July 25 Planning Board Resolution

And other bad deals…Overall, looks like the next big turning point will be the issuance of the building permits…

Resolution of the Planning Board of the Borough of North Plainfield
SPR 07-01 Watchung Hills at North Plainfield
WHEREAS, Watchung Hills at North Plainfield, LLC (hereinafter the “Applicant”), located at 266 Harristown Road, Glen Rock, New Jersey, has applied to the Planning Board of the Borough of North Plainfield (hereinafter the “Board”), for preliminary and final site plan approval to permit the Applicant to construct 225 attached age restricted apartment dwelling units on property designated as Lot 2, Block 110 on the Tax Map of the Borough of North Plainfield, which is property commonly known as 641 Somerset Street, North Plainfield, New Jersey, and which property is located in the R-9 (ARC) Zone on the Land Use Map of the Borough of North Plainfield; and

WHEREAS, the Board, after carefully considering the evidence presented by the Applicant and the Applicant’s witnesses and of adjoining property owners and the general public, if any, and the reports of various officers and agencies of the Borough, whose reports are incorporated herein by reference, has made the following factual findings:

1. The Applicant seeks to construct a 225 unit residential mid-rise condominium complex on a property that is approximately 14.6 acres in area and presently contains multiple buildings that were previously occupied by the Villa Maria Convent.

2. The Applicant proposes to construct a total of 9 buildings, plus a club house and pool as amenities, all as shown on a site plan entitled “Watchung Hills at North Plainfield, LLC” prepared by Bertin Engineering Associates, Inc., bearing last revision date of May 30, 2007, consisting of 15 pages;

3. The proposed site plan complies in each respect with the use and bulk requirements of the ARC (Age Restricted Residential Zone), Section 22-106 et seq of the Borough’s Land Development Ordinance. A question arose at the first hearing as to the compliance of the proposed buildings with the height limitations under the ARC zone, and certain modifications were made to the proposed buildings to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer so that the height of the buildings would not exceed the zoning limitations;

4. The Board conducted hearings on the application on May 9, 2007, June 13, 207, June 27, 2007, July 18, 2007 and July 25, 2007. During the hearings, the Applicant agreed to a number of modifications to the proposed site plan in response to questions or comments from the public and the Board and its professionals, particularly with regard to the architecture and appearance of the buildings; walkways around and through the development; traffic patterns and parking layout; and preservation of trees and other natural characteristics of the present property;

5. The Board is in receipt of, and incorporates herein by reference, requests from recommendations from the Borough Zoning Officer, Borough Police Department, and Borough Construction Official, each of which state that the respective Borough agency has no comments or recommendations regarding the project;

6. The Board is in receipt of, and incorporates herein by reference, reports dated April 12, 2007 and June 22, 2007, from Daniel Swayze, P.E., Borough Engineer. The Applicant amended its plans in reply to the April 12th letter, which changes were addressed in a memorandum from the Applicant’s engineer, Bertin Engineering, dated June 1, 2007. The Applicant further agreed to comply with the remaining comments set forth in Mr. Swayze’s memorandum dated June 22, 2007, upon which any approval would be conditioned;

7. The Board is in receipt of, and incorporates herein by reference, a memorandum dated April 27, 2007 from William F. Eaton, Borough Fire Chief, in which 12 recommendations were made. The Applicant agreed to comply with each of these recommendations subject to reaching an agreement with the Fire Chief as to the location of the dumpsters on the property;

8. During the pendency of the application, the Board became aware of certain litigation affecting the ordinances under which the ARC zone was created. Members of the public requested that the Board delay its deliberations while the litigation was pending. However, in keeping with the Board’s past practice and its obligation to hear and decide applications before it in a timely and diligent manner, absent the entry of an order by the court staying the hearing of the application, the Board determined that it would proceed with the application;

9. The Applicant represented that the units would be for sale, and not rentals, that there would be age restriction limitations so that occupants would be 55 and over without school-age children as required by the Land Development Ordinance, and the Applicant further represented to the Board that it would comply with the Borough’s affordable housing ordinance and that the affordable housing units would be distributed and dispersed throughout the development. The Applicant agreed that there would be deed restrictions regarding the affordable housing units and the age limitations. The Board relied upon these representations in evaluating and ultimately approving the application. The Board’s analysis of the public benefit of the proposed project, the impact on public services and infrastructure and the school system, and the traffic analysis would have been completely different had these representations not been made by the Applicant.

