Representatives of Petrucci Co. of Asbury, NJ presented preliminary plans for the redevelopment of 125 Dunnell Road at an informal public meeting on Thursday night.
Petrucci has signed a redevelopment deal for the purchase and disposition of the property. The deal — for $1.75 million — was approved by the Township Committee on Tuesday night. According to Mayor Vic DeLuca, the closing of the sale is contingent upon Petrucci receiving all approvals for the redevelopment from local and state agencies; he expects closing on or about May 1.
Petrucci will be responsible for asbestos removal and demolition of the building and is being given a credit of up to $500,000 from the town to accomplish this. Petrucci is also receiving a credit from the town of $140,000 for the designation of 4 of the proposed 50 units as affordable housing.
DeLuca said that abatement and demolition would take about 6 weeks and would start after the closing. Dan Lacz of Petrucci said construction should take from 10-12 months on a Monday through Friday work schedule.
But back to the design.
Architect David Minno explained that several changes had been made since the Sept. 14 meeting with the Maplewood Village Alliance. He noted the deletion of a drive-through drop-off zone in front of the property and the addition of more grass, trees and areas for residents to enjoy the outdoors. He had also changed the elevation to a flat roof using staggered cornices to add variety. Materials had been upgraded and included bricks and pre-cast stone elements.
Comments and questions from the audience reflected residents' concerns about parking, bulk, and burden on the school district.
Some commenters questioned whether the 60 parking spaces (meeting the 1.2 spaces per unit ratio required by the redevelopment plan) was sufficient or was realistic. DeLuca responded that those renting the apartments would agree to the parking requirements — or would not rent there. "It's their choice," he said. DeLuca said that the town would "absolutely" not allow additional on-street parking for the development. Lacz said that Petrucci would have staff on site to ensure that those parking in the development's spaces were residents.
A number of other residents noted that the building "maxed" out the dimensions allowed by the redevelopment plan, rising to the full 50' height and actually going beyond: The current preliminary plan would require a variance for a 21' front setback as opposed to the 25' setback stipulated in the redevelopment plan. Planning Board member John Branigan suggested that Petrucci reps to find a way to further relieve the "monolithic" look of the building.
To suggestions that Petrucci should reduce the number of units to reduce the scale and bulk of the building, Lacz responded that the size and number of units was necessary to make the project financially viable.
Still other residents questioned how much of the building would be visible from Maplewood Avenue. Minno said only the top floor would be visible, but added that trees would also screen the view of the building. Some commenters wanted confirmation that trees would remain on the embankment even as it was reduced and a retaining wall installed to create more room for parking.
Lacz said that most of the tall trees were at the top of the embankment and would remain. Minno said that he would create a cross-section of the elevation to demonstrate visibility issues. He also said he could create an elevation of Dunnell Road to show the building as it related to others on the street.
Minno said that, using guidelines set forth by a study from Rutgers University, the building should attract five school-age children at most.
DeLuca said that the town estimated that the building was be assessed at a value of $6 million and that it would pay $208,000 in taxes annually: with about $120K to the school district (58%); more than $33K to Essex County (16%); and $55K (26%) to the Township of Maplewood.