Squiretown Planner Kicks Off Testimony Before Livingston Planning Board; Residents Fear Development Will Further Clog Old Road

LIVINGSTON, NJ—John Cicchino, whose family owns the property bordered by Eisenhower Parkway and Old Road where Squiretown Properties is proposing a 220-unit multi-family residential community, was the first to testify at Tuesday’s Livingston Planning Board hearing on the proposal.

Squiretown wants to build a complex consisting of five buildings with 20  percent of the development or 44 units set aside for affordable housing.

The complex is the subject of a suit between Squiretown and the township under the state’s “Mount Laurel” guidelines. The Livingston Township Council “under protest” recently approved zoning that would allow the complex to go in and an order by New Jersey Superior Court said the hearing on the application should proceed.

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Planning Board Chairman Peter Klein explained on Tuesday that the board cannot reject the project “because we don’t like it,” but the planning body can make sure the complex lives up to all township zoning and other regulations.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Cicchino said he had grown up in a home on the property and later joined his father in the family construction business. He added the family had moved out of the home on the property about 25 years ago.

Cicchino added he is a project manager for Squiretown.

Next up to testify at the hearing was Michael Lanzafama, an architect, surveyor and planner employed by Casey and Keller Engineering of Millburn, who Squiretown attorney Stephen A. Geffner called as an expert witness.

Lanzafama said Squiretown wanted to merge the current five lots on the site into one lot of approximately 29 acres.

The proposed community would include a clubhouse, outdoor swimming pool, sports court, internal lawn area and maintenance building.

Development, according to the planner, would only take place on about 11 acres, with the rest of the site occupied by extensive wetlands, especially on the eastern end of the site.

Entrance to the rental units on the site would be through security gates on both Eisenhower Parkway and Old Road, he noted.

The housing units would range from three to five stories with garages available for lease under many of the “premium” units.

This raised a question by Klein who asked if the fact that those in the affordable housing units would not have equal access to the garages violated Mount Laurel guidelines.

Geffner said he would look into the matter and return to the board at a future hearing with an answer.

Continuing with his testimony, the planner said in the R5I zone created on March 21 the complex must have a setback of 270 feet from Eisenhower Parkway and the proposed setback of the building nearest Eisenhower is 274 feet.

He added all other buildings in the complex would comply with setback requirements for their respective areas.

On parking, Lanzafama said, with garage, surface and handicapped parking, the complex met all Residential Site Improvement Standards based on the various apartment sizes in the community.

This would encompass 453 spaces, including six extra visitor spaces near the clubhouse site.

The planner added the community would be constructed in phases with the first phase including Building A, a retention basin to service that phase and the entrance road. Buildings B through D would be built in the second phase along with many of the amenities of the site and the Old Road entrance. The third phase would include the E residential building and a maintenance building that would be used to house lawnmowers, snow plows and other equipment.

He added his clients intended to restrict access to Old Road during the first phase of construction.

Responding to questions from some members of the public, Lanzafama said the complex would include a sanitary sewer system that would take into account the inflow problems Livingston currently is experiencing.

To manage stormwater runoff, he said the site would include a water feature near the Eisenhower Parkway section of the complex that would be designed to treat any pollutants flowing from the site before they left the property.

Although the water feature would not operate in freezing weather, he said, a detention portion of the feature would still retain water up to 60 hours so it would not flow too rapidly from the site.

A second detention area would perform a similar function on the opposite end of the site.

He added his clients would request that a current 15-inch pipeline currently running under Old Road be expanded to an 18-inch pipeline to handle the increase flow from the new complex.

If this was not possible, he said, discharge would go into the wetlands closer to Eisenhower Parkway.

Long-time Old Road resident Charles Beck, said, however, from his long experience exploring the woodlands on the site that the area would not be able to handle the extra water and properties such as his own probably would get flooded.

Beck’s wife, Betsy, added the discharge of pupils at the nearby Horizon School for disabled children already created traffic congestion on Old Road and the new complex would add to this congestion.

Lanzafama replied that the school had a 60-space parking lot that should be more than adequate to handle its traffic and the complex would not aggrevate congestion on the street.

However, according to Christine Young of 50 Old Road, the street already is “maxed out” with buses, vans and ambulances servicing the school and this situation would worsen when a proposed CVS and Bottle King liquor store are constructed in the nearby Livingston Circle complex.

Although admitting he was not Squiretown’s traffic consultant, Lanzafama said he didn’t think the added traffic from the complex would “choke” Old Road, as claimed by Young.

He also said the traffic consultant could more adequately address a concern by another resident that traffic blocked from using Old Road during construction  would use nearby Country Club Lane and Burgundy Court to cut through the area to get to Walnut Avenue and Route 10.

The hearing on the Squiretown proposal is scheduled to resume on Oct. 16 at 8 p.m.

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