NEWTON, NJ – After several hours of public hearings, the town planning board approved a preliminary application that could change the face of Spring Street on Thursday, June 13.

RPM Development of Montclair hopes to build a 65-unit age-restricted apartment complex.

The planning board was only one hurdle. Ed Martoglio, a principal in the development firm, explained the next step is to make application to the state for funds to help construct the low/moderate income development.

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Martoglio explained during most years, New Jersey has two rounds of funding open to the entire state. This year, one round is devoted to the eight counties damaged in Superstorm Sandy, leaving only one round for all the other applications in the state. Even if RPM does not get a grant this time, they can apply again, Martoglio said.

“I hope we won’t have another hurricane,” he added.

The planning board vote was not unanimous. Member William Tharp voted against the project. He said it is too big, and he isn’t happy with the parking situation.

RPM is proposing 53 parking spaces for the 65 units.

The company’s planning consultant, Keenan Hughes explained even with a 1,500-square-foot retail space facing Spring Street that needs some spaces, there would be enough for the residents. He said surveys indicate an age-restricted development requires .74 spaces per unit. Town Manager Thomas S. Russo Jr. noted the senior citizen bus will stop at the building, making it less necessary for the seniors to need a car.

Tharp disagreed. He said in a rural area like Sussex County, seniors are more likely to need and want to keep a car.

The building is to be built over the public parking lot at the corner of Spring Street and Union Place, additional parking will face Trinity Street to the rear and another lot is farther south on Trinity Street. Some of the parking will remain under the building and there will be a new stairway to access the Spring Street sidewalk.

The configuration created some questions at the June 6 meeting, mostly centering around access for garbage trucks and emergency vehicles. Architect John Inglese explained two parking spaces were eliminated and the configuration of the dumpsters and emergency generator was changed to make it possible for a garbage truck to pull in, do a k-turn and pick up the dumpsters and pull out. The dumpster at the Chinese restaurant could also be picked up and the truck could get out quickly, Inglese said.

The new layout could also accommodate a ladder truck, the biggest vehicle likely to need to access the buildings in the parking lot.

“The truck that would actually come in here would be a pumper because the buildings are lower and you wouldn’t need a ladder truck,” Inglese said.

In spite of the changes to the plan, the board still had to approve several variances from the town zoning ordinance, starting with a variance to allow age-restricted housing in that zone and to allow residences on the first floor. Other variances were for lot coverage and setbacks. Waivers were approved for landscaping and similar items.

Although he voted for the preliminary approval, board member Neil Flaherty said he felt the application had been rushed through the board by the deadline imposed by the state grant.

Board Attorney David Soloway will draw up a formal resolution for a vote at the regular planning board meeting on Wednesday, June 19.

Because the approval featured a number of conditions, RPM will have to advertise for a public hearing at the time of final approval, so the public has a chance to view and comment on the final plans.

RPM must also do its best to keep vehicular and pedestrian traffic moving during construction, which is expected to take about one year.

Richard Bitondo, owner of Maxwell and Molly’s Closet across Spring Street from the project said “no business on Spring Street can afford to lose customers as a result of a year-long construction project.”

The board agreed.



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