Fairfield Planning Board Approves Three Ordinances for Second Reading by Council

Matthew Cheski of Horseneck Road asks the Fairfield Township Planning Board for a minor subdivision. Credits: Gail Bottone

FAIRFIELD, NJ — The Fairfield Township Planning Board approved three ordinances at its meeting on Tuesday that were previously introduced at the Jan. 23 mayor and council meeting.

Planning Board Chairman William Galese said the ordinances are in compliance with the township’s master plan, which he said allows the ordinances to go back to the mayor and council for a second reading, a public hearing and a final adoption.

If approved, the first ordinance would establish an overlay zone on land at the westerly side of Fairfield Road between Horseneck Road and Kulick Road within the Route 46 special highway district. Recently, such an overlay zone was approved for the easterly side of the road. 

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The ordinance explains that because the demographic character of Fairfield is changing due to the fact that the township’s population is aging, while at the same time younger people are looking for places to live that are more pedestrian friendly, the township is looking to form a centralized business district that will have a “variety of retail and service commercial uses which reinforce a strong sense of place.”

The idea is that young adults may reside in attached residential developments as one stage in the home-buying cycle. The ordinance will allow ground-level retail with residential development above.

The ordinance also explains that the township has “experienced a significant increase in loss of ratables that has had an impact on the local budgetary process which requires that the township consider a planning response to address the adaptive reuse of underutilized properties.”

The plans of this ordinance will not adversely impact residential districts and established businesses, according to the panning board. If passed on Monday, March 13, this ordinance will amend an overlay zone to allow for mixed use.

The second ordinance discussed deals with how the township will measure building heights. Previously, the height was determined relative to street curbing in front of the lot, but now other measurements will be taken into account and placed in a formula to regulate heights.

The new ordinance will measure building height relative to a building’s relationship to the area immediately surrounding the building. The 35-foot height requirement remains the same. The second reading of this ordinance will be on Monday, Feb. 27.

During the meeting, there was also much discussion on allowing builders to bring in four feet of fill in order to level the land in areas that are below the curb line and not in a flood zone. The allowing of fill for these homes was deemed reasonable, but the board also contemplated whether the township should allow the bringing in of fill for the houses above the curb line.

Joseph Catenaro, township business administrator, had been advised that there could only be one ordinance, and it could not distinguish between the height of the house above or below curb lines.

It was decided that these issues will be further considered, but since the ordinance as written does deal directly with these issues, the ordinance was approved for its second reading on Monday, Feb. 27.

It was stated that if in the meantime a property that is lower than the curb line needs fill, a variance may be sought. It was stressed that this fill is only going to be allowed in areas that are not in the flood plain. All buildings will be on lots with no less than two acres.

The third ordinance deals with two zoning overlays: one from the Gallo Complex on Fairfield Road to Passaic Avenue and one on the other side of Fairfield Road from the gas station to Passaic Avenue.

Those properties will allow mixed use while Fairfield Court will have an overlay that will allow multifamily housing. All properties rezoned at the meeting will be required a minimum of two acres to be developed. The second reading of this ordinance will be Monday, March 13.

In other news, Matthew Cheski and Francine Guerriero, residents of Horseneck Road, spoke at the meeting about the minor subdivision they were seeking. They said the subdivision affects Francine Guerriero and Donadio Holdings at 284 Horseneck Road.

Guerriero said she hopes to buy a section of the back property of 284 Horseneck Road to connect her backyard to the dead-end street of Tuscany Terrace. Guerriero wants to buy the property to put in a path leading to Tuscany Terrace, which will allow her children to walk to a safe place to play, since Horseneck Road is a busy street.

Guerriero has cut some trees in her back yard and has done some landscaping. She said the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has come to check that nothing illegal was done. No summons was issued and the DEP made some recommendations that were honored, she said.

The work that was done on Guerriero’s property was not in legal wetlands, and the township does not require a permit to cut down trees. However, residents on Tuscany Court are upset about the change to their environment.

Connie LaMonica and Louise DeMichele, homeowners on Tuscany Terrace, said that when they bought their property on a dead-end street, they were told that the land next to them could never be touched, since it was considered wetlands.

It turns out that some of the property near Tuscany Terrace is in a transition area, which is a buffer zone to the wetlands. Therefore, the property in discussion is not technically in the wetlands.

The planning board issued the minor subdivision with a stipulation that nothing can be built on the property. 

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