Significant Challenge To Bloomfield Avenue Project

By on February 15, 2013

Planner Peter Steck testifying before the Verona Board of Adjustment against the proposed development at 176-200 Bloomfield Avenue.

Planner Peter Steck testifying before the Verona Board of Adjustment against the proposed development at 176-200 Bloomfield Avenue.

Peter Steck may have driven a stake into the heart of the proposed mixed-use development at 176 and 200 Bloomfield Avenue.

Steck, a licensed planner from Maplewood, asserted in testimony to the Verona Board of Adjustment last night that DMH2 LLC miscalculated the gross square footage of the proposed development near Everett Field by not including the access corridor surrounding the first-floor retail space. Steck had been retained by Jack McEvoy and Jessica Pearson, who live on Montclair Avenue behind the project.

By Steck’s calculation, the gross square footage of the project is actually 9,221 and not 7,000 as had been presented by DMH2. At that higher square footage, the project would require far more parking spaces than planned by DMH2. Under Verona law, the number of parking spaces for retail businesses is dictated by the gross square footage of a building; there should also be two parking spaces per apartment for residents. Under existing laws, Steck asserted that the project should have 75 spaces, not the 63 now on the drawing board.

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The original site development plan.

The original site development plan.

Parking has already been a challenge for the project, which has been before the Board of Adjustment since last June. DMH2 put roughly half the 63 spaces it planned in front for customers of the retail tenants, and the rest up a sloping driveway in back for the residents of the 14 two-bedroom apartments. The loading dock for the retail businesses was shoehorned into the front parking lot, next to an L-shaped corridor that would allow businesses to bring in their goods, and let new residents move in their belongings. The long corridor was apparently not counted in the square footage originally presented.

The gross square footage and parking space assertion were among 19 challenges raised by Steck during his testimony, ranging from the location of dumpsters and mechanical equipment, to its lack of buffers and green space. “Where is something living here,” Steck asked during his testimony. “Where is the green space? There is nothing beneficial in terms of green space for the people who will be living here.”

Alan Trembulak, a lawyer for DMH2, countered Steck on several of his points, but seemed to have no ready answer for the discrepancy in the gross square footage calculation. And so the case will go on. “As a result of what I have been presented tonight it raises a multitude of other issues,” Trembulak said. “I think I need some additional time to digest this additional information.”

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If the Board of Adjustment agrees with Steck’s assertions, DMH2, which has sought five variances to build the project, could be compelled to seek additional variances. The developer might also have to submit amended plans.

All parties will be back before the board on March 14, 7:30 p.m.

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5 Comments

  1. Bobby

    February 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    So lets take a look at this, here we have a handfull of residents that this really effects influence many others on issues that are meaningless because no matter what is built thier will be blasting and the trees will be cleared. Lets also talk about the costs us as residents they are adding up. 3 police offices last night at overtime wages, town planners fee’ and town lawyer fees. These are just some of them. So last night they costs us over $10,000 in fees.

  2. Jack McEvoy

    February 20, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Do you think that closing Bloomfield Ave during blasting (4 1/2 to 5 Months) and Construction (Over 1 year) is only going to effect a “Handful of Residents”?
    Blasting will be done for that period of time with Brookdale Avenue school 1,200 to 1,500 ft. away and Everett field within 50 to 300 Ft. How many kids/residents will that effect?
    Meaningless issues? Do you think it is OK to blast to within 7ft of someone’s home-possibly closer? Creating a minimum drop off of not less than 30ft (higher than most Verona homes).
    Do you think an almost 100-year-old home and the residents that have lived in them for over 50 years will survive that? Blasting for not just a week, a month—it will be for “90 Working Days”–4 1/2 to 5 months.
    The costs? Who is going to pay for the Police Officers that will be posted on Bloomfield Avenue during the blasting and construction process? Possibly 2 years
    The handful of residents aren’t against building on this property we are simply against the overbuilding of the property. Blasting for a Home or a building is very different from blasting to remove the entire property.
    Is it too much to ask of a developer to not touch and preserve 1.25% of a 1.564-Acre parcel of land? Is there a reason why EVERY square inch of the property has to be Removed/Touched/Blasted?
    The 15′ Buffer is 8,520 Sq. Ft of a 68,127.84 Sq. Ft lot.
    1 1/4% IS THAT TOO MUCH ? Is that meaningless?

  3. Sue

    February 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    In response to ‘Bobby’s’ comment- if the township officials listened to our community’s strong position against this overdevelopment and blasting proposal … they would have stopped this from going on for 10 months. And, I agree with Jack’s reply- we are not a handful of residents – the entire West Essex community will be affected by Bloomfield ave (a county rd) that will be shut down and traffic detoured. The only thing ‘meaningless’ that I find about this horrific project are those who are doing nothing about helping our community. And, I praise the men and women who really are concerned and are taking the time to make a difference! You know who you are – come to the next meeting on March 14 @ 7:30 pm.

  4. Virginia Citrano

    February 24, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    The Board of Adjustment is a body appointed by the town to listen to the testimony associated with this process, which includes hearing both the developer’s witnesses and the views of those who live or operate businesses close to the proposed development. The testimony has been long, and at times tedious. But that is the legal process. The men and women of the Board of Adjustment are volunteering their time to do what they have been charged to do: Follow the legal process outlined for zoning appeals in Verona. That job is theirs, and not that of any other elected or appointed official in Verona. Whatever the Board of Adjustment’s ultimate decision on the DMH2 plan, we should be grateful that we have fellow citizens willing to put in so much effort.

  5. Sarah

    February 25, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Definitely correct, Virginia. Additionally, not one resident got up during the public portion to state a view in favor of the development or voice any concerns about wages and fees. Every single resident who spoke was against the development.

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