NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Reverend Jerry Nugent, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey, and Architect Stan Omland testified before the New Providence Board of Adjustment on Wednesday night at the New Providence Municipal Center, requesting several variances including for use, floor area ratio, height, building setback and slope disturbance, in the conceptual stage for a project to build a continuing care retirement center on the corner of Mountain Avenue and South Street.

The first variance requested was a D use variance, which asks the Board to approve proposed development on this property, according to Barry Osmun, an attorney for Lutheran Social Ministries. Also requested was a D4 variance to allow for a greater floor area ratio than allowed by New Providence's Master Plan and a D6 variance for building height and parking.

The continuing care retirement center, which will be owned by Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey, will be called The Crossing at Murray Hill. The main area, which is a 'w' shaped building called Independent Living and Promenade, will comprise most of the 75 acre property. This building will have five floors; the first for recreational use, a performing arts center, administrative offices, and a kitchen, according to Omland. The remaining four floors will be apartments units where residents will reside. Also on the site will be a health care center that will be staffed by nurses 24 hours a day and doctors who will be there regularly, Nugent said. Residents will be able to utilize this center for medical and emergency purposes at any time.

To the right of the health center there will be four single story cottages with parking spaces in front of them for residents and their guests. There will also be a tennis court, an indoor swimming pool next to the Independent Living and Promenade center, and walking areas along the outside of the facility.

Reverend Nugent spoke of the benefit of this type of assisted living for New Providence. He said it was a good way to provide the town with affordable housing for the elderly in difficult economic times. "This is also a great way to provide activities for residents and have them interact with each other, rather than be lonely in a single family home."

Nugent spoke of the fees for the units that residents will be renting and how the facility will be funded. He said that depending on the size of the apartment complex, prices range from about $300,000 to $900,000 for an entrance fee. Residents will then have to pay a monthly service fee, ranging from $2,000 to $4,500, which will include use of all of the center's facilities as well as medical care. 

In further discussing the plans to build the center, Omland said that Lutheran Social Ministries will be requesting extensions in building height variances as allowed by New Providence for a residential facility. The request is for the Independent Living and Promenade Center to be 75 feet tall and the health center to be 50 feet tall. Omland said that there are also steep slope setbacks and side yard setbacks that will be requested.   There are also plans to widen the two entrance areas, one on South Street and the other on Mountain Avenue.

Omland also discussed parking at the facility. He said there are 140 proposed parking spaces on site. There will also be 240 secured parking spaces in a two tiered garage that will be built under the main facility for use by residents and employees only. In the cottage area, there are requirements to build 12 parking spaces for the four facilities, but Lutheran Social Ministries plans to build more than that, according to Omland.

Traffic studies were also conducted by Omland and his team with the new proposed facility in place. He assured the Board that the residential living facility will generate far less traffic in this area than an office building would. As a result, weekday traffic will be reduced by 30-40 percent. There is a request that Mountain Avenue be reduced from 4 to 2 lanes near the facility and that the speed limit be reduced from 45 mph to 40 mph. There is also a request that South Street be made a 35 mph zone, instead of 40 mph, near the facility.

Other issues discussed at Wednesday's meeting were lighting and drainage at the facility, as well as the introduction of a few other variances that the Board of Adjustment will hear in more detail at future meetings. There will also be testimony from planners, engineers and other experts before the application to build a continuing care retirement community is approved at a future Board of Adjustment meeting.