SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Tuesday evening’s Zoning of Board of Adjustment lasted two and a half hours with a packed agenda. For most of the meeting, about two hours, the Board heard from the Lutheran Senior Healthcare (639 Mountain Ave.), which came before the Board last month with variance requests for the addition of the PACE program (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) to their existing building.
Issues of concern brought up by the Board last month were addressed. The first was concerns about the location and potential noise levels of a proposed generator. A consideration was made to move it to a courtyard, but since there are windows on three sides of the courtyard, code wouldn't’ allow placement there. Due to a setback ordinance, moving it to the other side of the building wouldn't work. So PACE compromised by proposing a six foot solid wooden fence, all the way to the ground, surrounding the generator. This would not only hide it from view, but would help reduce the sound by a third (63 decibels to 42). A second issue was the removal of four trees, but PACE agreed to add three new trees along the Mountain Ave. frontage, one new tree by the entrance island and additional new grass and landscaping in other areas. And third, there was a concern that there would not be enough parking spots if every staff member were to drive to work. Nathan Mosley, the Traffic Engineer said PACE proposed removing five vans to an off-site location, opening up additional spots. He also explained that not all employees are there at the same time, and even in the worse case scenario, the worry about a shortage of parking spots should now go away. He continued to explain the drop-off strategy for the nursery school, with a new plan that staggered drop-off and pick-up and reduced each car’s presence from three to four minutes, down to 30 to 45 seconds. This included having school staff meet the child at the car and take them inside so the parent doesn't have to park and bring in the child themselves. The same process would be used in reverse for pick-ups.
The Board still remained uncertain; would traffic issues really be rectified, without vehicles backing up onto Mountain Ave? Would the children be in a safe environment, with the lot being gated (and only opened during drop-off and pick-up times)? In the end, the Board attorney listed numerous “conditions” and PACE and the Church have agreed to conform to them all. Plus, Sam Mardini, the Township Assistant Engineer, indicated that the Town’s Zoning Officer will make regular “check-ups” to make sure that the conditions as dictated by the Board were being adhered to. With those items stipulated in the vote, all members, with the exception of David Schnur, voted to allow the variances to go through.
There were several other items addressed at the meeting.
First up was the unanimous approval of a front yard variance for a fence, requested previously by Jonathan Desteno of 184 Pitt Rd. This was followed by a similar request by Leora Babich of 43 Golf Oval, requesting a fence to go across her rear property line. The Babichs had tall 30 year old trees offering privacy along their rear property line. Recent storms, however, caused them to fall. Mrs. Babich was seeking a variance to allow the fence to go all the way to the side property line, even though the ordinance requires a 30 foot setback. Her emotional plea included that her “children need to feel safe in their own home.” In the end, Chairman Anthony Fonseca asked for a compromise; the Board will allow the fence to go about 18 feet over the set-back line, but the homeowner should fill in the last 12 feet with bushes/trees (as an extension of bushes currently on the property in the side yard). Mrs. Babich tried a “Pretty Please!” – but that didn’t work. The compromise was ultimately accepted.
Next up was Kathryn Drummond of 146 Henshaw Ave. with another request for a fence variance. In this case, Mrs. Drummond claimed that she and her husband are now “older” and are unable to maintain the bushes that separate their property from their neighbors. They would like to replace the bushes with a fence so they have security and privacy when their children and grandchildren come to visit. No Board members had any questions, and the request was unanimously granted.
Mr. Gerard Weiss of 18 South Derby St. was next, with a request for a bulk variance; to allow him to park his commercial van in his driveway. His argument, made by his attorney, was that he’s run his AC/Heating business from that address for 40 years and he’s always parked his commercial vehicle in his driveway – and no neighbor ever complained. In fact, Mrs.Patricia Spirito, a neighbor, testified on his behalf, saying that Mr. Weiss was her neighbor for 40 years and no one ever complained about his van. “It’s just part of the neighborhood. It’s just always there,” she testified. After finding out that the company’s branding was affixed to the van via magnets, Chairman Fonseca asked if Mr. Weiss could remove the magnets in the evenings when the van is parked, and then put them back on again in the mornings when he was leaving to go to work. This compromise was agreed to and the Board unanimously confirmed the variance.
Seeking a side yard variance was SPDBW,LLC, builders of the new houses on Clara Court (formerly the 276 Baltusrol Way property). Speaking for the builder was attorney and Clara Harelik and Surveyor/Planner James Watson. Four new houses are being built in this new cul-de-sac. One property, at #4, needed a variance for a setback. Ten feet was required on the side, but they could only deliver five to seven feet (property line is on a slant). In all, there was only 46 square feet that relief was being sought as it fell “outside the ordinance.” Watson argued that the house needed to be pulled forward by a few feet. It would conform to the neighboring house’s property line, it would reduce the size of the driveway by 15 or 20 feet (thus reducing impervious coverage), and it would allow for a deck in the backyard, making it aesthetically similar to the neighboring houses – all reasons that show the benefits outweigh any deficits. In addition, the water company required a water main to be at the property line, and if they had to readjust property lines (shaving a little off the neighboring subdivided lot, it would be a financial hardship on the builder to rip up the ground and reconfigure the main that was already installed and connected. In the end, the Board unanimously agreed to the variance.
Finally, Panera Bread, located at 295 Route 22 East was last on the agenda, seeking a use variance and bulk variance for the addition of a drive-thru. Due to the lateness of the hour, however, they agreed to hold off their request until the August 21st meeting where they can discuss their case “fresh.”
Two thirds of the members were present, with the exception of Lou Monaco, Mark Cunningham and Harris Laufer.