MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Changes to the height of the building to be constructed at the site of the Post Office on Maplewood Avenue will be considered by the Township Committee under an ordinance introduced at Tuesday’s meeting.

The redevelopment plan allows for retail space and 25 housing units.

Originally, the redevelopment plan limited the building height to 45 feet. The proposed amendment to the plan would allow up to 53 feet. The change in height was one of seven amendments proposed at Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting. The committee voted, 5-0, to introduce the ordinance. A public hearing and final vote are needed before the amendments are adopted.

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The change in height was one of seven amendments requested by the developer. Other amendments included:

  • Deleting the requirement that a minimum of 10 percent of the units would be designated as affordable-housing units.             
  • The township retaining ownership of Lot 185, which was originally part of the redevelopment package.
  • Changing the setback requirements for the building
  • Allowing construction of an “architectural feature” on the corner of the building closest to Maplewood Avenue and Ricalton Square that exceeds height limits

Paul Grygiel, of Phillips Preiss Grygiel Planning and Real Estate Consultants, told the committee “a lot of things have changed” since the township drew up the original redevelopment plan. “It became clear that changes were needed,” he said, noting that the changes are “minimal.”

He said demand for higher ceilings is what prompted the request for a change in building height. In addition, he noted that affordable-housing requirements are “in flux,” so the redevelopment plans need to be flexible in terms of affordable-housing obligations.

The Township Committee voted to refer the amendment to the Planning Board for review, which is expected to be completed before the final vote. Deputy Mayor Kathleen Leventhal said that the Maplewood Village Alliance’s design committee has approved the changes.

Three residents expressed their concern about the changes during the public comment period. One resident said she fears the building will be “too tall and too hideous.” Another said, “We’ve seen a lot of paper. I’d like to see a visual of the building.”

After discussion, the Township Committee voted to act on the following:

  • Asked that a resolution be drawn up to permit temporary weather enclosures to be erected in front of businesses in Maplewood Village for a one-year trial period.
  • Extended the trial period for 60 days for making 44th Street a one-way street. Mayor Victor DeLuca said the change has been “quite impressive in slowing down traffic and reducing (the number) of cars.”
  • Asked that an ordinance regulating home-based businesses be drawn up for consideration at the next Township Committee meeting.

In other action the committee:

  • Extended the contract with F. Basso Jr. Rubbish Removal for once-a-week recycling pickup after Gaeta Recycling,  a bidder whose proposal was rejected, sued the township to prevent the township from awarding the contract to Bella Cleaning and Carting. A restraining order is in place until the legal challenge is resolved. Township Administrator Joseph Manning said a hearing is set for Jan. 23 and the township anticipates awarding a contract by Feb. 17.
  • Hired Balken Risk Management Services as a consultant, to be paid a fee equal to 7 percent of the township’s annual assessment.
  • Adopted a cash management plan.

APPOINTMENTS

  • Appointed Bendit Weinstock as the substitute township attorney at a rate of $140 an hour.
  • Made the following committee and board appointments and reappointments: Leonard Robbins and Richard Greenberg to the Affordable Housing Board; Mario Springer and Megan Smith (alternate) to the Board of Adjustment; Harold Bobrow to Emergency Management; Al Kuehn to the Environmental Advisory Committee; Cara Soh to the Historic Preservation committee; Brian Callahan, Rick Sirois and Timothy Wolfinger to the Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Committee; Robert Thomsen and Saul Fischer to the Rent Leveling Board; and David Buckley and Eileen Rolek to the Swimming Poool Advisory Committee.
  • Appointed R. Calvin Bell, director of public works, and Leventhal to the Essex County Solid Waste Advisory Council.
  • Appointed the firm Community Grants, Planning and Housing to oversee the administration and provide planning services for the Maplewood Housing Rehabilitation Program and for the township’s affordable housing program.
  • Appointed three law firms to handle specialized legal work in 2015: Genova Burns Giantomasi & Webster, labor counsel; McManimon Scotland and Baumann, bond counsel and redevelopment counsel; and Jeffrey R. Surenian and Associates, counsel for affordable housing.