WESTFIELD, NJ – The Westfield Board of Adjustments held its fourth hearing on Country Classics’ application of a proposed multi-family, 55+ age-restricted townhouse project on East Broad Street on Wednesday evening as the applicant presented two key witnesses including the site engineer and architect.
Both witnesses testified on several key components of the proposed project and offered detailed insights on the plan in a cross examination conducted by John Schmidt, an attorney representing the applicant, which is seeking 11 variances from the board of adjustment and approval to construct six new townhouses at 1481 East Broad Street.
Site engineer Michael Ford, who was retained by the applicant for this project outlined a variety of planned improvements on the near one-acre property. Among the key items highlighted included the grading of the property, main access driveway, public water, irrigation water service plan, and a drainage system with storm sewers designed to "control the 100-year storm."
“There is drainage improvements proposed as part of the central access driveway that connect to the existing storm drainage catch base into East Broad,” suggested Ford. “There are also roof leader connections proposed that would take all of the downspouts of the structures into underground storm water management systems in front of both buildings connecting to the same improvements at East Broad.”
The access driveway, described as a 24-foot wide, two-way street that runs between the two proposed three-unit buildings was designed to accommodate delivery and emergency vehicles with a turn-around space at the end of the driveway, according to Ford. The plan calls for 26 parking spaces, well above the minimum 15-space requirement with the option of cutting down on a couple spots to accommodate space, if necessary.
Several residents expressed concerns over the proposed driveway including the utility vehicles that were expected to service the road. Others had concerns about how holidays would impact parking situations on nearby roads in the event of an overflow situation.
Since the entranceway to the property has hidden features, the plan is to install a sidewalk along East Broad Street beyond the property line to increase visibility. Additionally, the applicant is proposing a retaining wall at the property line bordering the Church of Echo Christ. Since East Broad Street is a county road, that decision is under the jurisdiction of Union County, which had previously approved the applicant’s proposed request at an earlier meeting.
Richard Schkolnick, an attorney at Brown Moskowitz & Kallen representing Floren Robinson, a resident on Carol Road questioned Ford on several factors of the property regarding the variances requested, but many of the questions on the design were deflected to the architect.
Scott Nehring of Holliday Architects, who has nearly 25 years of experience in the field walked the board through the design process while be cross-examined by Schmidt.
He suggested that due to the grading on the front of the property, that the proposed buildings would have a three and a half story feel because the garage and basement will be exposed at the highest point on the property. Meanwhile, he argued that the rear of the building, which will be hidden from view on East Broad Street, will have more of a two story feel.
The proposed three-unit buildings, which will be identical in size, exceed a number of existing ordinances including maximum floor area ratio, maximum building height, maximum building stories, maximum building coverage and maximum coverage by improvements.
The size of the buildings, however, remained to be one of the primary concerns for neighboring residents. Several residents inquired if there was a way to reduce the maximum height of the building by eliminating the attic, a space that was cited as unusable. However, the response was that the attic was an integral part of the roofing system and was necessary to accommodate the elevator in each unit.
Following Schmidt’s cross-examination of Nehring, Schkolnick asked if there had been any effort over the last two months to reduce the building size to come closer to ordinance mandates while honing in specifically on maximum floor area ratio and maximum buiding height. The proposed maximum floor area ratio is 36.9% and the maximum allowed in the ordinance is 20%. Meanwhile, the maximum building height per ordinance is 32.75 feet and the proposed building height is 35.75 feet.
“When we went to the age-restricted models, we did increase the size to accommodate for the access of elevators,” said Nehring. “The developer made the request for us to design a unit (to meet their parameters) and that’s what we did.”
At a previous hearing, there was cited to be a demand in age-restricted town houses in the Westfield area, which stimulated the applicant to opt for the proposal on this model.
The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 30. At that meeting, the applicant will bring one of its final key witnesses, their traffic expert who will discuss how the proposed project will impact traffic patterns.
To read our story on the previous meeting, click here.