WESTFIELD, NJ – Three older homes are to be replaced with three new structures containing a total of 10 units on Ross Place, and the developer has agreed to pay into a municipal fund in support of housing for people with low incomes in lieu of providing affordable units within his development.

Developer Peter Francis, who lives on the street, obtained the Planning Board's approval Monday. Francis’ experts testified in support of the application tailored to meet the requirements of regulations the Town Council approved last year to satisfy its state obligation for affordable housing in keeping with a 2017 court settlement with Fair Share Housing Center.

The legal history, however, didn't stop the Planning Board from closely examining the plans. “We’re going through it with a fine tooth comb,” said Planning Board Chairman Robert Newell at the meeting. “Our responsibility is to mitigate any negative impact on the neighborhood.”

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Board members questioned the developer’s experts on plans for outdoor lighting, trees slated to be removed and the outward appearance of the homes set to replace existing residences on the soon-to-be-merged lots at 203, 209 and 215 Ross Place.

The three new buildings will replace existing 100-year-old homes built in the Victorian style, Roger C. Winkle, the architect on the project, said. Two of new structures will contain four units, called “quadruplexes,” and the third will be a two-family home, Winkle said.

What does a quadruplex look like? “They’re similar but they’re attached in the center,” said Winkle, who also told the board the homes are designed to fit in with the neighborhood.

“The zone asked at the buildings be designed to look like single-family homes,” he said. “So all of these units have a single-family entrance. If you’re walking into the buildings, you’re walking up a flight of stairs.”

Siding will consist of “hardy plank stone” and some brick, Winkle said. “The shutters will probably be a vinyl material,” he said. “Unless we get to the review and that is objectionable.”

Officials confirmed the developer will pay into a municipal fund to provide for affordable housing in Westfield, something detailed in the municipality's housing plan.

“The development will provide a payment of $111,000 into the town’s affordable housing trust fund in lieu of constructing affordable housing units at this site,” Westfield's Housing Element and Fair Share Plan says.

Following discussion with the board, Francis also agreed to the possibility of extending a porch by 2 feet. Under the board’s approval, the developer would also reduce the lighting in a parking area from that which it initially planned.

The board approved the plans by a unanimous vote with the stipulation that the town’s tree preservation commission approves the plans for vegetation.

Francis agreed to the board’s preference for keeping the slate sidewalk and repairing pieces of it instead of replacing the entire sidewalk with concrete.

“We’d like to save the bluestone sidewalks,” Newell told the developer. “Looking at the sidewalks, at least online, the majority of them look to be in very good condition.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

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