WESTFIELD, NJ — The owner of a Central Avenue office building slated for expansion has agreed to boost the availability of parking for his site by entering into an agreement to share spaces with a nearby property owner.

The planning board on Monday approved Alfa Realty Management LLC’s application to add 6,337 square feet of space to the rear of a building at 414 Central Avenue, accommodating four new two-bedroom apartments on top of existing office space.

The plan calls for 11 parking spots on the site where the town’s regulations would require 33. Responding to concerns from both the board and residents who spoke at the virtual meeting, representatives for Alfa Realty Management LLC, however, agreed to provide eight more parking spaces nearby through a shared parking agreement with a nearby property owner.

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Steven Hehl, attorney for the applicant, said the parking Alfa Realty is providing would be more than is typically provided around “transit-oriented development,” which is housing built in near to public transportation to encourage walkability.

“It’s a great improvement to this building,” Hehl said. “And I think it should be welcome to the area.”

Architect Thomas DiGiorgio said his client will add one story to the existing 3.5 story building, have parking on the ground floor, underneath the building with an entrance through a stairway at the center of the structure.

What about the parking?

Paul Grygiel, the applicant’s planner, said the building is within walking distance of a train station and two bus lines and indicated a trend toward development oriented around public transit.

“Westfield has been moving in the direction of reducing the dependence of the uses of automobiles in the last few years,” Grygiel said.

He also pointed to some street parking on Central Avenue. “This is a reasonable approach to deal with development and a reasonable number of parking spaces for this site in this location,” Grygiel said.

Alan Gibbenmeyer, a resident of nearby Carleton Road, disagreed.

“I really don’t believe that people around here are giving up cars,” said Gibbenmeyer, who was among several neighbors to oppose the application. “I don’t see it. If you look at the elementary schools — there are six in town — parents are still [driving] their kids to school.”

He added that with COVID-19, people are less likely to want to use public transit.

With the applicant having agreed to provide additional parking off the site, the board approved the application unanimously.

“The purpose, the residential, the commercial, the mixed use, the transit-oriented development is all appropriate,” said Board Chairman Robert Newell.

Mayor Shelley Brindle recused herself from proceedings on the application.

“I appointed the applicant to the Zoning Board and I didn’t want any appearance of impropriety,” Brindle said in an email.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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