MONTVILLE, NJ – Driving on Route 46 westbound in Pine Brook shows a side of Montville Township that many residents don’t like. Scott Van Koppen was one of them. He brought photos to the July 14, 2015 Township Committee meeting and told members that several businesses in that region are in a “deplorable state of disrepair.”

The Planning Board conducted a study regarding the area, which is composed of the former Suppa’s restaurant building, through Pine Brook Motel, including Evergreen Realty, and found it is eligible for “redevelopment.”

At the Montville Township Committee meeting on Oct. 13, the Committee voted unanimously to pass an ordinance designating three adjacent properties on Route 46 as an Area in Need of Redevelopment.

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Then-Mayor Scott Gallopo stated, “This gives the Township Committee more power with respect to land use and includes more flexible PILOT programs (tax incentives) in order to make that section of Route 46 more attractive to redevelop."

(A link to the study about the three properties can be found HERE.)

The Township is now moving forward towards that goal by convening a “Route 46 Planning Task Group.”

The Task Group, with members from the business community, township administration and the public, held its first meeting on Jan. 28, 2016 to decide potential uses for the lots and to ultimately collect public input at a general meeting in March. Township Planner Ryan Conklin will be reaching out to adjacent property owners, the Economic Development Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and the Pine Brook Fire Department to request suggestions and feedback on the use of the zone. The group expects to have several concept plans for the site.

“Our goal is to build support in an open public format and focus on community engagement,” Conklin told TAP into Montville. “Redevelopment is a tool we can use to market the site and implement solid concepts for land use. We’ll be exploring what the needs are for the site and the connections to the existing neighborhood. That area is an entranceway to the community and the underlying zoning isn’t working. We want to create a defined vision with diverse uses to make the site more attractive. If the uses feed off each other, it will define the site for the future.”

The group met at the Township Municipal Building and decided to name the region the Gateway to Montville Township, for ease of reference.

Ed Snieckus, Jr., partner at Burgis Associates, the township’s planning consultants, showed the group a site map detailing the conditions at the site. There are three lots with “great access from multiple points” he said, such as Routes 80 and 46 and Bloomfield Avenue. “It is a gateway. It’s an area a lot of people see as they connect to points farther north.”

The portion of the site at the corner of Changebridge Road and Bloomfield Avenue is a high point, which slopes towards Route 46 at the opposite end of the properties. Therefore it is logical to place storm water collection at that lower portion of the site. There is a high point in the front where Changebridge Road meets Route 46, so this also must be considered, Snieckus said. He recommended that pedestrian access be provided with a sidewalk and bikeway along Bloomfield Avenue.

Because of the layout of the site and its narrow yet long composition, Snieckus and partner Joseph Burgis suggest several buildings to be planned on the site, to allow for drainage, traffic flow and access, and for easier engineering. Burgis also said that for the initial concept drawing displayed at the meeting, they designated the buildings to be towards the back of the site closer to Bloomfield Avenue so that parking would be closer to Route 46. Their initial drawing showed four buildings, one of which was perpendicular to 46 at the lower corner. They suggested that access from the back of the buildings be placed on Bloomfield Avenue but member Scott Gallopo suggested Changebridge Road access so that traffic can simply make a right turn into the site when not accessing it from Route 46.

Mayor James Sandham asked if Snieckus and Burgis were recommending a single development or two smaller developments, and Lewis stated that a Redevelopment Plan can be structured either way.

“We’re writing the zoning parameters for the entire site. We don’t have to follow traditional zoning criteria,” Lewis explained.

“You have a lot of flexibility when redeveloping,” said Snieckus. ‘You can get really specific and not worry about what it does to the rest of the zone, because you’re trying to focus the economic redevelopment to occur. You could require a minimal lot size or require a joint-access drive.”

“We would build in a lot of cross-easements,” stated Burgis, “for access or parking, and buildings could even straddle property lines. You build that into the redevelopment plan for a comprehensive, integrated design. You want to minimize curb cuts and access points.”

The group decided to rule out the site for residential use because, as task force member Deane Driscoll put it, “It doesn’t create a neighborhood.”

“Placing a residence at the site would force a condition that’s not natural,” said Gary Lewis, who is Planning Board Chair. “We have to make this site suitable for development. You couldn’t get the numbers that would make residential use feasible. It would be putting a square peg in a round hole. I’m still not sure about office use.”

Snieckus stated that three stories would be necessary to make the site economically attractive, which would be a “more intense” use.

Additionally, other members worried about stress on the school system.

The group discussed office use and Snieckus said office space would require a three-story building for economic viability. Designating the site for office use would increase traffic at rush hour, Lewis said, whereas retail use results in more steady vehicle use. Russ Lipari stated his concern that there is a large quantity of office space available in Morris County, so designating office space may not be the best idea.

The group suggested retail uses for the site, including a smaller supermarket chain. Starbucks and a luxury car dealership were also mentioned. Snieckus warned that the group should first determine what uses fit the site and then designate square footage. He stated that the buildings could be two-story, and “specific niches actually want to be on the second floor, such as small professional offices, medical offices or a dance studio.” These uses help dictate how much parking is needed.

“We want to leave options for the developer, though,” Snieckus said.

Sandham stated his concern for optimizing the ratables at the location. More stories mean more ratables, he stated.

Lewis further stated that the owner of the adjacent car wash may be interested in combining his property into the site if the economics are beneficial, which could solve parking issues and make the site more attractive to developers.

Some preliminary thought was given to the appearance of the buildings and the need to design them to also be attractive from the view from Bloomfield Avenue.

The group will reconvene on Feb. 11 at 6:15 p.m. The meeting is at the Township Municipal Building and is open to the public. More concept drawings will be presented then, but the culminating public event will be in March, on a date to be announced when the group is further along in the process. A Facebook page will be generated to announce the event, and updates will be featured on TAP into Montville.

The Task Group members are, in alphabetical order:

Tim Braden, Planning Board Member

Barry Braverman, Chamber of Commerce representative and owner of Barry’s Pharmacy

Deane Driscoll, member of the Economic Development Committee and the Zoning Board

Scott Gallopo, Township Committee Member

Gary Lewis, Planning Board Chair

Russ Lipari, public member

James Sandham, Mayor

Scott Van Koppen, public member

Further information about the redevelopment can be found on the Township website here: Redevelopment