PLAINFIELD, NJ - Midway through testimony on changes to a major Plainfield Avenue project, the Planning Board heard a challenge to ownership of one of three lots involved.

Engineer Daniel S. Davies had just finished explaining changes to plans for a new early childhood education and after-school care facility when in public comment Jaime Abril said his parents believed they had purchased one lot back in 2001. Abril named a local law firm and real estate agency that handled the sale of the lot in question and another where his parents have a home.

Planning Director William Nierstedt said the disputed lot was owned by the city, and tax records showed the parents only paid taxes on the lot with their home. Planning Board Attorney Janine Bauer said there must have been a “misunderstanding or misrepresentation” and advised Abril and his parents to get an independent lawyer to look into the matter.

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The issue did not prevent the board from approving changes to plans previously approved in November, including addition of a school bus drop-off zone that will accommodate two buses. That eliminated nine parking spaces, but there will be ten in a new location, Davies said. Among other adjustments, he said the existing 4-foot sidewalks were in good condition, so proposed new 6-foot sidewalks were deemed not necessary. 

The board approved all the changes. Construction on the new Second Street Youth Center is expected to start in early April and be completed by August 1. The modern, one-story facility replaces  the old three-story one on South Second Street and will serve 180 pre-school children ages 3 and 4, as well as older children in an after-school program.

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Two other applications did not win approval Thursday and must be continued to the April 5 meeting. One is for rehabilitation of a building at 322-324 West Front Street, where Map Front LLC wants to keep commercial space at ground level and convert three upper floors from office space to 12 apartments. The board is requiring washers and dryers in each apartment and provision of 12 parking spaces, among other items.

The third applicant, seeking a subdivision on a Myrtle Avenue lot, found that their application was going to trigger the need to erect a garage on the site.  Although both board members and nearby residents praised Luxura Properties LLC for transforming an “eyesore” into an asset to the neighborhood, the garage issue will cause  the applicant to return with plans, and answers to a few more questions. Representatives said other homes on the block don’t have garages, but Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey said, “We want the subdivision, but you must have a garage.”