An application to demolish this gas station and build 46 units of housing and first floor retail space will be referred to the council after the planning board claimed it is zoned for a maximum of 18 units.
COURTESY GOOGLE

By Jaimie Julia Winters
winters@montclairlocal.news

The Planning Board’s hearing for a 46-unit, four-story apartment and retail building proposed for Orange Road by developer Brian Stolar was halted before it even got started Monday night, March 11, due to a technical glitch.

A dispute over the interpretation of language in the Montclair Center Gateway redevelopment plan resulted in the board adjourning Stolar’s first hearing for a mixed-use building at 33-37 Orange Road called the “MC Residences,” currently home to Ferrara’s Autobody and service station.

The two Orange Road lots, measuring a total of 0.644 acres, are located in between the MC Hotel and the Orange Road parking garage. They are listed as owned by Ferrara’s Realty LLC. The area, which backs up into the Valley and Bloom development, is in an area deemed in need of rehabilitation.

The application was filed by HP 37 Orange Road Montclair LLC by attorney Tom Trautner.

A rendering of the MC Residences proposed to go between the hotel and parking garage on Orange Road.
COURTESY PLANNING DEPARTMENT

Stolar of Pinnacle Cos., along with LCOR, built the Valley and Bloom mixed-use project, which includes the redevelopment of the Orange Road Garage, and together with Hampshire Cos. is now completing the MC Marriott Autograph Hotel, all of which are neighboring the auto body site.

Under a section titled “Multi-family residential, office and mixed-use buildings on Orange Road” the redevelopment plan sets the maximum density at 18 units per acre for multi-family homes. But planner Janice Talley said the sentence that follows the header was not edited correctly. It states: “The following requirements [18 units per an acre section] apply to new multi-family residential buildings with no commercial component.”

Trautner argued that since the development includes commercial/ retail, the density provision did not apply to the application. He claimed that the redevelopment plan calls for a maximum of 72 units per an acre.

Board member Martin Schwartz said that the language should read “for all residential units,” referring to a March 5 memo on the development where Talley pointed out the error.

“The applicant is using an administrative error to get more units into this building,” said Schwartz.

“Unfortunately the sentence that followed that heading was never properly edited,” Talley said. “The section ‘no commercial development’ should have come out because we added mixed-use as a permitted use.”

Board member Keith Brodock added that in his recollection the intention was a maximum of 18 units per acre for this particular parcel.

Planning board attorney Dennis Galvin told the board that they were not permitted to hear applications with increases in density, as density variances fall under the purview of the zoning board of adjustment.

As the language will require interpretation, Galvin suggested the applicant go before council first.

“I think the smarter thing for the applicant would be to seek relief from the governing body,” he said. “The governing body has the right to do whatever they please. They just have to state why they are deviating from [the planning board’s] sound judgement.”

After a brief recess with his client, Trautner told the board that the council had a chance to change the language in the redevelopment plan in September after the application was filed, but choose not to.

“The council withdrew [the ordinance] demonstrating they did not want or intend to change the language. The language hasn’t changed since we filed the application,” Trautner said.

Schwartz said he believed the council  did not pass the ordinance to amend the redevelopment plan over concerns of a possible developer lawsuit.
 

But the board adjourned the hearing to April 8.

MC RESIDENCES

Maximum height for multi-family, commercial and mixed use buildings along Orange Road is four stories and 55 feet. A 15-foot setback is required. The parking requirement is 96 parking spaces.

The proposal for the 0.644-acre MC Residences calls for 46 apartments with retail on the first floor, a rooftop garden, a pedestrian plaza and a 67-space garage. The developer proposes 28 studio apartments, 17 two-bedroom apartments, and one one-bedroom apartment, and 2,304 square feet of ground floor retail space. Of the 46 units, five affordable units are proposed, including one one-bedroom, three two-bedroom and one three-bedroom apartments.

Parking will be housed in a underground garage accessible from Orange Road, using a stacking-lift parking system and managed by a valet. Bicycle racks would also be available.In accordance with the redevelopment plan. To address the required parking supply, the project will be supported by 67 underground spots that will be valet operated and will consist of 58 parking spaces in mechanical lifts, three ADA spaces that are self-parked and one car-sharing space. For the remaining required 29 parking spaces, the developer has proposed usage of the Orange Road deck.

The building will have 15- and 10-foot setbacks, allowing for a pedestrian plaza facing Orange Road. The developer envisions a restaurant with outdoor seating for part of the retail space.

The building facade will carry elements of the nearby nine-story MC Hotel with cast stone, wood veneer and black metal accents. It will also feature a tower element.

The roof area will hold solar panels and a green roof.

The developer is seeking deviations from the redevelopment plan requirements for the following:

  • At least 50 percent of the roof surface include solar panels and an additional 25 percent of the roof must be a green roof or contain solar panels.
  • The application proposes stacked parking spaces. Stacked parking is only permitted at the discretion of the planning board.
  • The requirement of a total of 96 parking spaces with only 67 parking spaces provided. A parking variance for 29 parking spaces is required. If the planning board does not permit the stacked parking, the parking variance increases to 58 parking spaces.