10. The Applicant presented the testimony of its project engineer, Calisto Bertin. Mr. Bertin testified that all existing buildings would be removed from the site, that a detention basin would be installed, that there would be no disturbance to the flood plain, and that the project would meet or exceed all storm water runoff requirements and all storm events required for the storm water drainage plan. There would be a drywell system for runoff coming from the gutters so that the detention basin would not be burdened with that runoff. Only the parking lot areas, driveways and open areas would drain into the detention basin. Mr. Bertin also emphasized that the Applicant would be complying with the drainage recommendations of the Borough Engineer, as well as the Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS) and would obtain all necessary permits and approvals with regard to stream on the property and drainage in general;

11. During the course of the hearings, the Applicant was made aware of concerns of neighbors with regard to lights of vehicles leaving the property shining into windows. The Applicant made certain modifications, including additional shielding, change of grade, and reexamination of driveways to ensure that shining of lights onto adjacent residential properties would be minimized;

12. Mr. Bertin testified that there would be 193 new trees installed and 1158 shrubs including foundation plantings. The Board made the Applicant aware that it expects the Applicant to remove and disturb as few existing, mature and healthy trees as possible during and after construction;

13. The Applicant offered the testimony of Mary Scro, a licensed architect, who described the layout and size of the proposed units. The “loft” that will be available on larger units will not be large enough to become a bedroom and will be open to the lower floors so that it will not easily be converted into a bedroom. The Applicant agreed to modify the facades of the buildings to increase the size of balconies and install shutters and make other aesthetic modifications in order to break up the “mass” of the buildings and provide for greater variety and increased detail between buildings. The Applicant showed the Board revised architectural elevations at the meeting on June 27, 2007 which included the changes required by the Board member’s comments, including faux chimneys, in order to improve the aesthetic appearance of the buildings;

14. Mr. Bertin testified on behalf of the Applicant as a traffic engineering expert. His report dated January 10, 2007 and revised on June 15, 2007 (in response to requests from the Board’s traffic consultant for additional traffic counts) was introduced and accepted as part of the record. Mr. Bertin testified that he used ITE trip generation counts as well as manual counts at the critical intersections near the subject property. The level of service at the intersection of Somerset Street and Interhaven Avenue in the evening is at an “F” level. He testified that none of the levels of service on any of the nearby roadways will be changed as a result of the development, and the average delay time would be increased slightly. Mr. Bertin agreed to certain recommendations and conditions, including a no left turn into Interhaven Avenue from the south and one way traffic away from the property on the bridge to Somerset Street. He also agreed that the Applicant would comply with the “site plan comments” on the Dolan & Dean report submitted on behalf of the Borough’s traffic consultant dated July 13, 2007;

15. Elizabeth Dolan, a traffic engineer with Dolan & Dean testified as the Board’s independent traffic consultant. She introduced a report from her firm dated July 13, 2007, and it was accepted as part of the record. She stated that the manual traffic count utilized by Mr. Bertin’s firm was valid and she had no objection to the method of counts or the counts themselves. She testified that the project would cause a fluctuation of traffic but not a measurable impact on existing traffic levels. Ms. Dolan testified that there should be a study of “warrants” for installing a light at the Interhaven/Somerset Street intersection. Ms. Dolan recommended that a larger island be installed and parking areas to improve site lines, that parking should be prohibited on the south side of Interhaven Avenue from the exit of the development to Somerset Street, both of which the Applicant agreed to;

16. Both Mr. Bertin and Ms. Dolan rendered the opinion that the project would not unreasonably affect the traffic problem on Watchung Avenue going northbound at peak morning hours. The number of vehicles leaving the subject property during peak hours in the morning would not significantly aggravate the already serious problem that exists with the backup of traffic moving northbound toward Route 78;

