SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — After hearing nearly four hours of testimony, the Scotch Plains Planning Board on Monday evening unanimously approved a plan submitted by Bowcraft and ATA Developers giving them the go-ahead to redevelop the amusement park into a complex of 200 apartments and townhouses.
The 13-acre complex, located on Route 22 West in Scotch Plains, will consist of 190 apartments, 10 townhomes, a communal clubhouse, a pool and play area for children. The board and the developers agreed that 41 affordable units will be part of the development. These housing units will count toward the township's yet-to-be-determined number of Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) units mandated by New Jersey courts.
COAH is responsible for ensuring that municipalities in the state provide their fair share of affordable housing. The agency was created by the New Jersey Legislature following a series of State Supreme Court rulings known as the "Mount Laurel Decisions" that require municipalities to provide for the development of housing that low and moderate income individuals and families can afford. Comprised of 12 members appointed by the governor, COAH estimates needs for low/moderate income housing and then allocates "fair share" numbers for each of the state's 566 municipalities.
Bowcraft/ATA brought in heavy hitters to support their case, including Daniel S. Bernstein, a Scotch Plains-based attorney who specializes in land use, zoning, and real estate law, and licensed professional planner Art Bernard, the former executive director of COAH.
Bernard gave insights into affordable housing requirements in New Jersey and estimated that the housing project would accommodate 454 residents, including 51 additional school-age children who would likely enter the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district.
Lisa DiGerolamo a vice president at the civil engineering firm Paulus, Sokolowski and Sartor (PS&S), described how water run-off will be handled, as well as other aspects of the project.
Gary Dean, consulting traffic engineer, reported that the peak hours for traffic in and out of the development will be 7:45 - 8:45 a.m. and 4:45 - 5:45 p.m. He explained that the current five driveways will be replaced by one long driveway that will act almost as an access road, which would help eliminate the potential for congestion.
Architect Stewart Johnson reviewed the design elements of the buildings.
Later in the meeting, Bernard called on the board to vote affirmatively, saying that the project provides "very tangible benefits, affordable housing units that address its [Scotch Plains'] obligation" while reducing the five curb cuts on Route 22 and providing for fish and plant habitats within the entire proposal.
The planning board voters were comprised of Theresa Flood (Chair), John Thompson (Vice Chair), Joseph Doyle, James Checchio, Paulette Coronato, Councilman John Del Sordi, Mayor Kevin Glover, and Building and Zoning Official Bob LaCosta. Each praised the redevelopment plan.
"This is a good, clean plan. The experts did a fine job. I have no objections with the conditions discussed," Doyle said.
Paulette Coronato, who was on the planning board in 1987 shortly before the Bowcraft property was zoned ML1, said that "this plan is better than what I imagined 29 years ago. I think it is fantastic."
Mayor Kevin Glover added, "This plan provides quality rentals. It is well thought out and community sensitive. This will be a welcome addition, given the alternatives. We didn't need another gas station or convenience store."
Bob LaCosta supported the application the application, but the life-long Scotch Plains resident lamented that having gone to Bowcraft as a boy, as a father and as a grandfather, he will miss the amusement park.
Following comments from all the board members, Chair Theresa Floor asked for a motion to approve, which was granted unanimously.