NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Planning Board will vote May 8 on the 22-unit Riverbend project at Marion Avenue and South Street.

The date was set Tuesday after another marathon session on the project that includes four affordable housing units.

William Robertson, the board’s attorney, will draft a resolution for the board to consider. It will list the variances sought by the applicant – most relate to setbacks and buffers around Lot 18, a house lot that would be surrounded by the U-shaped Riverbend complex, the signage for the complex, and parking issues – and list the conditions the board and the applicant agreed upon during the months of hearings.

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The board has held seven sessions dating back to last summer.

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.

Bartholomew Sheehan Jr., the attorney for the applicant, 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 be viewed at the level of design issues and not major impediments to approval.

The neighbors, all of whom said they favored the development of the project, in part because it would be built on a lot that is flood-proned and covered with badly maintained buildings and random piles of dirt – also complained that the project would bring change to their neighborhood.

They mostly were concerned about the impact of the project on their own property.

Neighbor Robert Rosa said he favors the project, “but it’s the equivalent of stuffing 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pounds sack.”

Joseph Carrasco, the owner of Lot 18, insisted that the developer shift Buildings 2 and 3 back five feet to reduce the impact of vehicle lights, exhaust and parking lot noise on the home on his lot.

Project Engineer Thomas Murphy said the shift would not reduce that impact but would create a new setback variance for the Riverbend lot.

The developer has agreed to install 8-foot stone wall with a sloping spoil cover and  an  evergreen holly buffer to shield Lot 18 residents from the light impact from the Riverbend parking lot. The house on Lot 18 is 40 feet from the property line with the surrounding property, Murphy said.

Mayor J. Brook Hern, a member of the planning board, said based on the testimony offered to the board that “most agree that this project, while not a perfect solution, would be an improvement. This is an inherently beneficial use.”

Sheehen said that the inclusion of the affordable housing units in this project is a measure of the careful and well-managed approach New Providence has taken toward such housing. The Riverbend development would fill in one of the last of the “old” New Providence lots and enhance the entrance into the borough’s downtown area.