The following minutes are a summary of the Planning Board meeting of March 4, 2014.
Call to Order & Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act: Chairman Nalbantian called the meeting to order at 7:45 p.m. The following members were present: Mayor Aronsohn, Ms. Bigos, Chairman Nalbantian, Mr. Joel, Mr. Hurley, Mr. Reilly, Mr. Grant, Ms. Dockray, and Ms. Peters. Also present were: Katie Razin, Esq., and Gail Price, Esq. (arrived at 9:45 p.m.), Board Attorney; Blais Brancheau, Village Planner, and Jane Wondergem, Board Secretary. Councilman Pucciarelli is recused from the hearing regarding the Master Plan amendment for the AH-2, B-3-R, C-R and C-zone districts and was absent from the meeting.
Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board – Lorraine Reynolds, 550 Wyndemere Avenue, asked about the resignation of Ms. Connors from the Board and the search for a replacement. The Chairman and the Mayor explained the process the Council goes through when looking for Board members.
Leigh Warren, 140 Washington Place, asked about a number to call regarding construction hours for Valley Hospital if they expand.
Janet Daly, 386 Ponfield Place, asked about the delay in minutes being posted online.
Correspondence received by the Board – Ms. Wondergem said there was none.
Public Hearing on Amendment to the Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan – AH-2, B-3-R, C-R & C Zone Districts – Chairman Nalbantian gave an overview of the hearing process and explained that the Board already heard testimony from the planners on behalf of The Dayton, the Enclave and Chestnut Village.
Mr. Weiner, attorney representing C.B.R. (Citizens for a Better Ridgewood), introduced Brigette Bogart, Professional Planner. Ms. Bogart was sworn and presented her expert credentials as a Professional Planner which were accepted by the Board.
Ms. Bogart explained that she was retained by C.B.R. to do a planning analysis of the proposed amendment to the Master Plan that’s being considered by the Board. Ms. Bogart said that C.B.R. is not objecting to the proposals, but that they feel there are some issues with regard to the process and some of the details of the plan. Ms. Bogart went through the Municipal Land Use Law and the process set forth for master planning. Ms. Bogart also provided a historical review of the Ridgewood master plan documents, comparing them with the current master plan proposal. Ms. Bogart mentioned Mr. Brancheau’s report dated July 2, 2013 and Mr. Bruinooge objected stating that Ms. Bogart is testifying outside the scope of the hearing.
There was discussion by Mr. Bruinooge, Mr. Weiner and Ms. Razin regarding the document.
Ms. Bogart continued her testimony regarding the master plan amendment, commenting on some of the planning issues that she says the Board should be aware of such as the projected rents, the school children issue, revenue to the municipality and school district, traffic impact analysis, and parking and density.
Ms. Bogart’s report titled ‘Planning Analysis of the Master Plan Amendment Process in Connection With Specific Rezoning Requests for Three Sites”, dated February 25, 2014, was marked as Exhibit CBR-1.
The Board opened the hearing to the public to ask questions of Ms. Bogart.
Dave Slomin, 36 Heights Road, asked if the Master Plan is supposed to be the vision for the town and if municipalities, Boards and zoning officers should refer to it when considering changes. Ms. Bogart said that master plans should be current and should be the basis for the zoning ordinance. Mr. Slomin asked if the current master plan amendment was being molded to benefit the developers, and if there was anything in the amendment to support the proposed increase in density.
Anna Spalckhaver, 476 Alpine Terrace, asked why they should believe that empty-nesters would want to live in the proposed developments. Ms. Bogart said she had not seen any marketing studies to support that concept.
Leigh Warren, 140 Washington Place, asked if there were any consequences if the Municipal Land Use Law was not followed. Ms. Bogart explained that there could be litigation if a party believed that spot zoning had occurred.
Brian Abdoo, 308 West Ridgewood Avenue, asked for clarification regarding Ms. Bogart’s comment that Ridgewood is one of the only towns to permit private developers to apply for a master plan amendment.
Mr. Brancheau was sworn by Ms. Razin. Mr. Brancheau explained that an ordinance was adopted in 2007 when Valley Hospital approached the Board and asked them to consider a master plan amendment. Mr. Brancheau said the reason for the ordinance was to establish escrow accounts upon which the applicants would have to reimburse the Village for its costs, and to clarify what the procedure was. Mr. Brancheau stated that this is done by other municipalities as well.
Ms. Razin explained that the ordinance was adopted by the Mayor and Council.
