TC Discusses Potential 'Parkside Residential Zone'
The Planning Board recommended rezoning the entire row of properties along Dunnell Road to reflect the redevelopment plan for 125 Dunnell.
On July 20, the Maplewood Township Committee discussed a proposal by the Maplewood Planning Board to rezone the entire row of "parkside" properties on Dunnell Road as residential (see the attached document). It was a proposal that did not receive resounding support from the Township Committee.
Currently, the area is zoned as Neighborhood Business or "NB" which is a commercial zoning designation. As the draft recommendations by the Planning Board Ad Hoc Committee on Dunnell Road Rezoning states, the current NB zoning provides the following "salient provisions":
- Permitted uses include retail businesses, restaurants, offices, and multifamily housing.
- No front or side yard setbacks are required, except on properties adjoining a transitional lot.
- Maximum building height is set at 50 ft. plus an additional allowance of 10% for rooftop accessory structures.
The memo notes that, by contrast, under the requirements for the new Redevelopment Zone approved last fall for the old police station site at 125 Dunnell Road:
- The only permitted use is multifamily housing (1 and 2 bedroom only) with a specific density maximum limit of 50 units,
- More restrictive height limitations are imposed than are permitted in the current NB Zone, and
- More restrictive area and bulk requirements are imposed than are permitted in the existing NB Zone.
The memo states that, additionally, "detailed design and architectural standards were incorporated in the Redevelopment Plan that are consistent with those of the Maplewood Village Alliance Special Improvement District."
The four remaining Dunnell Road properties that would be affected by this potential rezoning as "Parkside Residential" are the fire house, Maplewood train station, an office building at 111 Dunnell Road, and a mixed-use building that includes Nelson's Auto Repair.
In the memo, the Planning Board ad hoc committee recommends that a new "parkside residential" zoning designation be created for these properties that incorporates the standards adopted for 125 Dunnell Road through its redevelopment plan, which the Township Committee approved last fall.
According to Planning Board Chairman Tom Carlson, the recommendations in the report presented to the Township Committee "reflected the unanimous recommendation of the entire Planning Board." The research and drafting was done by an ad hoc subcommittee of the board, but the entire Planning Board "reviewed the report, discussed it in open session, and voted on forwarding it to the Township Committee." Carlson points out that the memo also recommends that the Town undertake a planning study—by an expert planning consultant–"to decide what the ultimate use(s) should be along Dunnell Road." This portion of the memo was not discussed by the Township Committee at the July 20 meeting; however, it is available here in the attachment.
During discussion at the Township Committee meeting on July 20, not all Township Committee members were quick to embrace the report's first recommendations to rezone the area as "parkside residential."
"I've looked at the Planning Board memo carefully," said Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta. "I don't see the advantage of being restrictive." Profeta said he preferred the NB designation, noting that the economic environment would change and that commercial uses could be proposed for the buildings and sites in question.
Ultimately, Mayor Vic DeLuca also thought the residential designation—although it might allow for ground-floor retail—could be seen as a "disincentive" to investors. "What if someone bought the office building and wanted to turn it into retail?"
Township Counsel Roger Desiderio noted that Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson's "thought process was that this was consistent with the redevelopment plan for the old police building." However, he would take the Township Committee's suggestions back to the Planning Board that "the idea is not just residential, but also to allow for other options."
When Committee member Jerry Ryan, who had presented the memo to the Township Commitee, asked, "Are we all agreed on height and setback and bulk?" Profeta and DeLuca balked. "I'm for consistency but doubt we want cookie cutter development," said Profeta. "I'd like to see variations but nothing out of character."
DeLuca noted that even "with the 50' strict all-in [negotiated for the 125 Dunnell Road redevelopment plan], it does limit us with regard to roof gardens and solar collectors."
Said Desiderio, "I'm hearing there is not a consensus."
Ryan will be taking the feedback from Township Committee members back to the Planning Board's ad hoc committee. The Township Committee will ask the Planning Board to fill in specific numbers on setbacks and density for the proposed zone as well as provide advice on commercial uses in the zone.
If the Town does wish to make a change in zoning, there is a new incentive to do so sooner rather than later: This past spring, Governor Christie signed a bill allowing builders to lock in the local zoning on their properties. The law goes into effect on May 5, 2011.