New Providence Planners Delay Riverbend Vote Until April 10

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These old garages at 33 Marion Avenue wil b... Credits: Michael Daigle
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NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The long-delayed Riverbend housing development has been delayed again.

The Planning Board on Tuesday pushed the scheduled last public hearing on the 22-unit development to April 10 after a full complement of seven voting members was  not available.

Bartholomew Sheehan Jr., the attorney for the applicant, said Tuesday that while all the lingering issues raised at a Feb. 17 hearing had been resolved, he would like a full board to be present for the actual vote. The board consented without debate.

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The board has held five sessions dating back to last summer to hear the application for the  four-building, 22-unit project at Marion Avenue and South Street.

The complex contains four affordable housing units which help the borough satisfy its state requirement.

The development was first proposed in 1988, and applications were sought in 1995 and 2003.The project is subject to a developer’s agreement from the late 1980s that resulted in the development being included in the borough’s affordable housing plan.

The issues from the  February hearing related to the height of two of the four buildings that would require zoning variances.

The board expressed  concerns in February about the height of buildings three and four related to the grading necessary to level the lot, and their perceived height from neighboring properties.

The borough requires these housing units to be no more than 30 feet tall, and while the project’s architect previously testified that the buildings were 27 feet tall, because of the need to level the property, some areas would be raised above current grade more than others, affecting the final height of the building.

Building four, for example, was measured at about 1.5 feet too tall, while building three was just a half-inch too tall.

Rather than haggle over how the building could be brought into compliance, Sheehan sought the continuance.

The other issues raised in February was a variation of the plans to address parking, ease of access to the driveways and drainage on the project site and on Lot 18, a property that will remain inside the U-shaped Riverbend project.

Lot 18 is at a lower grade than Riverbend, and creating a stormwater management plan off the site has been the subject of numerous hearings.

Engineer Thomas Murphy presented the board with two options to address the sticky issues.

First, he proposed to move a parking space from building four to the common parking area, and reconfigure a second parking space to an angled space. The suggestion was made to address safety concerns raised by board member Nadine Geoffroy.

Murphy also said that as part of the construction, the applicant would, with the permission of the owner of Lot 18, grade a small area of that lot near a wall that would be constructed along Riverbend’s western driveway, to allow for better drainage to an underground pipe that would be installed to carry away stormwater, and end the current ponding that occurs in that section of the lot.

Lot 18 owner Joseph Carrasco said he would allow the developer to grade his lot to address the ponding and drainage issues.

A second plan offered by Murphy – to narrow the western driveway to 18 feet from the existing 24 feet, and make it a one-way exit, and to relocate the wall and buffering shrubs along the line with Lot 18 – raised more concerns that it solved.

The board questioned the safety of the driveway, whether drivers would try to enter the site through the one-way exit, and how that would affect the drainage of Lot 18 and the Riverbend site.

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