SPRINGFIELD, NJ - In a continuation of business from the October meeting that was postponed due to time, the Springfield Planning Board approved an application from SPDSAIL for a preliminary and final site plan on the corner of Church Mall and Morris Avenue.

For SPDSAIL owner Charlie Larkin, the end of the lengthy process means it is now time to move forward with the building phase of the project, something he hopes will start quickly. Larkin also credited Springfield resident and SPDSAIL attorney Clara Harelik for all her work during the process.

"We are looking forward to doing this as soon as possible," Larkin said. "With a lot of hard work from Clara Harelik, who was really instrumental in getting this approved, we are now looking for the town to help us move with the next phase of demolition, and we are hoping to make this a very successful project."

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During SPDSAIL's presentation, the planning board hear testimony from and asked questions of architect Yuval Wellisch, engineer Dave Wisotsky, planner Nick Graviano and traffic expert Nick Verderese. Planning board members looked at the impact of traffic flow on Church Mall, where the parking space in the building would discharge out onto the street. The board also looked at other topics, such as the materials SPDSAIL planned to use in construction and how the building would be built to minimize the risk of rainwater runoff and flooding in the area.

After the board was done with its questions, residents in attendance were allowed to make a public comment. Most of that discussion centered around the mural in the rendering. The mural, which depicts Parson James Caldwell handing out Watts' Hymnals during the battle of Springfield was not something the board initially wanted to move forward with on the design.

The feeling among several board members was that the mural, which depicts a historic occurrence from the revolutionary period, was not congruent with the vision of the future downtown that Springfield is looking to create. However, in the public comment, residents said that having an historic link to Springfield's past on a prominently located building in town was something they were in favor of.

As a result, the mural will stay, although planning board members suggested replacing the border around the mural with brick to better integrate it into the facade. At the conclusion of the meeting, a final vote was cast, and the plan was approved. It will now move forward to the next stage, as the vacant building and lot currently on the site will soon be demolished.

After the meeting, planning board chairman Jeff Tiger said he was looking forward to a quick building process. Tiger also said that once SPDSAIL is underway, development should accelerate on the business district front.

"[I'm looking for them] to build as quick as possible, to show that we're moving Springfield forward," Tiger said. "The first person to move down there, moving us forward, will get us to the next level."