MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Zoning Board of Adjustments voted unanimously to reject an application by Avalon Bay LLC to receive a variance to build 349 non age-restricted rental units in Pine Brook on what is commonly referred to as the GI Auto Salvage Yard.
Board Member Kurt Dinkelmeyer said witnesses and testimony had not indicated positive or negative criteria to warrant the variance. He also said that the 2010 Master Plan had indicated age-restricted use for the land.
“We have not heard evidence that this property is particularly suitable for this use and not for other uses,” Dinkelmeyer said.
He then introduced a motion to reject the application, which was seconded and voted on, resulting in the rejection.
The Township Committee had explored redevelopment designation for the land in 2014, because Avalon Bay had asked the township for permission to build 408 non age-restricted rental units and townhouses. The township contracted with Burgis Associates, but after Burgis said he was favorable to multi-family development for the land, the township did not pursue the redevelopment designation. It was a point of contention throughout the five hearings what the township’s lack of follow-up on the report meant. Attorney for Avalon Bay John Inglesino emphasized it did not mean rejection of the idea, whereas at the May 3 hearing, Professional Planner for the township John Szabo of Burgis Associates implied it had been.
Senior Vice President for Avalon Bay Ron Ladell testified that .084 school-age children would be generated by the 349 rental units, and since there is no site plan for the proposed development, there is no exact breakdown of the number of bedrooms per unit (one-bedroom vs. two). He said that Avalon Bay units typically charge a higher rent than a property such as Rachel Gardens even though Avalon Bay units are smaller, so comparing the two properties would not be appropriate.
Avalon Bay is an intervener in the affordable housing litigation that Montville Township is undergoing, explained in this article: affordable. Inglesino stressed in his closing argument that by granting the age restriction variance, Montville could apply the affordable housing units that would result from this development towards the allotment that would be required of the township.
Inglesino also said in his closing that site-plan issues would be worked out during the site plan phase of the application, and this phase of the application was merely to gain variance for the age restriction. He said that testimony had been given that there is no market for age-restricted housing. He again cited the Burgis report which was favorable toward the proposed 2014 non age-restricted Avalon Bay proposed development, and said no testimony from anyone, including Szabo has denied those findings, “nor has the governing body ‘rejected’ this proposal. Not acting is not a rejection.” He also said that Szabo sent a June 29, 2017 memo and “seemed to suggest” that approving the application would be “planning by variance,” meaning, surreptitiously changing the Master Plan. Inglesino called this “absolutely ridiculous.”
Public questions and testimony was negative toward the application and focused on traffic, strain on the school system, and fires that the Avalon Bay properties have experienced. Ladell said the fires mentioned were over a 17-year period. Inglesino stressed that making a decision based on fiscal implications to the school system is illegal.
To read about the May 3 hearing click May 3
To read about the March 16 hearing click March 16