BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The township zoning board has ruled in favor of the developer on contradictory language in the Montclair Center Gateway redevelopment plan, allowing for 46 units to be built in a new mixed-use development at 33-37 Orange Road.
The “MC Residences,” was proposed by developer Brian Stolar for the former Ferrara’s Auto Body property, a site that totals 0.644 acres.
The planning board had claimed that wording in the redevelopment plan permits only 18 units per acre, while the applicant’s attorney contended 72 per acre is allowed.
Last Wednesday, July 17, the zoning board voted unanimously to interpret the plan to allow for the 46-unit development to proceed.
Some members of the planning board insist that the maximum density for area of 18 was always the intention of the plan. At an April planning board meeting, board member Keith Brodock concurred. Board member Martin Schwartz accused the developer of using an administrative error to get more units into the building. But since the issue was over density, the planning board asked the zoning board to interpret the density language.
In the redevelopment plan, 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.”
“The section ‘no commercial development’ should have come out because we added mixed-use as a permitted use,” Talley said.
Tom Trautner, the attorney for applicant HP 37 Orange Road Montclair LLC argued the language on density is moot because the application is for a mixed-use project that contains both commercial and retail. He claimed that the redevelopment plan calls for a maximum of 72 units per acre for a mixed-use plan.
He also said that the council, which has jurisdiction over amending redevelopment plans, chose not to correct the language. The meeting agenda for Sept. 25, 2018, listed an ordinance that would have stricken the sentence: “The following requirements apply to new multi-family residential buildings with no commercial component.” The following sentence, “the maximum density is 18 units per acre,” would remain. But the ordinance was pulled from the agenda and never introduced.
“Planning board members may have wanted it out, but it didn’t come. Ultimately the decision was to be made by the council,” said zoning board attorney Michael Sullivan.
Talley said the redevelopment plan went through many committees in 2017 and was amended as many times.
“It was a typo. It was never intended to exclude mixed-use from that density,” she said.
Sullivan advised the board that he thought they had no choice but to agree that the 18-unit maximum did not apply due to the development’s commercial component.
The application will now move back to the planning board.
The proposal 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, 10 percent (five) are proposed to be affordable units, including one one-bedroom, three two-bedroom and one three-bedroom apartments.
The 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.
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.