BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The developer of the proposed 46-unit MC Residences has reduced the planned height of the residential and retail project, and will not rely on the neighboring Orange Road garage to fulfill its parking requirement.
Project developer Brian Stolar told planning board members on Feb. 10 that the height of the building is now four stories, down from the six proposed, but will be maintaining the number of units while decreasing the overall density. He also said he has severed ties with MAP Urban Renewal LLC/LCOR, the owners of the Orange Road deck, and now plans to accommodate all parking under the residences.
The number of units at the MC Residences came under criticism last year after some questioned the redevelopment plan’s “contradictory language” that sets density for the area. In July of last year, the zoning board ruled in favor of the developer in allowing a density of 72 residential units per acre under the Montclair Center Gateway redevelopment plan, allowing for 46 units to be built on the 0.644-acre lot at 33-37 Orange Road. The planning board had argued that the plan allowed for only 18 units per acre, while the developer’s attorney argued that the inclusion of a retail component meant that 72 units per acre were allowed.
In January, Stolar presented plans to meet the parking requirement of 96 spots by housing 38 under the apartment building, with the remaining 58 in the Orange Road deck.
But planning board members had concerns that the garage could not accommodate the apartment building requirements along with meeting the needs of other area buildings. The deck currently provides 119 parking spaces for Valley & Bloom, 231 spaces for the MC Hotel (with 123 reserved at all times), and 78 for Board of Education employees, with the rest open for public parking. The garage can currently handle 498 parking spaces that can be self parked. It is being modified to add a “lift and slide” system utilizing valet attendants that will increase the total capacity to 614 parking spaces. Under a full valet scenario, it can provide a maximum of 760 parking spaces.
The MC Residences would require 87 parking spots for the dwelling units, and an additional nine for the 2,300-square-foot retail component.
The developer now plans to provide 73 spaces under the building, of which 64 will be valet spots — some of which will be on stacking systems — as well as one zip car which is equivalent to six spots, and three self-parking ADA spaces. The garage would be run by a valet under a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week operation. This change would require relief from the town’s parking requirement.
Karl Pehnke, the developer’s engineer, argued that rather than the state’s recommendation of 1.8 spaces per a bedroom, several of Montclair’s redevelopment plans have minimum residential parking standards in the range of 1.0 to 1.1 spaces per unit.
Based on that ratio, the parking required for the building would be 60 spaces — 51 residential, and the nine required for retail.
The developer also said they would exclude certain uses from the retail portion — such as fast food, bars or taverns, or high-end restaurants — which in turn would lower the parking need. Stolar said they have plans to create a food hall of sorts, with mostly prepared food coming in from local restaurants.
Planning Board chairman John Wynn said he had concerns with putting special conditions on the plans such as limiting the kinds of businesses and valet-only parking.
“What if it [valet] becomes a financial problem in five years?” Wynn asked.
But Stolar said the valet parking will be an added amenity that residences are asking for and won’t get elsewhere in Montclair. He said it would be in the owner’s best interest to maintain it.
Board member Martin Schwartz suggested that, rather than asking for a parking variance, the developer should reduce the number of units to meet the parking requirement, or alternatively ask the Township Council to amend the redevelopment plan to include the 1.1 spot-per-unit.
Tom Traughtner, the attorney for the developer, said that the redevelopment plan allows for the planning board to decide or consider any change to the plan.
Kristen Sokich, executive vice president of Propark, who would run the garage, said they could park up to seven more cars bringing up the total to 80.