17. The public was given full opportunity to testify and make statements regarding the application. The public was concerned regarding the preservation of the existing historic buildings and wooded areas; questioned traffic study counts, and the impact of additional traffic on Watchung Avenue in the morning peak hours; was concerned with the impact of the project on properties in the neighborhood, particularly during construction; concern about traffic on Interhaven Avenue and the intersection with Somerset Street; and questioned the need for age restricted housing at this location, in the Borough and in the County in general; and

WHEREAS, the Board has determined that reasons DO exist for the relief sought by the Applicant for the following reasons:

1. The proposed site plan complies in all material respects with the Borough’s Land Development Ordinance, and the Applicant agreed to comply with all bulk requirements in the ARC Zone, including side yards, rear yards, lot coverage, lot setbacks and height of proposed buildings;

2. The Applicant’s civil engineer has agreed to the recommendations of the Borough Engineer to insure that the storm water runoff caused by the proposed development of the Property will comply in all respects with Municipal and State regulations, and that storm drainage and water runoff after the project is completed will not adversely affect other properties, the area, or the Borough in general;

3. The Board’s own traffic consultant is satisfied that the proposed development will not significantly adversely affect adjacent roadways or intersections, including those that are already at a “failing” level at peak hours. The Applicant has agreed to recommendations from the Borough’s traffic consultant to insure that there will be safe traffic flow within the development, adequate parking on the property, and safe traffic patterns of vehicles leaving and entering the property from adjacent roadways;

4. The Applicant agreed to modifications of its architectural plans that will increase the aesthetic value of the proposed buildings, will make the buildings blend in more with properties in the area, and will increase the value of the proposed units due to the architectural enhancements to which the Applicant agreed;

5. The impact of the density of the proposed development is minimized by the age-restricted nature of the units and the manner in which traffic from the development will be dispersed in different directions. The Board is satisfied that the density of development is compatible with the neighborhood, taking into consideration the age restricted ownership of the units, the amount of open space and new trees and shrubs that will be planted, and the mixed nature of uses in the neighborhood, including apartments and commercial uses;

6. The proposed use of the property is compatible with the Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance of the Borough, and also with the recommendations of the State Development Guide Plan which seeks to channel growth into existing growth areas and to prevent urban sprawl. The proposed development will prevent senior citizens living in the Borough from having to leave the Borough to seek alternative living arrangements that are compatible with their needs and desires as they approach and reach retirement age. This has been a goal of the Board and its planners in seeking to create an age restricted residential zone and with the permanent age restrictions and affordable housing regulations that will be incorporated into the master deed and declaration of covenants and restrictions, these planning goals will be addressed;

7. Although the “negative criteria” of N.J.S.A. 40:55D-70 does not apply to the subject application, nevertheless the Board was satisfied that there will be no substantial detriment to the public good. Rather, the detriment will be minimal since the owner of the property was entitled to develop the property in a manner that would increase the intensity of use of the property and the clustering of housing and age restricted limitations will reduce the aesthetic and traffic impact on adjacent residences and roadways. There will be no adverse impact on the zone plan and zoning ordinance since the application complies in all respects with the zone plan and by offering a variety of housing types to what exists in the residential housing stock in the Borough, the proposed use promotes the purposes of the Municipal Land Use Law;

8. The proposed development will have a slight impact on traffic in the area and at nearby intersections, as would any development of the site. However, the Planning Board is mindful that a Planning Board cannot deny an application based on existing offsite conditions where there are already congested streets. Dunkin Donuts of New Jersey v. North Brunswick, 193 N.J. Super. 513, 515 (App. Div. 1984)

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Planning Board of the Borough of North Plainfield that, for the foregoing reasons, the Application of WATCHUNG HILLS AT NORTH PLAINFIELD, LLC, for preliminary and final site plan approval be and hereby is GRANTED, subject, however, to the following conditions:
1. All existing buildings on the Property shall be removed prior to commencement of construction.

2. Prior to issuance of building permits, the Applicant will prepare and submit for the approval of the Board attorney and Borough Engineer a proposed Master Deed and Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions for a Homeowners Association consisting of the owners of all the proposed units which shall provide for the Association to be responsible for the maintenance and repair or replacement, where necessary, of the common drainage system, and any and all common areas, which Declaration shall be recorded with the Somerset County Clerk prior to issuance of any certificates of occupancy.

