By Jaimie Julia Winters
The planning board has made its recommendations for the redevelopment of a Church Street parking lot to allow for six stories of housing, of which 20 percent will be be affordable.
The council amended the Hahne’s Redevelopment Plan in November to allow for housing on the former Hahne’s parking lot site at 59 Church St., across from the Siena condominiums. A redevelopment plan for a Church Street parking lot has been in the works since 2003.
As part of the plan, a 74-unit housing development is now proposed for the lot. The Hahne’s store closed in 1989, and was replaced by the Siena in 2007.
The site, currently a privately-run, 106-space parking lot, is not zoned for housing.
Township zoning would allow for 65 units in the 151-by-240 foot, three-quarter-acre lot.
In a Dec. 21 memo, the planning board is allowing for six stories instead of five to increase front and side yards to 15 feet.
“Because of the recommended 20-floor setback on all sides on the fifth floor, the sixth floor should not be visibly discernible from the street level,” according to the planning board’s memo.
The planning board also recommends that the affordable portion of 10 percent be increased to 20 percent “in response to the increase in density, the 20 percent inclusionary zoning ordinance, and the recent 2018 recommendation of the council to 20 percent goal.”
In addition to meeting parking requirements for tenants, the developer will provide 20 municipal parking spaces on site and will pay the town $175,000 to improve parking conditions at existing public lots. Two electric car charging stations will be available on site.
The building will be built to LEED silver standards.
The board concurred at its Dec. 17 meeting that the plans were consistent with the town’s current master plan.
Since 2003, developers’ plans included a hotel and an assisted living facility on the property.
It also has been the subject of at least two court cases.
For about two decades, Montclair had an agreement with then-owner Herod Church Street Holding — a consortium owned by developers Brian Stolar, Alan Litt and Steven Plofker — to run the parking facility for public parking use. But in 2009, the holding company took the lot back to run it privately.
Montclair sued, but ultimately lost, according to court records. For the sake of competition, the developers agreed not to charge less than the neighboring Crescent municipal lot.
In 2012, Herod Church Street Holding sold the property for $2.8 million to Montclair Kensington Urban Renewal out of Virginia, according to tax records. Kensington had planned to build an 88-bed, six-story assisted living facility on the lot.
Developer Richard Grabowsky, who owns commercial properties in the area, then sued the town, the planning board and the developers, contending an assisted-living facility didn’t conform with the site’s “in need of redevelopment” designation. In 2016, a Superior Court ruled the council’s ordinance expanding the use was invalid, according to court records.
According to tax records, Kensington still owns the property.
Town planner Janice Talley said the planning department has not received the plans. In its memo, the planning board recommended that the amended agreement should include a timeframe for application submission and completion of the project.
The developer has not been named.