Springfield Avenue is Focus of Township Committee Meeting

Not by design, Springfield Avenue projects dominated discussion and activity at the July 20, 2010 Maplewood Township Committee meeting, with bond ordinances approved and amended and a redevelopment resolution passed.

It was a short meeting by typical Maplewood Township Committee standards (about 90 minutes), but it was rich in content for at least one part of town—Springfield Avenue.

First, the Township Committee voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance changing the time limit on parking on Springfield Avenue from one to two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. all days except Sundays. When the issue was discussed at the previous meeting, Mayor Vic DeLuca said that merchants along the Avenue felt that the one-hour limit was too short for many of the businesses, which include eat-in restaurants, fitness centers, instructional classes and hair salons.

Second, the Township Committee voted to amend one bond ordinance (adding $19,000 to fill a shortfall from the state) and introduce another (for $430,000) that would benefit the Springfield Avenue commercial district by completing the streetscape improvements that were begun ten years ago.

"By passing this and the next ordinance, we can finish all of Springfield Avenue," said Township Administrator Joseph Manning. The money would pay for new bump-outs, curbs, pavements, trees, grates, streetlights, benches and trash receptacles in the area designated as Sections VIII, IX and X of the Springfield Avenue streetscape improvement project—basically Princeton Street to Tuscan Road.

Both ordinances passed their first reading by a vote of 4-0 (the Township Committee was short one member as Lester Lewis-Powder was in Trinidad for a funeral). The public hearing and second and final vote on the ordinances will take place at the August 3, 2010 Township Committee meeting.

DeLuca also asked for and received approval from the Township Committee on a resolution for the Township to enter into an exclusive negotiating period with Daibes Enterprises for development of the former gas station on the triangular plot at the intersection of Springfield Avenue, Tuscan and Burnett—in Redevelopment Area 1. DeLuca said that Daibes, which owns the lot, had expressed interest in building a mixed-use project that would provide 4,000-5,000 sf of ground-floor retail plus second-floor residential units with 1-1 parking that would entail the use of a lot across the street.

Township Counsel Roger Desiderio related that Daibes' counsel had called Maplewood Township last week wanting to fast-track the process and present drawings to the Planning Board. Desiderio said that Daibes' counsel had since been in contact with Maplewood's redevelopment attorney Steve Mariella. Desiderio said the negotiating contract includes an escrow fund and was "standard fare." He recommended that the Township Committee move on the resolution.

Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta asked about the environmental status of the site and Desiderio said that "no further action" was required. The Township Committee then approved, by a vote of 4-0, the resolution creating a two-month exclusive negotiating period with Daibes ending on September 21, 2010.

DeLuca then provided an update on the proposed development of 92 Burnett Avenue in Redevelopment Area 2. DeLuca said that the Township redevelopment committee had met with Elite Properties, which seeks to develop 124 apartment on a 3+-acre lot, including 12 townhomes on a lot already owned by Elite. He reported, "We are at the end of environmental cleanup on this site." DeLuca said there were several open items related to negotiations with the developer including considering the removal of an age restriction on potential residents and the completion of a redevelopers agreement. DeLuca said the developer's plan was to be "in the ground" with the project by Spring 2011. He noted that the current owner of the larger portion of the site says that the sales contract expires at the end of calendar year 2010.

Other notable items from the July 20 Township Committee included a presentation by trustees of the Adult School of South Orange and Maplewood, a discussion of a potential change in zoning for "parkside" properties on Dunnell Road (separate article coming soon) and discussion of a potential parking study to address issues related to parking difficulties in Maplewood Village and enforcement issues.

The Township Committee also voted 4-0 to cancel its August 17 meeting. The next Township Committee meeting will take place on August 3 at 7:30 p.m. to be followed by a meeting on September 7 at that same time.



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