LIVINGSTON, NJ - Objectors to a proposed development at the corner of South Orange Avenue and White Oak Ridge Road in Livingston are devising their response to a new set of plans submitted to the municipality.
TMB Partners owns the site, on which sit a single-story building leased to Tutor Time daycare and a large parking lot. The company is now proposing to build two apartment buildings with 50 units as well as another building containing 12 affordable housing apartments.
The developer is one of three property owners who have sued Livingston under builders' remedy lawsuits for not providing an opportunity for affordable housing. The TMB Partners case is scheduled to go to trial in July if a settlement has not been reached.
A group of about 50 concerned neighbors who formed the Livingston-Short Hills Coalition (LSHC) has opposed the development, as has Millburn Township.
Millburn has had environmental and traffic studies done and has a friend of the court status in the litigation.
The attorney representing LSHC, Robert Podvey of Podvey Meanor in Newark, said the coalition is a co-party to the case. He received the plans from TMB Partners and shared them with his client.
He said he will be meeting over the next few weeks with members of LSHC and Millburn Township officials to formulate a position.
Podvey noted that although the most recent plans call for fewer units than earlier ones as well as landscaping at the rear of the property, the development "is out of character with the surroundings."
Current plans show two buildings, the taller of which would be 57 feet high and have four stories. The second building would be 35 feet high and have three stories. The two buildings would be joined by a single-story pool area.
The proposed buildings would cover one acre of the 4.2 acre property and sit above an underground parking garage. A third building of affordable housing units, located west and uphill from the main buildings, would be three stories tall.
Rosalie Rubin—who, along with her husband, Leonard, is on the coalition's steering committee—said when they received the most recent plans, "We were shocked."
She expressed concerns about the high density of the proposed development, the height of the proposed buildings and the lack of services such as public transportation for affordable housing residents.
The Rubins live on Rippling Brook Drive, a residential neighborhood in Short Hills that abuts the southern end of the property.
In forwarding the plans to The Alternative Press, Leonard Rubin said the coalition has characterized earlier proposals as "grotesque monstrosities," and believes that with the current proposal, "TMB has gone downhill from there."
Meanwhile, a principal owner of TMB Partners, Lon Tabachnick, defends the proposed development as meeting a need in the community.
"We're excited," he said, calling the proposed housing "a quality project."
Tabachnick said the project will provide a housing alternative for empty-nesters or young families who do not want to own single-family homes.
The affordable housing units will provide a place to live for people who work in the town, including police officers, firefighters, teachers, and supermarket employees, he also said. Those units will not be subsidized housing, he stressed, adding that Essex County has a high threshold for eligibility for affordable housing.
Tabachnick pointed out the proposed development will actually reduce the amount of impervious coverage on the property, which is the site of the old Don's Restaurant.
"We're putting in more glass and more green and increasing the front setback," he said. He also said there is plenty of room at the rear of the property to put in a buffer of plantings, and mature trees will remain on the property.
Tabachnick is a former Livingston resident who now lives in Hollywood, Fla., and develops beachfront properties.
He said the owners of TMB Partners are used to dealing in the public domain and are sensitive to residents' concerns.
"We'd be happy to meet with them," he said. "Somewhere, sometime, they'll be living in one of these developments."
Tabachnick owns 12.5 percent of TMB Partners. Other owners are Roseland Equity's Marshall Tycher and Bradford Klatt, Jeff Spitz, Chuck Feldman, Larry Pantirer, Howard Schwartz, Alan Pines, Allan Janoff, Steve Katz and Wayne Zuckerman. Many owners are former or current residents of Short Hills or Livingston.
TMB Partners is proposing to build 62 housing units at the corner of South Orange Avenue and White Oak Ridge Road in Livingston. Click here to see an artist's rendition.