Planning Board Votes Regarding Towaco Townhouses

Architect and Professional Planner Frank Mileto, with townhouse designs behind him ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Property owner Dan Furia ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Planning Board Chair Gary Lewis ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Board Engineer Stanley Omland ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Vincent Uhl testifies ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno

MONTVILLE, NJ – Following the Montville Township Committee passing an ordinance allowing the building of townhouses in Towaco center, property owner Dan Furia brought his application for a mixed-used building on 202 across the street from the train station combined with a 20-unit townhouse complex to the rear of the nine-acre property to the Planning Board.

The application had been rejected by the zoning board on Oct. 5, 2016 (read the article here), after more than a year of hearings; the board cited concerns that it would be re-zoning the area and did not want to set a precedent for changing the Towaco Center Master Plan, a document that dictates the zoning and aesthetic goals for that area of town.

After two hearings, the Planning Board voted at their Jan. 25 meeting to approve the application. Member Tim Braden called the application a “win-win” situation for the town due in part to the six acres of land which will be deeded for conservancy to the town. Chair Gary Lewis called the application a “less intense” use for the land.

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The master plan had zoned the property for mixed-use – retail with residential units above. Furia’s attorney Steven Schepis had argued that with Furia’s application of a mixed-use building fronting 202 and the townhouses in the rear, the town was receiving the shoppers that the master plan intended for the area, plus some retail. No tenants would be willing to occupy the building shown in the plan to the rear of the property because it doesn’t have street-front exposure, Schepis argued. Furia said at a zoning board hearing that he had inquired with several large retailers but none had been interested.

Furia has already developed a building on the site, with frontage to Route 202/Main Road. With the approval of his application, a twin of that building will be built, in addition to the five-building complex to the rear, each containing four two-bedroom townhouses. Each townhouse will comprise approximately 2,000 square feet of living space, according to project architect Frank Mileto.

At the Jan. 25 hearing, hydrogeologist Vincent Uhl, who has worked with the township to map the Towaco aquifer and had testified in a prior zoning board hearing that the project was not over the aquifer, said that this project, after its constructed, will increase recharge to the aquifer due to its groundwater filtration system, described at the zoning board hearings. Board engineer Stan Omland said he is comfortable that the water quality and the recharge to the aquifer comply with township regulations.

Engineer John Desch testified that “queuing,” or basically backup of traffic, will not be a problem. He recommended adding five seconds to the cycling time of the traffic light at Firehouse Road.

Impervious coverage is also an issue, but Mileto said this is only due to the change in lot line for the mixed-use building. The overall impervious coverage for the entire property is 21% over the course of the nine acres.

Resident concerns included the quality of the more than 500 truckloads of fill that will be necessary for the project, but Omland stated any fill must have certification as being clean. Concerns were also stated about the agreement to the master plan of the bike racks, railings, decorative and design elements of the buildings, but the board rejected the idea of requiring Furia to change his existing white railings and bike rack at the existing mixed-use building to match the dictated black, and Mileto said the Design Review Committee had approved the aesthetic of the current design of the architectural features of the buildings.

“It’s very crowded,” said Towaco resident Kimberly Bott during public portion. “I have a petition that 450 people signed stating that we hoped the township would acquire the land as open space. People called me tonight to say they’re concerned about changing the filters in the catch basin of the stormwater system. I’m disappointed with the architecture. At Rails and the buildings the Rienzis renovated, they went all out, but this is not special.”

“It’s beautiful but it’s just too big for the center of Towaco,” said June Witty.

Schepis said in his closing arguments that there are a “myriad of benefits” to the project, not just to Towaco center, but to Montville overall.

“I would say this site is what the township committee and this board envisioned in the modification of the master plan and the ordinance that was recently adopted,” Schepis said. “It will increase foot traffic [to stores], it will add to the streetscape [aesthetically], as Mr. Furia is a local township resident who spares no expense and will bring this to light.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the application, with the following conditions: landscape screening to provide screening for Brook Lane residents, brick pavers at cross walks within the site, and phases to the development, with the first phase to be tree clearing. Variances allowed for the application were the impervious coverage, setbacks for steps, information signs, and “providing vehicle access to two lots from the same access driveway.”

To read the Towaco Center Master Plan, click: TCMP

To read TAPinto Montville’s coverage of the:

Aug. 5, 2015 zoning board meeting – original proposal described

Dec. 2, 2015 zoning board meeting – testimony of adjacent landowner, economic analysis testimony

Feb 3, 2016 zoning board meeting – traffic and aquifer

April 6, 2016 zoning board meeting – aquifer, price, storm water, master plan

Aug 3, 2016 zoning board meeting – drawings, garage depth, master plan

Oct. 5, 2016 zoning board meeting – denial

Towaco Townhouse Proposal Returns to Montville Township Committee

Towaco Townhouse Project Attains Preliminary Approval

Towaco Townhouses Approved in Land Use Ordinance at Township Committee Meeting

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