Montclair Planning Bd. Rejects Lorraine Ave. Development, Amid Concerns with Traffic, Building Design and Size


MONTCLAIR, NJ - Multiple residents living in Upper Montclair spoke during Monday night's planning board meeting to express concerns to the planning board. As a result of public outcry, for the third time, board members turned down an application to build a mixed use development on Lorraine Avenue.

The plan for this development has been the source of contention among residents and business owners due to many factors. With many historical buildings located nearby such as the Williams-Sonoma Building, residents who spoke, along with members of the Historical Preservation Commission, felt the design was not compatible with the surrounding Historical Business District.

Each resident who spoke out against this project, stated that it was too large and too commercial looking to fit in with the historic backdrop of this area. Also, with the train station nearby, there would be the added traffic concerns to take into consideration, they said.

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Neil Zimmermen, the applicant’s attorney, attended the meeting to present the application for the third time. He brought Civil Engineer Gerard Gesario and Professional Planner Peter Steck to offer a brief testimony.

According to both Gesario and Steck, the revised application is almost identical to the the previous application and therefore does not require any new variances. Steck stated that he believes the design is in full compliance with zoning standards as well as standards set forth by the Historic Preservation Committee even though new plan would increase the amount of second floor office space from 5,300 square feet to 8,971 square feet.

However, the board did not agree. With the ordinance stating that all new buildings “must be visibly compatible with adjacent buildings,” the new development does not comply, said Chairman John Wynn.

“If you can agree that the Williams-Sonoma building is considered adjacent to this new building than it does not comply,” added Wynn.

Although board members could agree that most of the plans did comply with all local ordinances and standards, most could not agree to approve.

When first discussed, residents had expressed satisfaction with the size and design of this building, but when brought before the board again, the size had been increased.

“While I am not a fan of the design of this building or the bulk of it, we cannot ignore the fact that Zimmerman has made some valid arguments,” said Vice Chair Jason DeSalvo.

But, due to the number of residents unhappy with the new, larger building design, he stated that he just could not vote to approve it. “While yes we are a country of laws, there is also an implied level of good faith.”

For this reason, over half the board members could not agree to pass this application for the third time.

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