MONTVILLE, NJ – After its 2017 rejection by the zoning board but 2019 inclusion in the township’s affordable housing plan, Avalon Bay presented a site plan for its 349-unit rental apartment development on the former site of the GI Auto salvage yard to the Montville Township Planning Board on Jan. 9. As part of the township’s affordable housing plan, zoning was changed to accommodate the development, but according to what former mayor Richard Conklin has stated several times, the build is not a done deal. The site plan must be accepted by the planning board in order for the project to go further.

The development, described by attorney John Wyciskala, is fully compliant with the agreement struck between the company and the township. It would contain a mix of 52 affordable units across the complex in its 4 1/2-story buildings. Architect Edward Bradford of TAT described it as a “wrap” configuration because the apartments hug the four-level parking garage. The 372 parking spots are stacked on top of each other with fewer spots as “surface” parking. Residents’ spots would be on the same level as their apartment, and the parking cannot be seen from the street. The complex will be composed of 44 three-bedroom, 169 two-bedroom, 99 one-bedroom and 37 studio units. The company hopes to attract young adult professionals and senior citizen empty nesters as renters, whom they hope will be happy to pay top dollar for its amenities such as a gym, pool, courtyard with barbeque and picnic tables, and club room. The corner units include porches and some units include lofts.

But several hurdles exist for the site, including the contamination of the soil that will have to be dealt with before building can occur. Engineer Jeffrey Morris of Boswell Engineering explained that polyethylene will have to be laid across the soil to make a demarcation layer with soil laid on top of that to make basically a fresh layer to build upon.

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Another problem is the bridge at the back access point on Bloomfield Avenue, which is owned by the county and cannot accommodate heavy trucks filled with soil coming in and out of the site. Wyciskala said they will be discussing options with the county. Planning Board Chair Gary Lewis was also hesitant about loaded-down dump trucks entering Route 46 without an acceleration lane. Board Member Nicholas Agnoli agreed that he was concerned about the safety of bringing the soil in and out.

Board Engineer Stan Omland said despite his own meeting with officials from the county, the officials have not yet decided what will be done with the bridge since it leads to a sole, private entity, always has and no longer serves the public purpose.

“The bridge cannot withstand truck and vehicular traffic in a two-way operation,” Omland said. “Our preference is for ingress only.”

Lewis closed the meeting by stating that “This whole thing comes down to this bridge. I was a volunteer firefighter for a lot of years in an adjacent community and the fire department [for this development] is 1,200 feet up the street. They can’t go over that bridge to save someone’s life. You can’t ask the fire department to go into Fairfield and make a U-turn westbound on Route 46 in order to fight a fire or perform CPR. It’s nice that the truck can turn around [in the driveways], and I respect that, but you have to get there.”

Wyciskala said that his traffic engineer will be addressing the issue at the next meeting, which will be held on Thursday, Jan. 23.

Board Member Adam Adrignolo recused himself due to conflicts in his law firm.

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