By Jaimie Julia Winters
The former Hahne’s parking lot redevelopment was sent back to the planning board for review, with board members continuing their commitment that 20 percent of the units be set aside as affordable.
Although in May of last year the township council approved a 20 percent affordable housing quota within any new Montclair development, the council is recommending 10 percent for the Church Street development. The council will have the final approval on the development that could include up to 74 units of housing.
“This is the first time we [have an application] since the council committed to the 20 percent affordable housing and it’s negotiated back down to 10 percent,” said board member Carmel Loughman. “Why do we always negotiate the affordable housing?”
As part of the plan, a 74-unit housing development is now proposed for the lot that was once dedicated for parking at the nearby, now-closed Hahne’s department store. The Hahne’s store closed in 1989, and was replaced by the Siena apartments in 2007. In recent years, the 106-spot lot on Church Street, which is surrounded by two churches and the Board of Education office, has been used as a private parking lot and was not zoned for housing.
The council amended the Hahne’s Redevelopment Plan in November to allow for housing on the lot site at 59 Church St. A redevelopment plan for a Church Street parking lot has been in the works since 2003.
Township zoning allows for 90 units per acre. The Hahne’s lot is roughly three quarters of an acre, and would allow for 65 units without a variance.
In January, Smith Maran consultants gave their recommendations for the plan, and the planning board answered on Feb. 25.
The planning board is also recommending that plans for 1,000-square foot community space be replaced by green space, which would be created with 15-to-20 foot setbacks. The council had requested the developer create a community space to be used by residents. Planning board members felt that the space was too small to be a “usable” space for community events and also felt that the development needed more green space to reflect area properties, which have set-backs and grassy areas. Members also felt that retail on the the first floor was not in line with the neighborhood.
“Take a look at the aerial view. You have the churches, the BOE and none of that is ever coming down,” board chairman John Wynn said regarding the amount of green space allotment with surrounding properties. He suggested enhancing and extending the green space rather than the commercial district.
The planning board recommended the elimination of a requirement for mixed-use, and instead leaned toward all-residential.
Although the board in January had recommended six stories to make up for the increase in setbacks, the board on Monday suggested a five-story limit.
In addition to meeting parking requirements for tenants, the developer will provide 20 municipal parking spaces on site and is expected pay the town $175,000 to improve parking conditions at existing public lots.
The development is in a historic district and is surrounded by historic-designated properties. The historic preservation commission is expected to review the plans and give its recommendations on Thursday, Feb. 28. Those recommendations will be forwarded to the council.
Plans for the property have included a hotel and an assisted living facility. According to tax records, Kensington, which had planned to build an 88-bed, six-story assisted living facility on the lot, still owns the property.
Prior owners Brian Stolar, Alan Litt and Steven Plofker run the current parking lot.