By LINDA MOSS
To avoid litigation, a developer has amended his plan for the former Warner Communications facility on Lorraine Avenue, and is now looking to create an addition that will make the property look like three buildings. But some neighboring residents aren’t happy with the settlement.
The Township Planning Board next Monday is scheduled to consider the revised application filed by Michael Pavel for 237-249 Lorraine Ave., according to the developer’s new attorney, Charles Lorber.
Pavel threatened to sue the board after, in a 5-4 vote, in March it turned down his application to increase the amount of office space at his planned renovation of the Warner building. He intends to convert the property to office and retail space.
After getting approval for 5,300 square feet of office space on the building’s second floor, Pavel came back to the planning board to increase that to 8,765 square feet. In the end, a 37-foot rear addition would have been added to the building, drawing complaints from several board members, neighboring residents and the Township Historic Preservation Commission.
Critics claimed that the expansion would be too bulky, and that the enlarged building wouldn’t fit in with the historic design of that part of the Historic Upper Montclair Business District on Valley Road, with its Tudor facades and older buildings. Residents also raised concerns about traffic congestion.
At its May 22 meeting, the board’s agenda originally included a resolution that formalized its denial of Pavel’s amended site plan. But Board Attorney Arthur Neiss at the last minute took it off the table, saying that he was trying to negotiate a settlement with Pavel to avoid a lawsuit.
Surprised and angry, the nearly two dozen residents who attended that meeting, including Jennifer Haughton, complained about the resolution being pulled and the settlement talks. Now Haughton is asking residents to attend next week’s board meeting to protest the settlement.
The latest revision that Pavel filed is for 8,733 square feet, with no variances requested, Lorber said.
At prior planning board proceedings, Pavel was represented by attorney E. Neal Zimmermann, but he has now retained Lorber to handle his application. In a lawsuit, Pavel would have argued that his application was wrongfully turned down by the board, since he didn’t even need any variances for it.
Pavel’s architect and the planning board’s architectural consultant, Barton Ross, met several times to discuss ways for the Lorraine Avenue plan to be changed to address some of the residents’ concerns, Lorber said.