3. The Master Deed and Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions for the Homeowners Association shall also provide for the mandatory resale limitations required for compliance with the COAH units with COAH and municipal regulations regulating COAH housing in effect at the time of this approval. The Applicant shall comply with the municipal housing liaison’s request for distribution of affordable units between low- and moderate-cost units and shall comply with all other requirements under municipal ordinances relating to affordable housing in effect at the time of this approval. COAH units will be dispersed throughout the development among the market units on the Property.

4. The Applicant shall comply with the recommendations of the Borough Fire Chief, subject to reaching agreement on the location of the dumpsters on the property.

5. All utility wiring, including telephone, electric, cable, fiber, etc., shall be installed underground.

6. The units shall be for sale and not rentals, and there shall be limitations on the rental of the units by unit owners in the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions and in the unit Deeds.

7. The Applicant will obtain written confirmation from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that no DEP permits or approvals are required with respect to stream encroachment or land use issues.

8. The Applicant will obtain “will serve” confirmatory letters from each of the utility providers required for the project.

9. The Applicant shall comply with all requirements of the drainage plan as shown in the aforesaid plans and with the storm water management requests set forth in the report of the Borough Engineer dated April 12, 2007 and June 22, 2007.

10. The site shall be fenced in during construction in a manner to protect against public entry onto the property, and this requirement shall be added as a note to the plans.

11. Internal walkways utilizing impervious concrete, if deemed feasible by the Borough Engineer, shall be installed in appropriate locations throughout the development.

12. There shall be no antennae of any kind permitted on the top of our outside the buildings, including but not limited to satellite dishes or antennae, and this prohibition shall be set forth in the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions for the Homeowners Association.

13. The Applicant shall perform a load analysis of the bridge to Somerset Street and signage shall be posted stating the weight limit on the bridge. A “no left turn” sign shall be installed at the intersection below the bridge with Somerset Street and a sign shall be installed at the southerly end of the bridge stating “one-way” traffic toward Somerset Street, as well as any other traffic signs and markings as approved by the Borough Engineer and County Engineer or planning board.

14. The Applicant shall provide and maintain performance and maintenance bonds and/or guarantees required by Section 22-67 of the Borough’s Land Development Ordinance as determined by the Borough Engineer. Prior to commencing construction of improvements, the Applicant’s engineer shall submit to the Borough’s Engineer a construction cost estimate of site improvements. The Borough Engineer will review the estimate and prepare a determination of the required construction escrow and performance guarantee.

15. The Applicant’s engineer shall address all comments and conditions in the Borough Engineer’s report dated June 22, 2007, to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer.

16. The Applicant will perform any sanitary sewer inspections that the Borough Engineer deems necessary and the Applicant shall perform any pipe maintenance or repairs that are reasonably required b the Borough or PARSA for connection of the project into the existing sanitary sewer system.

17. The Applicant shall comply with the Fire Chief’s recommendations regarding any proposed fire hydrants.

18. The Applicant shall repave Grove Street North of Route 22 and any other roadway that is disturbed or damaged by trucks coming to and from the Applicant’s property during construction, and the Applicant shall notify the property owners in the neighborhood prior to commencing work on adjacent roadways so the property owners can perform any improvements to their properties before completion of paving of the road. The Applicant shall take pre-construction photographs of adjacent streets that will be used for construction traffic and provide them to the Borough Engineer in order to determine the nature and extent of damage that is caused to these roadways during construction.

19. All construction and improvements shall comply with all applicable Borough building ordinances and codes and R.S.I.S. standards, including but not limited to signs, setbacks, curbs, etc.

20. A final grading plan for the site shall be prepared and submitted to the Borough Engineer prior to obtaining a building permit for the project. Final grading plans shall include the footprint of the proposed buildings, site improvements, and proposed final lot grading.

21. The Applicant shall provide for additional parking areas on stabilized grass in areas approved by the Borough Engineer.

22. The Applicant shall perform an evaluation of the warrants for a signal at the intersection of Somerset Street and Interhaven Avenue, and if the warrants merit a signal, apply to the County for a signal, which will be built at no expense to the Borough (the expense to be borne by the County and/or the Applicant) to which application the Borough will join. However, this approval is not conditioned upon County approval of a light.

