SUMMIT, NJ—Developer Mark Yeager and his experts wrapped up their testimony before the Summit Planning Board in support of Yeager’s conceptual plan to expand the Gateway I Zone to the Bouras Building at 25 DeForest Avenue and, in the process, making way for a combination four-level parking garage and townhouse complex, near the Bouras Building, at Beechwood Road and Euclid Avenue.
The question before the Summit Planning Board is whether that body should recommend to the Summit Common Council whether the council should adopt an ordinance allowing for expansion of the Gateway I Zone.
Meanwhile, 38 residents -- opposed to the zone-expansion proposal -- have hired attorney Michael Kates to fight the proposal and present their case before the planning body.
After Yeager and his experts finished presentation supporting their case and answering questions asked at the previous planning board meeting on the concept, Kates introduced Reeves-Reed Arboretum trustee Eric Mendelsohn of 102 Beechwood Road. Previously, Mendelsohn had helped develop Summit’s sustainability master plan.
Mendelsohn outlined reasons residents oppose the concept -- many of them centered on the residents’ contention that approval of the zoning change would be contrary to the City Master Plan.
An attempt was made by Kates to delay the latest Planning Board hearing of the concept, due to the fact that he had just recently been hired by the residents and his planning expert probably would not be available to testify until at least December.
Although some Planning Board members sympathized with the rationale for a delay, they eventually agreed it was best to continue the procedures in order to move the matter along.
The board decided to continue hearing from residents’ representatives, including their planner, on December 21.
In continuing the presentation for Yeager, the developer’s attorney, Bart Sheehan, noted that their currently was no ordinance or development proposal before the council or Planning Board. He called the concept a “vision for the future of the site,” and said it was up to the planning body to determine if that vision was sustainable.
At the request of Planning Board chairman Jeffrey Wagenbach, Yeager architect Dean Marchetto summarized the concept for those residents unable to attend the October meeting on the topic.
He noted that the proposal was for a parking deck with 500 spaces to be housed in a four-level complex, with the fourth level set back so that it would look like a three-level building from the street.
The parking deck would be surrounded by 27 to 31 condominium (townhouse) units with entrances facing the street.
The architect then showed a three-dimensional view of the proposed complex from a home on Beechwood Place and indicated that trees would block the view of the complex from homes on Beechwood.
He also said a parapet on the rooftop of the parking garage would hide cars from the street below and from nearby residences, and a “screening” or “green wall” on the parking garage would screen the parking facility from Euclid Avenue.
A view he showed from the Bouras Building indicated only a small section of the top of the parking garage could be seen from the Bouras Building.
Marchetto noted the fourth floor of the parking facility would contain 137 parking spaces, and the ground floor of the garage, reserved for residences of the complex, would contain 62 spaces.
Yeager, presenting a number of “viewscapes” from six different locations approaching the proposed site and from four different homes on Euclid Avenue and Beechwood Road, noted that, with hedgerows and a “large expanse of evergreen” leading up to the proposed building, “there is not a lot you can see” of the structure.
Since Yeager’s presentation was available only in a hard-copy edition the night of the November meeting, he offered to make an electronic version available to the public later.
Yeager then reviewed a traffic and pedestrian study, done at the site between 7:15 and 8:15 a.m. on a weekday morning in the middle of October.
He noted the study showed pedestrian traffic at the intersections surrounding the proposed zoning change included adult commuters and dog walkers, adults accompanying children, and unaccompanied elementary and middle school students.
The conclusion of the study, he said, was there would be “minimal” pedestrian-vehicle conflicts during the “peak hours” in the area around the proposed site.
City traffic consultant John Jahr of Maser Associates said there would be 593 total parking spaces in the proposed garage. He said he focused his study on movements of tenants of the proposed townhouses and to and from spaces in the parking area that would be available for use by the city for municipal parking.
Jahr added his study did not focus on movements to and from the parking area from Bouras Building employees parking in the proposed garage because those vehicles would be in the area whether or not the new garage was constructed.
He said his trip-generation calculations were done utilizing the New Jersey Department of Transportation standard of 100 maximum trips.
However, the traffic expert said many of his calculations would be made more precise if he reviewed an actual development proposal if one was presented later.
Jahr said the 27 proposed residences would generate about 18 more trips in the morning than currently generated in the area and 27 more trips in the evening.
He also assumed that the 114 spaces to be set aside for municipal parking in the new complex would be occupied.
