows the landscape plan for the site. There's a water problem at the foot of his property that hasn't shown up on the 16 borings done at the site. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Right here...there's a trench filled with cracked stone that was installed by the township as a drain, but it no longer works, Pratt told the council. He wants it fixed before construction ends. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Resident Jeff Germansky asked if there would be solar panels and other green measures used in the building. Mistretta said the roof does not lend itself to solar but green measures are planned. Credits: Barbara Rybolt

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Slightly more than two years after the Council introduced an ordinance authorizing the creation of a new municipal complex, the Planning Board gave its preliminary and final approval to the site plan for the project.

Except for a few minor changes, the plan looks exactly like it did when the ordinance was first adopted – in fact the plans and other documents submitted to the planning board were those contained in the Municipal Complex Redevelopment Plan.

Two major difference were noted. Township Planner Michael Mistretta said the building will be about “ten feet longer at each end of the building” than originally designed – stairways and room for utilities account for that difference. 

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The other difference is that rather than be built in four phases, the complex will be built in two.

Originally, Phase 1 was the building of the salt dome; Phase 2, building the new complex; Phase 3, creating a new commuter parking area, after the current municipal building is demolished; and revamping the new DPW area.  Now, Phases 1 and 2 will be done at the same time, as will Phases 3 and 4. Mistretta said that will save some money and cut about three months off the time needed to complete the project.

Check out the photo gallery to see the preliminary interior and exterior plans and more.

Charles Pratt, who lives in the home next to the current complex, told the board and Mistretta of the long-standing water issues at the back of his and his neighbor’s homes. The water table is an issue which apparently has not surfaced during test borings on the site and one he wants to make sure is taken care of before the complex is built.  A dry well with cracked stone in it has failed, and several years ago the former township engineer arranged to have a trench dug around the property and filled it with cracked stone to act as a drain and redirect the water. That drain has failed also Pratt said and, whenever there is rain, water pools in the back of Pratt’s property, floods his garage and his neighbor’s basement, he said.

Mistretta said some 16 test borings have been done on the site, but the geo-technical investigation has not discovered any water issues. Engineers have noted the drain and “it will be connected to our storm water management system,” using a 12-inch pipe, he said.

Bids have been received on the complex and the selection committee continues to review the bids and discuss details with the construction firms. The next step will be for the committee to make a recommendation on a builder and present their recommendation along with the other top bids to the Township Council.

It is not on the agenda for the June 12 meeting, although there is an executive session planned for that meeting with the topic, “Attorney-client privilege – Contract Negotiations – Municipal Complex.

After the meeting ended, Mayor Robert Woodruff indicated he expects the recommendation would be made no earlier than the June 26 meeting of the council, and possibly later.

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