BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
A developer wants to build a pair of two-family homes on a sliver of vacant land on Orange Road sandwiched between the Willowmere Court apartments and two residences owned by the Mental Health Association of Essex County.
Developer DH Development, LLC, proposes to construct two new two-family dwellings on the 75-foot wide, 314-foot deep property at 360 Orange Road. Each of the proposed units will contain two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms on two floors with a full basement.
Zoning Board of Adjustment members heard more on the plans at the Sept. 18 meeting.
Board chairman William Harrison questioned why the developer had not presented plans to subdivide the 0.54-acre lot for two single family homes, since the property is zoned for a one-family home and the homes across the street were mostly single-family residences.
Planner expert Peter Steck responded that according to a realtor, there had been no interest in developing the property as a one- or two-family home during a two-year period in which the property was for sale.
At one point, proposed plans called for a six-family house, he said.
“This is no longer a single-family area,” said Steck.
Both the developer’s attorney and planner pointed to the dense multi-family units surrounding the lot and said the plan was a better fit with the neighborhood. And, Steck said, the proposed development was less dense than the lots across Orange Road.
The developer decided to construct the two two-families because the buildings will be smaller, the set back will align to the surrounding structures and it will allow for more windows in the homes, Steck said. The building bulk would be at 14.2 percent where up to 25 percent is allowed.
The two structures will be placed one behind the other, giving the appearance from the street of single-family home, said Steck.
“No one will know it’s more than a one-family home from the street,” he said.
The developer also proposes a two-way driveway to the right of the structures that will access two parking areas, one located between the buildings and one in the rear. Since there is no street parking on Orange Road, the developer originally asked to allow for two parking spaces per unit, with two guest spaces, for a total of 10 spaces. Only six spaces are required.
Zoning board members were concerned with the lack of ADA-accessible parking. Although the planner said that building is not ADA-accessible, they conceded and said they would provide an ADA parking space, reducing the number of total spots to nine.
Harrison pointed to the Pleasant Avenue properties, located behind the 360 Orange Road lot, where there are at least a half-dozen properties with deeper lots and single-family homes.
“Why don’t those property owners get to come and ask to build multi units on their properties?” he asked.
The developer’s attorney David Owen responded that those properties are not on a busy street, not sandwiched between high-density units and are all single family in consistency with the zone.
“This is the best you can do to preserve the current density,” said Owen, adding that it meets all setbacks, density is below what is allowed and that “it’s a development appropriate for the neighborhood.”
Traffic engineer Joseph Staigar said that the development would increase traffic by one to two cars per hour during peak times.
The developer proposed to remove 20 of the 28 trees on the property, with a promise to plant 10 new trees. Each unit will also have a small private concrete patio.
Variances being sought by the developer include:
- Permitting four dwelling units on a one-family zoned lot;
- Permitting more than one principal builder per lot; and
- Permitting a maximum fence height greater than the maximum of four and a half feet forward of the rearmost corners of the principal building on the lot. The applicant proposes a six-foot fence along the southern property line to keep in line with neighboring properties.
Since only six of the board’s members were present, with three excused, the attorney requested that the decision be deferred to the Oct. 16 meeting.
No members of the public spoke about the proposed development.