MILLBURN, NJ – The highly anticipated Planning Board meeting to hear testimony from Mack-Cali witnesses in regards to the proposed Short Hills development drew hundreds of township residents to the Millburn Free Public Library Wednesday evening.

It was the first Planning Board hearing to publicly discuss and gather testimony from the applicant, 233 Canoe Brook Associates a.k.a. Mack-Cali, about the proposed mixed-use re-development of approximately 14.26 acres adjacent to The Mall at Short Hills. 

The developer intends to build a 200-unit rental complex of which 15% will be reserved for low and moderate income households, a hotel containing 246 rooms and a new two-story parking garage. The existing office building at 150 JFK Parkway will remain.

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Attorney Richard Hoff, representing the applicant Mack-Cali, began the proceedings with an overview of the project, the witnesses who intend to provide expert testimonies and a summary of their presentation.

“The application as you will hear tonight, with the exception of perhaps a fence which we will address and resolve, is a variance free, waiver free application.” Said Hoff. “ From this understanding and belief, we have complied with each and every provision of the OR-3 zoning district as well as all applicable township zoning and design provisions.”

The hearing then proceeded with detailed explanations and testimony of the engineering aspects of the project by the applicant’s civil engineer Lisa DiGerolamo.  Her presentation discussed existing and planned design features associated with the property.  She also pointed to facets of the development that require compliance to zoning ordinances such as setback, frontage and building height requirements.

The planned four-story residential rental complex, which would be built in the southwest area of the development, will consist of 49 one-bedroom, 145 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units.  The building will also contain a two-story, mostly below grade parking structure to accommodate a total of 421 stalls when combined with the surface lots.  The number of vehicle stalls was generated from the State’s Residential Site Improvement Standards as a guideline.

The 246-room hotel which is expected to be built north of the residential building will be five stories in height and will accommodate 394 vehicles also in a largely below grade, two-story parking structure. 

The new parking structure, at the far easterly end of the property, will accommodate 683 vehicles.

DiGerolamo also went into detail presentations as how the development will manage storm water, sewage, garbage removal, potable water, power and electricity before responding to board queries and questions from the public.

Attorney Bette Grayson representing two individuals, Stan Kerzwell and Janet Lesko, appeared before the board.  Pointing out that several questions by her and the public could not be answered at that time, she commented “maybe this whole meeting is pre-mature because all of this should have been presented.”  The comment drew large cheers from the audience. 

It was explained that Wednesday’s meeting was the first of many steps in the detailed approval process.  It is not expected that an applicant have all pertinent information at the very first meeting, particularly in a situation as complex as this one.  By the end of the process, all questions and concerns will have been addressed. 

Marshall Sherman, a Short Hills resident asked about the status of Canoe Brook Rd. and it’s continued closure.  Jack O’Connell, Vice President of Development at Roseland, a Mack-Cali company, responded, “We have zero interest to open the road.  Zero.”

Though the applicant’s traffic expert was prepared to testify, Chairman Leiby adjourned the three and a half hour long hearing until the next meeting of the planning board scheduled on March 16.

A Township Committee sponsored information session to learn more about affordable housing legislation and municipal development issues will be held on Feb. 10 @ 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.  Residents are encouraged to attend.

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