Although the consultant indicated that the overall increase in traffic in the immediate vicinity of the proposed complex would create the need for more efficient use of the roadways surrounding the complex, absent a more specific development proposal, he could not determine which, if any, improvements on the roadways were needed.
Based solely on the number of vehicles occupying the spaces allocated to municipal parking, he added, the number of trips would not exceed the DOT maximum of 100.
In order to calm traffic in the area, however, Jahr said he would like to see the City install “bump outs” at corners and bicycle lanes, as it has in other areas of the central business district.
The consultant said a proposed access road to handle employees going from the Bouras Building to the new parking garage was a good idea.
He also said the City needed to plan access to the municipally-owned spaces along with its planning for other City lots already in the central business district. He said current City-owned lots in the area are almost completely occupied.
Yeager said it was the intention of the developers that the municipally-operated spaces in the new facility be completely occupied by employees from businesses in the central business district.
In his presentation, Mendelsohn said he believed the proposal was not consistent with the Summit Master Plan because it created overdevelopment, went against the master plan call for maintaining natural boundaries -- and existing buffer areas -- in the area of Gateway I, and was contrary to a desire in the master plan to “down zone” in several areas adjacent to the “B” business zone adjacent to the Gateway I area.
He noted the proposed four-story, 30-townhouse structure was inconsistent with multi-family structures in the ares -- most of which were three stories and Victorian style, not designed to look like multi-family structures.
Mendelsohn added that the existing parking at 25 DeForest Avenue (the Bouras Building) was like “open space” and the vehicles in it were hard to see from Maple Street or Euclid Avenue.
He added that:
- The master plan had created a specialized zone in Gateway I to “preserve the historic streetscape.”
- The proposed “green wall” on the parking structure would not sufficiently screen it from public view.
- The existing “B” zone was more consistent with the appearance of the area as it currently exists to ensure a more efficient transition to surrounding residential areas.
The resident expert also noted that, while the Gateway I Zone had no limit on building coverage, with an effective maximum of 80 percent coverage less “hard surface” coverage, the “B” zone would allow only 30 percent of a lot to be covered by buildings.
He also said the proposal would add to deteriorating local traffic conditions, including the fact that traffic congestion would be increased because traffic entering and leaving the site would encounter either stop signs or traffic signals at almost every surrounding intersection.
Mendelsohn also noted that the location of the complex was inconsistent with the Master Plan in that it would not complement and support the central retail business district, adding that Maple Street and Euclid Avenues were not meant to be major gateway streets into Summit.
He added the proposal would not solve the city’s parking problems and noted that the Summit Parking Advisory Committee already had rejected a parking deck at the K-Lot, which is adjacent to the Bouras Building, because of it was inconsistent with the area due to its slope and location.
Responding to a question from Wagenbach, the resident representative said, although he understood the need for more parking to accommodate additional business tenants at 25 DeForest Avenue, it was extremely difficult to include a parking deck with 300 to 500 spaces in what was essentially a residential neighborhood.
Another resident, former councilman and former planning board member John Maher, cautioned the planning board to carefully review the proposal and formulate its own suggestions for an ordinance, because, if the governing body was asked to develop an ordinance, “Bart Sheehan will develop that ordinance.”
He added the purpose of zoning was that it be done consistent with proper planning, and urged the board to take its time on review and to make its decision consistent with the Master Plan when it considers revision of the master plan next year.
Real estate broker Robert Steelman reminded the planning body that the Master Plan must strike a balance in zones with adjacent neighborhoods, expansion of the Gateway I Zone should not result in structures with bulk area greater than that in the surrounding area, and most parking spaces in Summit are not the same nine-foot width as that in the proposed parking structure.
He added, “the proposal wrecks the planned development concept.”
Resident Catherine McTernan called the proposal “spot zoning,” adding that there already were 12 resident complexes in the surrounding area and an additional one would add to the already over-taxed traffic congestion.
She also said the projected two-year construction timeline for the complex would force cars to park along Euclid Avenue in front of homes.
Mike Gumport of 104 Bellevue Avenue said the Board currently had no clear understanding of what the developer wanted, and the increase from 290 to 590 spaces was “a gift to the developer.”
He added it was not worth detracting from the neighborhood to bring in an additional 114 municipal parking spaces.
Resident Kevin McGosky said he moved from Hoboken to get away from the type of development already at 25 Parmley Place, and did not want to see Summit become another Morristown.
Board attorney Clifford Gibbons said a proposal would only be “spot zoning” if it was clearly proven that the entire proposal was geared only at benefiting a single property.