NUTLEY, NJ - 23 more apartments are to be built in Nutley following Monday's Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting. Members of the board voted 'YES' to approve an application consisting of mixed-use building construction in an R-2 zone. The demographer, whose reports played a key role in each of the school town hall meetings, was not called to provide testimony for this project.  

At the start of the meeting, Board Attorney Diane McGovern, informed DiBiasi that several board members who were absent from the initial hearing did listen to the CD recording of the meetings. DiBiasi thanked the board for taking the time to read the transcripts. (According to the Township Clerk’s office and the Zoning Board assistant to the secretary, Antonette DeBlasio; the Zoning Board meetings are audio recorded and not transcribed.)

According to testimony by Paul Bauman, the Zoning board requested that the applicant find out about two Franklin Ave projects that house 38, one-bedroom units between the two sites.  Bauman submitted into evidence two copies of a letter received from the Board of Education in response to his request for student enrollment data.

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According to Bauman, the reason for the letter was to determine: ‘Are we still talking current numbers when talking about one bedroom apartments? We asked the question: How many school children emanate from that location? We’ve used this statistic for a long period of time. Is it still an accurate measurement of what one-bedroom units generate in terms of school children?’

McGovern clarified that Bauman’s testimony was an answer he received in an inquiry versus the validity of the Rutgers study The Rutgers study was conducted in 2006

DiBiasi recollected that there was a request to find out about ‘these two projects’ to which McGovern replied: “I don’t remember it being just these two projects. I thought it was town wide.”

Chairman Graziano said of the letter: ‘I haven’t heard anything else, except for this letter’.  “The charts that they showed [at the Joint Meeting ] did not break it down enough. They did not show how many students were coming from one bedroom, how many from two. Here’s the issue. If we are going to have a lot of children coming out of these apartments are the taxes enough to cover the education costs. On the other hand, if you have a big apartment going in, and you are not producing a lot of children, the people living in the apartments are kind of subsidizing your education system by paying for people who live in houses with that have 3 or 4 kids and their taxes do not cover the education costs.”

Attorney McGovern said: ‘The Board of Education has the addresses of every single apartment complex in town. And some have the number of bedrooms within the apartment and some just say the number of rooms in the apartment. The demographer that the Board of Education hired apparently is the one being advertised that there’s a referendum that they’d like to put forth because of the changing needs of school system. If the Board would like to hear from that expert we can make that request for them to come to the next meeting’

Member Daniel Tolve stated: “Even if we have that information, it changes all the time. I think since we have that letter, it’s something we should use.”  McGovern explained that every application has to be taken separately and an expert would need to be called in each time. Regarding the letter, she said: “Is that enough for you or do you want more?” Tolve was an alternate at the meeting, his vote was not need as there already was a quorum. 

Co-Chairperson Suzanne Brown said: “I think we need to start listening to experts. Every decision we make affects that referendum.”

The Board voted to use the enrollment data from the ‘letter’ and vote on the application Monday night, instead of waiting to vote after hearing a report from the demographer.  Only two members were in favor of bringing in a demographer.

Zoning Board Member Mary Rubino Ryder said: “I get calls consistently for rentals… I’ve been trying to get more apartments… There are waiting lists…”

Vice-Chairwoman Brown said that "every developer in this town is supposed to work toward the goals in the master plan." 

Homeowner Brenda Sherman told the board over the past five to ten years, she has watched her neighborhood turn from residential to transient apartments. Sherman said: “I bought a house because I want to get to know my neighbors."

For Sherman, traffic congestion now is bad even before any additional approvals are granted. She asked: “Do we want to be the Township of Nutley or the City of Nutley? If we are changing the zoning does that now mean the lots next to this lot will be allowed to be mixed-use as well?”

Testimony was also given that included that the five units will be allocated to Nutley affordable housing bank "if needed."

This application is not regulated by township ordinance because mixed use density figures have not been adopted by the Nutley Board of Commissioners. 

In his closing statement, DiBiasi stated: “Goodness has nothing to do with land use. The property needs redevelopment. We as a community are fortunate to have someone like Mr. Oliver who is willing to invest millions of dollars in order to make this project a reality. He may be a good guy, he may be a bad guy, he’s a businessman and he’s making a decision.

DiBiasi also reiterated that the application in terms of parking “works” and does not negatively impact traffic. He offered that ‘Frank Oliver may not be the best guy in the world but he designed this project so that it did not negatively impact on traffic.’

He continued, ‘We were asked to come up with a letter from the Board of Education concerning two similarly designed projects ‘right around the corner’. We found out from the Board of Ed, not from Mr. Meka, that there is one student out of those 38 units, an eight- grader’. How many children do we think are going to come out of Mr. Oliver’s project?”

Board of Education (BOE) President Danny Carnicella told Tapinto Nutley that the BOE is committed to providing an annual student enrollment data census for the district. Current data provided by the BOE at the Joint meeting of the Planning and Zoning Boards in Feb can be viewed here: Nutley Board of Education at Historic Joint Meeting.

The votes for this project were:

YES votes: Chairman Frank Graziano Gary Marino, Mary Rubino-Ryder, and Peter Sirica.

NO votes: Suzanne Brown & Thomas DaCosta Lobo

Brown said that "every developer in this town is supposed to work toward the goals in the master plan." 

Additional Information

Members of the community have asked TAPinto Nutley about who sits on the planning board. Details about the Nutley Zoning Board of Adjustment members and responsibilities can be found on the township website

Nutley Public School Enrollment and Facilities Study 20016 (the Demographer's Report). This report has been referenced numerous times in each of the Nutley Public Schools town hall meetings.   

The Board of Education presented the enrollment data referenced by Chairman Graziano at the Historic Joint Meeting of the Nutley Planning and Zoning Boards on Feb. 15, 2017.

All members of the Board of Education were in attendance at that meeting with the exception of Fred Scalera and Ryan Kline. Mayor Scarpelli and Commissioner Petracco attended. Commissioners Stephen Rogers, Mauro Tucci and Thomas Evans did not attend. Diana McGovern, Zoning  Board attorney,  did not attend. Members attending were Chairman Graziano, Vice-Chair Brown and members Marino and Castro. Philip McGovern, Planning Board Chairman, did not attend. Zoning Board members members attending were Barry, Scarpelli, Greengrove, Algieri, Malfitano, Kucinski, Contella, Deltufo and Arcuti.

The minutes of that meeting can be found here

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