PLAINFIELD, NJ — Plainfield's Planning Board reorganized at its first meeting of 2020, with the gavel being returned to Ron Scott Bey who was re-elected as Chairman and Horace Baldwin as Vice Chairman. Peter Vignuolo will remain as Board Attorney and Rosalind Miller as Secretary. New members Stacey Welch and Jacqui Workman were sworn in, as well as William Toth and Rick Hunt, who were re-elected. Alma Blanco was also sworn in as Alternate 1.

Applicant 1369-1403 South Plainfield, LLC appeared before the board hoping to win preliminary and final site plan approval, and to address several variance approvals and design waivers, but was met with a strong suggestion from Chairman Scott Bey to carry the application to a later date.

“You are squeezing a lot into this project.” Scott Bey stated. “There are a lot of issues.  I strongly suggest that you take a strong look at the number of apartments and parking spaces and how the property can be better utilized.”

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The original plan called for the construction of a five-story, mixed-use building consisting of approximately 1,595-square-feet of commercial space, 24 apartments with parking, and related site improvements. The property is located next to the Dairy Queen, and falls within the South Avenue East Redevelopment Area. 

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A request for a waiver for a 3-foot set-back versus a required 5-foot raised concerns over fire safety by board member Toth. Architect Joseph Fischer confirmed that code requirements were met but Scott Bey later suggested that there were issues cited in the fire report.

The proposed project also included four smaller 1-bedroom apartments, from a 750-square-foot minimum to a proposed 717-square-foot unit, to which Scott Bey asked, “Why should we lower our code requirement?  What is the benefit?”

Attorney Martin Newmark suggested that perhaps studio apartments be considered as the building size could not be increased.

The proposal for the ground floor commercial space to be reduced to 31 percent versus the 40 percent minimum also sparked some debate as to the overall benefit to the city, and a suggestion was made to move some tenant amenities to the second floor.

Both the Board and the applicant agreed to carry the application to the March 5th meeting.

Amendments to the North Avenue Redevelopment Planpdf were also presented by Steve Martini of Nishuane Group, LLC. Recommended changes had been made by the Historic Preservation Commission back on December 5th. Changes include:

  • Increased height on historic properties to 55-feet;
  • Increased maximum density of 150 dwellings per acre;
  • Decreased parking requirements to 0.8 spaces per residential dwelling;
  • Permitting residential units on the ground floor, facing rear or side of property.

One resident present voiced concern over developers not adhering to the parking requirements, and noted that despite the proximity of the apartments to the train station, many residents still needed cars, and parking problems currently exist in the North Avenue historic area.

In other business, the Board approved recommended application and escrow fee increases to cover the costs of application reviews by the Board Attorney, City Engineer and Planner. Planning Director Bill Nierstedt mentioned that the fees had not significantly changed over the past seven years and the recommendation was made based on a review of surrounding municipalities.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on February 24th to include the re-election of Alma Blanco to the Planning Board.

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