Developer LCOR Inc. on Monday received conditional approval from the Township Planning Board to revamp the facade of the Orange Road Parking Deck. The top rendering shows the desk as it is, the bottom shows the update. LINDA MOSS/STAFF


Township planners heard an alternate plan for the proposed subdivision of the Lewis Estates property on Monday, and also gave conditional approval for a developer to renovate the façade of the Orange Road Parking Deck, in part to accommodate a so-called slip-and-slide valet system that will automate some parking at the facility.

At its meeting the Township Planning Board heard testimony regarding an application from BNE Real Estate Group of Livingston seeking setback variances to create eight lots and build eight homes at 44 Pleasant Ave.

That plot of land, just over 2.5 acres, is the site of the 1906-vintage house of Aubrey Lewis, a prominent African-American resident who died in 2001. As it stands now, the estate house would be razed as part of the developer’s plan.

At a planning board hearing in late February a witness for BNE Real Estate, engineer Michael Lanzafama, testified that the subdivision would require a variance for a 25-foot setback, less than half of the required 53.2-foot minimum, from Pleasant Avenue for two of the property’s proposed homes.

On Monday, attorney Richard Schkolnick, who represents the developer, said that after hearing feedback from the planning board and neighbors of the Lewis property, his client had devised a possible alternate for the subdivision.

The overall development plan calls for four houses to be constructed on each side of a new road that would be built, Lewis Court, ending in a cul-de-sac.

In the alternate plan, the size of some of the cul-de-sac houses would be reduced, making room for one of the corner lots on Pleasant Avenue to have the required 53.2-foot setback and for the second corner lot to only require a 40-foot setback, so it would only need a variance for 13.2 feet, said Lanzafama, who also was at Monday’s hraring.

“We think this is an excellent compromise that goes significantly towards meeting the 53.2-foot average setback while also providing the owner and my client with the eight-lot subdivision that he seeks,” Schkolnick said.

In the alternate plan, the developer is also seeking approval to have front-facing garages in the four houses that surround the cul-de-sac.

During the hearing Schkolnick told the board that if any designated community group wanted to move and preserve the Lewis residence, BNE Real Estate would contribute the demolition costs that it would have would incurred to raze the building, to go toward the cost of relocating the building.

The board wants more details on the alternate Lewis plan, and it continued the hearing until its April 24 meeting.

Orange Road deck gets go-ahead

In the second matter on its agenda, the planning board offered conditional approval to developer LCOR Inc. of Manhattan to amend its site plan and  renovation of the façade of the 575-vehicle Orange Road deck, which is part of a redevelopment zone.

The revamp in part will make physical room for an automated parking-garage system that is being installed at the deck to accommodate guests at the MC Hotel, which will be built at the corner of Orange and Valley roads.

That system will handle parking for 116 hotel guests, who would enter the deck on the first floor, get a ticket and then have their vehicles lifted and moved vertically and horizontally to parking spaces upstairs. When they wanted to pick up their car, they would surrender their ticket and the automated system would bring their vehicle back down to them.

Such automated systems are prevalent in Europe, but are increasingly being incorporated into U.S. developments because they maximize use of space dedicated to parking, creating garages with greater capacities for vehicles than traditional structures. That’s because in many cases such robotic systems don’t require elevators for patrons to retrieve their vehicles, or ramps for drivers to get to a parking space, and they allow cars to be parked closer together.

“It’s an expensive system, but the [overall] cost of the structure is reduced,” said architect Jerry Simon, a LCOR witness.

The redesign of the deck’s façade is meant to make the structure complement Montclair’s architecture, unlike its current appearance, which is just a precast concrete structure, according to Simon.

“The original building looked like it belonged on Route 46, which was completely antithetical to the plan, which calls for buildings to be harmoniously integrated with the downtown,” board member Martin Schwartz said. “That’s a requirement in the redevelopment plan.”

The new façade incorporates brick, has panels at its top that will match the top of the new hotel, as well as laser-cut or water-jet-cut filigree panels as embellishments, according to Simon.

Local artist Phoebe Pollinger is presiding over a contest, with a June 1 deadline, for area artists to submit designs that will be incorporated into part of the facade.

Board Chair John Wynn and resident Frank Rubacky got into a lively exchange over LCOR’s application. Rubacky opposed LCOR getting easements so it can install and maintain its automated parking system, and didn’t like the façade’s redesign.

“It’s a better-looking building … we’ve made some trade-offs here,” Wynn told Rubacky.

The board approved the application on the condition that LCOR address certain recommendations that the township’s architectural redevelopment consultant Erik Maran, has made, for the façade, and that the Township Historic Preservation Commission be given samples of the materials that will be used on the façade.