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Zoning Board to Decide on Variance for Woman's Club Tonight

Mayor Vic DeLuca has been working with Woodland Road neighbors to address concerns prior to the July 6 ZBA meeting that will determine a variance for Woman's Club building.

For the past few weeks, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca has been working toward finding parking solutions to help smooth the way for granting a use variance for the building at tonight's Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

The prospective new owner of the building has stated that, without the variance, the sale of the building would not go through.

DeLuca told Township Committee members on June 21 that he was working with neighbors of the Woman's Club on Woodland Road to address issues related to around building events.

DeLuca said that proposals could include putting restrictions on on-street parking on Woodland Road in the evenings; renting parking to the Woman's Club owner (who could then engage a valet parking service for events); and/or create a flow of parking between the Woman's Club parking lot and the Township-owned Highland Place parking lot. "The Town could even rent the Highland lot for certain events," said DeLuca.

The mayor's suggestions come after a number of Woman's Club neighbors appeared at the Maplewood meeting in early June, and expressed concerns about noise, vibrations and parking issues from events held at the building, which is in the process of being purchased by Lamona, LLC — contingent upon the award of a use variance.

The building currently hosts many events for various community groups and private residents.

Tom Kerns, a local philanthropist and founder of HK Community Fund, . Kerns has stated that he would like to restore the historic building, built in 1930, and maintain it as a center of community activity. He sees programming as including community events, concerts, weddings, charity events and corporate events. With the sale, the property will be tranferred onto the tax rolls. Lamona has received no abatements from the town.

At the June meeting, members of the ZBA discussed possibly placing an 11 p.m. limit on events held at the Woman's Club building.

The ZBA plans to continue the hearing at its next meeting on Wednesday, July 6.

The applicant also needs to gain site plan approval from the ZBA as the applicant is requesting changes to the site involving some outside modifications (a small addition and loading dock). The site plan is being considered separately from the use variance.

Kerns told Patch that obtaining the use variance was "important because completing the purchase of the Woman's Club property is contingent upon receiving this approval."

DeLuca reported on June 21 that a resident representative with whom he has been meeting had shared the parking suggestions described above with other neighbors. DeLuca stated the resident said that "assurances on parking will go a long way to moving forward."

DeLuca also said he was exploring any possible complications that on-street parking restrictions could cause for church. He said that the town's preliminary parking study results showed that the spaces to be restricted were not key to the nearby Village business district.

Committeeman Jerry Ryan said that he thought the connection between the Highland Place lot and the Woman's Club lot "is a good idea." He was less convinced that the Burgdorff lot could offer a solution, feeling that at times there would be competing events at the two facilities.

Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta said he was "in favor of tyring to facilitate the proposal for the new Woman's Club owner." Vice Mayor Kathy Leventhal echoed Profeta's thoughts, saying that although she did not want to stray too far into the ZBA's territory, "to preserve this building would be a wonderful thing."

Committeeman Marlon K. Brownlee wanted to know if there was a precedent for the use of municipal lots for private ventures. Indeed, said DeLuca, there was: Overnight rental of parking spaces in municipal lots had been made available for apartment owners. DeLuca also said that there were areas in town were parking was restricted to residents only.

"We have intervened elsewhere," said DeLuca, "to make life better for residents."

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