23. Larger island shall be installed in the parking areas to improve site lines, and the parking areas shall be paved with pervious concrete if deemed feasible by the Borough Engineer.

24. The Applicant shall apply to the governing body of the Borough for passage of an ordinance prohibiting parking on the south side of Interhaven Avenue, from the development entrance to the intersection with Somerset Street. However, this approval is not conditioned upon Borough approval of such an ordinance.

25. The Applicant shall comply with the “site plan” comments in the report prepared by Dolan & Dean dated July 16, 2007 and the report dated July 19, 2007.

26. No clearing on the property shall be commenced until a building permit is obtained for construction, except as needed to install the drainage system or other utilities or site improvements. The smallest practical area of land shall be disturbed at any one time during construction of buildings or site improvements. The fewest practical number of trees shall be disturbed or removed. All new trees shall have a size that is reasonably acceptable to the Borough Engineer’s landscape architect so that mature trees rather than saplings are replacing the existing older trees that are disturbed.

27. The Master Deed and Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions for the Homeowners Association shall require the Association to maintain and if necessary repair the drainage system at the level required by the Applicant’s drainage plan, and shall further provide that in the event the Association fails to maintain the drainage system, the Borough shall have the right to assess the Association and individual homeowners for the cost of maintaining and if necessary repairing the drainage system.

28. The Applicant shall schedule and participate in a pre-construction meeting with the Borough Engineer prior to commencing construction on the site. The meetings shall be attended by the Applicant, his contractor, a representative of the Somerset County Soil Conservation District, and the Borough Engineer.

29. Any impasse between the Applicant and the Board’s or Borough’s professionals related to outstanding conditions may be brought back to the Board for final determination.

30. The balconies on the units shall be widened to 6 feet in width and will have solid sides.

31. Shutters shall be added to the windows on the front facades of the buildings.

32. All conditions to this Resolution shall be satisfied prior to issuance of permits for any site improvements.

33. Handicapped spaces shall be added at each building with some spaces to be located in the garaged area.

34. The Applicant shall obtain all necessary permits and approvals from all other municipal, county, regional, state and, if necessary, federal agencies as may be required by appropriate regulations, ordinances, and statutes.

35. A revised site plan showing all revisions required by these conditions shall be submitted to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer and evidenced by the Engineer in writing before they are endorsed by the Board’s chairperson and secretary. No construction of site improvements may commence until the Board secretary has the requisite number of endorsed site plan drawings to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer and evidenced by the Engineer in writing before they are endorsed by the Board’s chairperson and secretary. No construction of site improvements may commence until the Board secretary has the requisite number of endorsed site plan drawings.

36. The name of the development shall be “Stony Brook at North Plainfield” or other name that is reasonably satisfactory to the Borough Administrator.

37. The Applicant shall insert in the Master Deed, Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions and unit Deeds adequate safeguards to maintain the age restriction of the units for residents who are 55 and over, and to prohibit school age children, and the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions shall further provide that if any school age children occupy the units and attend public schools, the unit owner will be assessed by the Borough the amount that is currently being charged, or would be charged, for tuition for out of town students. It is understood and agreed that the Board has relied upon the age restrictions and the continuation of the age restrictions in approving this application and that no future application will be made to reduce, modify or create exceptions to the age restrictions.

38. A Developer’s Agreement shall be executed between the Borough and Applicant providing for completion of site improvements and infrastructure prior to commencement of construction and for protection for the Borough in the event of phased-in construction of units, including but not limited to the provision of affordable housing units.

39. Trucks and heavy equipment and machinery used during or in connection with construction shall not be started or utilized at the site or in the neighborhood prior to 8:00 a.m. in the morning, nor be utilized later than 6:00 p.m. in the evening Monday through Friday.

40. The Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions shall include a provision that provides for a priority to be given for units to existing Borough Residents, to the extent permitted by law.


THOSE IN FAVOR: Members Coxwell, Hollod, Kreder, Lange, Righetti, Stabile, Mayor Allen and Chairman Fagan


APPLICATION APPROVED:/s/ Thomas Fagan, Chairman
/s/ Dawn Gaebel, Secretary


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