Melinda Carley, 139 Richards Road, asked if there had been any studies supporting the concept that the target market that may move into these apartments would not own cars or have fewer cars. Mr. Brancheau said that there have been studies suggesting that there would be less need for parking in transit-oriented developments, but the locations studied were not within suburban northern New Jersey. Ms. Carley asked if the developer of one of the proposed projects addressed the parking need for 30,000 square feet of additional retail space. Ms. Bogart said that the proposed development has not provided the required parking.
Marc Chase, 429 Farview Street, asked what happens if the projected rental income is not achieved. Ms. Bogart had difficulty responding, but stated that the developer would have to rent the units for less than planned. Mr. Chase asked what the impact of 44 additional school children would be on the current deficiency of open space in Ridgewood. Ms. Bogart said it would depend on the projected population but that it would increase the demand for open space.
Robert Kotch, 60 North Hillside Place, asked what the threshold is when the number of students generates a negative net tax revenue versus a positive tax revenue. Ms. Bogart said that according to the Rutgers study, if there was an error between four and seven school children you would lose any positive impact as far as financials through the school. Mr. Kotch asked if it would be in compliance with the Master Plan to change the proposed zones to recreational zoning. Ms. Bogart said that the Village identified a need for recreation and it should be considered as an element to this master plan amendment. Mr. Kotch asked what the impact would be on affordable housing if the area in question were changed to recreational zoning. Ms. Bogart explained that the COAH laws from the third round have been invalidated by the courts, but if the obligation was based upon the amount of new development, then using the area for open space would not increase the affordable housing obligation.
Amy Junger, 84 Ridge Road, asked if there were any proposals to do anything regarding the deficit in green space. Ms. Bogart said she was not aware of any. Ms. Junger asked if the 400 percent increase in density is typical. Ms. Bogart said she couldn’t suggest if it was right or wrong, but that Mr. Brancheau’s report said that anything that is outside of the existing averages should be viewed with caution and evaluated further. Ms. Junger asked if there is any benefit in considering a proposal of something that has less than the minimum standards for parking. Ms. Bogart said the developers took into consideration the transit oriented developments, but that she was not aware of any studies of transit-oriented development in suburban areas like Ridgewood. Ms. Bogart stated that the Board should look at parking very closely, given the longstanding parking issues in the central business district.
Luly Melardi, 132 Richards Road, asked how many units could be developed if the proposed changes to the Master Plan were applied to every acre it could be applied to. Mr. Brancheau said he hadn’t calculated that. Ms. Melardi asked what would happen if all the CBD properties decided they wanted the same zoning. Chairman Nalbantian said that would be a question for Mr. Brancheau after he testifies. Ms. Melardi asked for clarification of the hearing process.
The meeting was closed to the public.
9:45 p.m. – Ms. Price arrived at the meeting.
Mr. Bruinooge moved that the entire testimony offered by Ms. Bogart be stricken from the record as net opinion without foundation. Mr. Weiner disagreed and commented on the timing of the objection. Mr. Wells reiterated much of Mr. Bruinooge’s statements but said the testimony should not be struck, but taken at face value. Ms. Price recommended that the Board reserve on the issue and look at it more carefully.
The Board members had questions for the planners, Mr. Steck, Mr. Burgis and Ms. Bogart. The Board members had questions regarding testimony from Mr. Steck that the railroad track would equal an insulating influence. Mr. Steck clarified. The Board members had questions regarding the fiscal impact and if the higher rents mean fewer school children. The Board asked Mr. Burgis regarding his comment that 12 units per acre does not encourage development of an area. The Board asked why these units would be attractive to renters. Mr. Burgis said the Master Plan said the Village should provide a greater variety of housing, and this is a way to achieve that goal. Mr. Steck said that the young professionals may want to live in Ridgewood, not own a home and be close to the train.
Other Board members had questions specifically for Mr. Steck regarding the Dayton project. The questions had to do with the street frontage and height of the Dayton in relation to other buildings in the CBD. Other questions related to the marketing focus of the developer and if that should be a factor when looking at the Master Plan because it could change. There were several questions regarding the data and formulas used when projecting the number of public school children that would be generated by The Dayton and how other multifamily housing developments in the Village were categorized. Board members had questions regarding the accuracy of the parking survey and the determination that the number of parking spaces proposed at The Dayton is satisfactory.
There was discussion by counsel regarding scheduling and witnesses. Ms. Price said that there should be a memo on fiscal and school impact considerations in conjunction with the Master Plan amendment.
The hearing was carried to April 1, 2014 at George Washington Middle School without further notice.
The minutes from September 30, 2012 were adopted as drafted.
Chairman Nalbantian announced the resignation of Board member Cyril Grant.
The meeting was adjourned at 11.17 P.M.
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