WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield Board of Adjustments held its fifth hearing on Country Classics’ application of a proposed multi-family, 55+ age-restricted townhouse project on East Broad Street on Tuesday evening as the applicant presented its final two key witnesses, which included a community planning consultant and a traffic expert. The cross-examination and testimonies lasted more than three hours during a meeting that was at times contentious between the both sides.
The applicant is seeking 11 variances from the board of adjustment and approval to construct six new townhouses at 1481 East Broad St. where one of Westfield's oldest houses, known as the Pierson-Clark home or the Daniel Pierson home, currently stands.
The first witness introduced Jay Troutman, principal of McDonough & Rea Associates, Inc., who has been a Westfield resident for nearly a quarter-century. Troutman, retained by the applicant as a traffic expert, testified on the potential travel impact of residents and motorists nearby. He was cross-examined by John Schmidt, an attorney representing the applicant, before addressing the concerns of local residents.
During his testimony, Troutman, who has been studying traffic patterns in the proposed site since the fall of 2016, cited that traffic was typically much heavier on weekday mornings – particularly between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. – than any other point of the week, but he did not feel the addition of six townhouse homeowners would substantially add to the traffic flow due to residents. He estimated that one might see one car on the road from the complex every 20 minutes, on average, which he says is on par with the New Jersey traffic generation studies examining townhouses in suburban areas.
“The rate of traffic generation on age-restricted units is much lower because you don’t have as many people living in the same household,” Troutman explained. “The activities involved with school-aged children have an impact on the traffic flow [during rush hours] and the townhouse residents won’t have children living in the residence. This proposed use is a fairly low traffic generator.”
However, several of the local residents expressed their disagreement with the statement and argued that the averages may not necessarily apply to this proposed townhouse.
Troutman expanded on the safety factors of the proposed two-way driveway, which has already been approved by Union County. He contrasted it to the potential negative impact of private driveways of single family homes, which may require motorists to back out onto Broad Street, should the property decide to incorporate this feature on the property.
The next and final witness the applicant brought forward was Peter Steck, a community planning consultant, who was present at all of the preceding hearings. He identified a bevy of reasons for the board to pass the townhouse application. Steck explained that there was a need for age-restricted townhouses in Westfield, echoing the sentiments of a previous testimony by Frank Isoldi, a local real estate broker, who said in March that he had a number of clients in the 55-plus age demographic seeking multi-family homes in town.
Steck added that the property, which is nearly one-acre in size, is in a “somewhat frustrated location.” In his opinion, he thought it was a good opportunity to leverage a previously under-utilized space in town to fill a need for an age demographic in the community.
“Were this not a proposal for an age-restricted townhouse, I’m not sure I would be here this evening,” suggested Steck, who has more than four decades of experience in community planning. “I think this is a well-designed project.”
Richard Schkolnick, an attorney at Brown Moskowitz & Kallen representing the Robinson family on Carol Road, argued that a preceding unsuccessful townhouse application across the street from the proposed location nearly a decade ago should provide the board with enough reason to deny the application. He cited the Medici case, a municipal land use law that outlines same use variances should mirror previous decisions the board made on similar proposals on the town's Master Plan. Steck argued that the previous townhouse proposal was on a corner lot and had different factors that impacted the decision.
Proceedings will be carried onto the next meeting, at which point Schkolnick will cross-examine his own witness, a township planner. A date has not been set for that yet, but a late June meeting was considered. Following the hearing of the final witness, the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposal before the board makes its final decision on the application.