New Providence Planners Settle Village Shopping Center Application; Open Hearing on Development First Proposed in 1988

Riverbend architect James Monteforte prepares to testify before the New Providence planning board Tuesday. Credits: Michael Daigle

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The Planning Board Tuesday settled one site plan application that had resulted in a Superior Court case, and opened the public hearing on a housing application that first surfaced in 1988.

The Village Shopping Center’s owner New Providence LLC  and the borough had been battling over a plan since 2008, planning board attorney William Robertson said.

The applicant had filed plans on a number of occasions, Robertson said, but in December 2010, the board denied the application, after which the applicant filed a complaint that said the denial was arbitrary and capricious.

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The case was heard in Superior Court  in Union County in  May, and  sides have been working on a settlement ever since.

On Tuesday, William Woods, the shopping center’s property manager agreed with the board to a list of design changes that will settle the lawsuit and bring the center into compliance with borough ordinances.

The changes will provide continuity for the shopping center’s facade, standardize the appearance of the individual signs to conform with the borough’s  new sign ordinance, add striping from Springfield Avenue to the CVS store marking out a fire lane, add a stop line to slow traffic crossing the shopping center, and add a traffic island from the South Street entrance to inhibit vehicles  from using the parking lot as a way to avoid the traffic signals at the Passaic Avenue-South Street- Springfield Avenue intersection.

Woods suggested the traffic island, saying, the lot “is a thoroughfare now.”

A hearing on the application for Riverbend, a 22-unit complex proposed for Marion Street was started Tuesday.

Bartholomew Sheehan Jr., the attorney for  the applicant, reminded the board that this development was first proposed in 1988, and applications were sought in 1995 and 2003.

The project is subject to a developers agreement from the late 1980s that  resulted in the development being included in the borough’s affordable housing plan. Four of the 22 units will be affordable housing units, Sheehan said.

The application was heard in July, but after that hearing, was the subject of  discussions between the borough’s and applicant’s professionals to resolve design issues and to reduce the number of variances required to gain approval.

Sheehan said the existence of the affordable units in the development means “the application is an inherently beneficial use,” which means that the variances needed for approval are to viewed at the level of design issues and not major impediments to approval.

Architect James Monteforte said the projects is designed  in a U-shape to surround a existing lot that is not part of the development.

The project has four buildings, one with three units, one with eight units, including two affordable units, one with nine units, including two affordable units, and a fourth with two units.

The buildings are 27 feet tall,  with half-stories as the top floor to bring the units into  compliance with borough ordinances.

Engineer Thomas Murphy said the site will have 51 common parking spaces. The housing units have garages.

The lot is constrained by a stream encroachment  area where Salt Brook runs through a western corner of the lot. That resulted in the fourth building being somewhat separated from the other three, he said.

The site will be buffered from neighboring lots by shrubs and trees, Murphy said.

Board members and neighbors questioned the density of that buffer, especially on the sides facing the housing lot in  the center of the development, and the southwest rear border that abuts a landscaping business.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Jan. 10.

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