BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- The Planning Board gave its approval to the application from Toll Brothers to redevelop the Hamilton Avenue Property on Wednesday night.

This redevelopment plan for this property is part of the township’s affordable housing settlement approved by the courts and has been crafted and re-crafted over the course of years. Originally approved for 100 housing units, with 20 of those affordable units, the number of units has been reduced to 67 units, 47 of them market-rate, and 20 affordable. This provided a decrease in density without a decrease in affordable units.

Attorney Richard Hoff, who managed the presentation for Toll Brothers, said, “We believe we have a fully conforming application within the terms of the redevelopment plan, with the exception of one waiver with respect to trees and parking lots.” 

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He then called Jeremy Greene, Toll Architecture Architectural Business Partner - NJ to testify about the development.

The development has two entrances. One is from Hamilton Avenue, the other will be near the existing entrance from Roosevelt Ave, Greene said.  

There will be two, two-story affordable housing buildings with five units on each level. Each building will have six two bedroom units, two one bedroom units and 2 three bedroom units. The upper level units are walk-up units, the ground level units are all accessible. There will be no garages with these units, but each unit will have a reserved parking place. 

There will be 11 two-story residential buildings, for 47 three-bedroom townhouses, with basements, and two-car garages. One of the models has a loft which can be converted to a fourth bedroom, said Greene. 

All 13 buildings will use the same materials on the exterior -- siding, roofing, cultured stone, windows, etc., with a gray/earthtone color pallet, testified Greene.   

Market-rate unit buyers will have options as to the size deck in the backyard and other amenities to allow them to personalize their home.

All 67 units, affordable and market rate, will be for sale, none will be rental units.

Jay Kruse, regional director of engineering for ESE Consultants, described the site as it currently exists, including the wetlands delineation as required by the NJDEP.

Board Member Joe Graziano asked Kruse where the property line fell in relation to Snyder Brook. Kruse said the brook was not on the property, and was about “30  feet west of the property line.” 

Graziano asked “will the drainage on the property be better or worse?

Kruse said, “Better.”

He said there will be a very large storm water retention basin on the property, which will be about five feet deep at one end and nine feet deep at the other, surrounded by two-rail split rail fence, 42-inches tall, to keep people out of the basin. There will be a second storm water management device on Roosevelt Avenue to keep water from entering the municipal system.

There will be sidewalks on both sides of the streets and landscaping behind homes, but not too close, so residents will be able to use their backyards, Kruse said. 

Graziano asked where visitors would park in the community, since there is no parking on the roads. “If I have family come over, and I have a very big family, where will they park?"

Kruse said there are 65 parking spaces, inclusive of "affordables," around the development.  

Board Member Robin Greenwald said, “So the spaces around the affordables are not going to be marked for those buildings?"

Kruse said, “They are not supposed to be marked or designated for the affordables,” but they are in the proximity to those buildings, and they will be the first ones to use them.

Greenwald persisted, “Does Toll charge extra for parking spaces for the affordable units, or the management company charge extra?”

Hoff said, “They are for sale units”

Greenwald replied, “All our information says they are rentals … I was told the reason they are allowed to be in separate buildings the way they are is because they are rentals, not for sale. If they are going to be for sale, why aren’t they spread throughout the complex?”

Hoff said Toll Brothers said the Franklin Lakes project has a similar arrangement, as do others, and they work well.

Board Member Susan Poage asked if it would be possible to provide a dedicated space to each of the affordable units?

Hoff said they could provide a dedicated space for each of the affordable units. 

Kruse said that was appropriate, and they already have 20 spaces by each building which can be designated.  

Other items that came up included a request by Toll Brothers for a waiver from regulations regarding landscaping the parking areas, since the development will not have large parking areas, only some setbacks, so they are one tree short of the requirements. That seemed to present no problem to the township engineer.

The maintenance of the property will fall on a home-owners association (HOA). The town will have no responsibility for snow removal, tree maintenance, exterior lighting, etc.

Alan Lothian, senior project manager for Langan, who provided information on  traffic, said they upgraded the traffic study to include the YMCA, which just opened, and everything is still in appropriate ranges. The development will add about 33 trips in the peak hours in the morning and 41 trips in the afternoon peak hours, he said. 

Township Engineer Thomas Solfaro went over letters from township committees and departments which listed concerns and requests for changes. 

These included two requests from the Berkeley Heights Fire Department. The first was to have fire lanes properly defined on the interior roadways. That was not deemed necessary, as no parking is permitted on the 24-foot wide roads. The second was to have the market rate homes outfitted with sprinklers -- the affordable housing units are required to have sprinklers. The applicant said that would not be possible.

After running through the testimony and clearing up a few issues, Board Attorney Bill Robertson prepared a resolution approving the application and read it out loud.

Board members offered their opinion on the application after Robertson read it. 

The first to speak was Greenwald who said she was “not in favor” of the application for a number of reasons, the first being that the second floor units in the affordable housing buildings are not accessible, the fact that the affordable units were for sale and located in two buildings, which made it seem like they were “being segregated.”

Graziano said he liked the application and thinks “it will look great over there … I’m in favor.”.

Board Member Susan Poage said she agrees with Greenwald who would also like to see sprinklers in the market-rate units. Still, she said she thought it was “a good application,” and approved the application.

Board Member Craig Johnson said the applicant “did a nice job,” and that he approved it.

Board Member Kevin Hall, who was on the council in 2012, when the idea of acquiring the land from Little Flower Church first came up, called it a “good application.” He complimented the applicant for not crowding the site, with the already approved 100 units and thanked Toll Brothers for working with the town, so the library will not have to close until it is completely moved into the new Municipal Complex.

Board members Michael Mangold, Marcela Schwarz, and its Chairman Michael Einbinder all supported the application, as did alternates Lawrence Cunningham and Dan Monaco.

Einbinder moved the resolution. It passed by a vote of 8-1 with only Greenwald dissenting.

The attorney will draft the ordinance and send it out for review. When it is approved, it will be memorialized at a later meeting.