Real Estate

Plainfield Zoning Case Snarls Over Safety Concern

Villani Builders aim to replace a car wash at 820-836 South Avenue with a new building with 12 apartments. Credits: Screenshot from Google Maps

PLAINFIELD, NJ - A Plainfield Zoning Board application for 12 apartments on South Avenue went off the rails Wednesday after a board member questioned the safety of four proposed ground floor units.

The applicant, Villani Builders, aimed to replace a car wash at 820-836 South Avenue with the new building, including four ADA-compliant 2-bedroom apartments where zoning calls for commercial use at ground level.

Midway through testimony by architect Alan Feld, board member Robert Graham raised concerns about the safety of occupants who would have windows at street level. Noting heavy foot traffic in the neighborhood, Graham said first floor tenants would “not have so much safety” and worried that a passer-by might break into the building and “potentially harm someone.”

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The discussion turned to possible elevation of the first floor, which would then require a ramp, or perhaps parking under the building as provided at another South Avenue apartment complex to avoid having residential units at ground-level.

The issue had been unforeseen in preliminary meetings with city staff, attorney Joseph Paparo noted. After further discussion and a brief conference with his client, Paparo requested a return to the board in March with a new design. The board agreed to carry the case to its March 7 meeting.

Earlier, a crowd interested in an application for a live-animal market at West Front Street and Clinton Avenue dispersed after Planning Director William Nierstedt said the application was being carried to March 7. Vadrajan (Jimmy) Naicken had proposed to store and slaughter chickens, pigs, sheep and goats in the basement and to sell the meat to customers, in addition to sales of fried chicken at the site. Naicken had failed to give notice of his plan to one owner within 200 feet, as required, and so the application could not be heard Wednesday.

Naicken’s application was among four that were moved to other dates. Zoning Board attorney Peter Vignuolo said the Yates Real Estate application, portions of which were already heard last year in October, November and December, will be heard next on Feb. 7. Yates plans a 25-unit addition to a Central Avenue mansion in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, to house veterans.

Also on Feb. 7, the board will hear an application to build a single-family home and garage on a sub-standard lot at 225-227 Prescott Place. Property owner Kevin Rodney had not first offered the lot for sale to contiguous owners, as required before making plans to build on a sub-standard lot.

Plainfield Gas Realty, seeking an amendment to a prior approval for a gas station and store on Terrill Road, will also return on Feb. 7.

The board also reorganized Wednesday, returning D. Scott Belin as chairman, Vignuolo as attorney and Rosalind Miller as secretary for 2018. 

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