CLARK, NJ – Plans for a mixed-use building with six apartments and two retail stores at the site of the current CVS Pharmacy was recently rejected by the Clark Planning Board.
The building proposed by the developer would have encompassed the current CVS property at the corner of Joseph Street and Westfield Avenue and the empty lot beside it. The board asked for revisions to the plan prior to future consideration.
During the September 16, Town Council Meeting Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, who sits on the planning board, explained the board’s decision to reject the plans.
“At first looking at this building, I was kind of excited because I like the way it looks. There [are] two stores on the bottom, with six apartments. But as we delved into the project, there [were] a lot of problems with it,” he said. “The size of this building, on the size lot it was proposed to [be built on], would have dwarfed everything in its area.”
“This is a nice project, with two stores downstairs and six apartments above, but it didn’t make the grade because of the size of the lot and the parking,” he added later.
The board and mayor also took issue with the lack of planning for snow removal and refuse collection. The site as presented did not include plans for a dumpster. Instead, parties proposing the development suggested they would have over 20 trash pails for tenant waste. “One windstorm and we will have pails all over Clark, not to mention the rats and everything else that would come. They need a dumpster for a property like that,” said Bonaccorso in a follow-up conversation with TAPinto.
In the end, Bonaccorso said the planning board advised the developers to revise the plans for a second review. “The planning board said, hey, make it smaller and bring it back, and we’ll certainly consider it,” Bonaccorso said.
He also said town officials need to weigh the benefits of a downtown Clark with the potential drawbacks.
“I think everyone in this town agrees we need to get a downtown Clark up and going, but the question I ask myself is what’s the cost?” he said. “Is it going to be something that’s too big, that has not enough parking?”
“Do I think everything will be perfect? Probably not,” he added later. “You’ve got to be a little realistic, and you’ve got to be able to give and take a little.”
One area for potential compromise, Bonaccorso said, is parking.
“I don’t know if anything down there is going to have the proper amount of parking required by law,” he said, “so we’re going to have to improvise once in a while if we want to see buildings grow and people come down there.”
This project comes amidst several redevelopment projects in the township.
The property is one of eight affordable housing sites included in the township’s 2017 affordable housing settlement. The settlement also includes the property at the corner of Valley Road and Walnut Avenue, as well as the former site of the A&P on Westfield Avenue.
Bonaccorso said redevelopment projects at both of these sites are still moving forward. He said the developer is the same for both of these projects but that the planning board has yet to review any plans for either site.
“They are going to have to still come before the planning board and tell us what they’re going to do,” he said.
Still, he believes both will be beneficial to revitalizing downtown Clark.
“You need foot traffic to have a downtown, and [these] will bring foot traffic,” he said. “It’ll help the merchants there now to thrive a little better.”
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