MILLBURN, NJ - As the late-July evening skies darkened outside, residents of Millburn Township had a first-hand chance to ask the developers of the old Wells Fargo lot questions about the proposed renderings that had been presented before the township committee last month.
The information session, which was attended by several dozen township residents, ran from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. During that time, Mark Yeager of MRY associates, the property's developer and Stuart Johnson, an architect with Minno and Wasko were both there to present.
Yeager focused his section of the presentation on the external portion of the building, while Johnson handled talking about the inside. After both men were done talking, they took questions from audience members in attendance about various aspects of the project.
At the moment, the plan calls for 56 units and 102 parking spaces, all of which would be below ground. There is currently one egress point planned, which almost exactly matches up with the current curb cutout.
Due to the slope of the land, the building would start as a two-story structure near the firehouse, becoming a three-story structure as it fronts Millburn Avenue.
Additionally, the developers noted that the property sits in a B4 Development Zone, which may force their hand in getting variances as the project moves forward.
For Yeager, having residents get involved and share their opinion is a major part of the process.
"Community involvement and responsiveness is always critically important," Yeager said. "It's gotta be a collaborative effort. These things take time, [and] are usually a work in progress evolving, so it's a part of the process that I'm accustomed to."
Yeager added, "I do appreciate that this many people came out in the middle of the summer and commented input because that's going to help us hopefully continue to let the plan evolve and create a plan at the end of the day that is both satisfying and satisfactory."
Yeager noted that the next information session, which will be held in late-September will utilize the same renderings, so as not to give the next group a head start on viewing the project.
"We would not commit the resources to [move forward] until we were pretty comfortable that we had a plan that we thought the town and the majority of the community supported." Yeager said.
Reactions to the renderings were mixed. Some in attendance supported the project, and some opposed it. One of the proponents of the site development was Ray Meyers. Meyers owns 407 Essex Street, which sits across from the proposed development, and said anything would be better than the current setup.
"I feel like anything that would go there would be an improvement," Meyer said. "Of course you can talk about how big or exactly the facade [is] and how it should look, but what's there now is a parking lot and an ugly building."
Others in attendance were more skeptical and looked for issues to be addressed before the project even moves forward. Millburn resident Donna Davis was one of those individuals
"The difficulty I have now is just that the traffic pattern that's being shown right now is property in the area," Davis said. "It is horrendous during the day is my main concern."
"[Right now], they have the egress on Millburn Avenue, right where we merge from Douglas," Davis added. "It's a lovely setting, but I don't think they've really thought it through and how it's going to impact the community."
As Yeager noted, the plan is still entirely developmental and has not even been submitted to the Millburn Planning Board for review yet. At that time, the town will require the developers to undertake a traffic study and other work to gauge the impact of the building.
Following the process with the planning board, Yeager noted that the best-case scenario for the construction would be a late-2020 start, although he did emphasize it was likely to be later than that.