Planning Board Pubblic Meeting Minutes 20150113

The following minutes are a summary of the Planning Board meeting of January 13, 2015

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 Paul Aronsohn, Nancy Bigos, Councilwoman Susan Knudsen, Chairman Charles Nalbantian, Vice Chairman Richard Joel, Wendy Dockray, David Thurston, Isabella Altano and Khidir Abdalla.  Also present were: Katie Razin, Esq., who filled in for Gail Price, Esq., and Yendi Anderson who sat in as the Board Secretary in the absence of Michael Cafarelli. Kevin Reilly and Michele Peters were not present.

Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board – No Public Comments were made.

Correspondence received by the Board – Ms. Anderson said there were no correspondences received.

Public Hearing on Amendment to the Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan – AH-2, B-3-R, C-R & C Zone Districts - Following is the transcript of the meeting, prepared by Laura A. Carucci, C.C.R., R.P.R.:

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Public Hearing Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan, AH‑2, B‑3‑R, C‑R, and the C Zone Districts.

At the last meeting, we concluded our cross for our planner's testimony, Blais Brancheau, and tonight we are beginning with the final testimonies or rebuttals from the applicants. 

So I believe the order would be, Mr. Wells, I think you're going to begin this process.  If you could come forward and state which of the properties you're representing or which applicant you're representing first.

MR. WELLS: Okay. 

I'm representing right now The Dayton project, which is on Broad Street, as you well know. And we're continuing with ‑‑ I don't believe that Mr. Loventhal, we've had so many hearings, has been previously sworn during this process because he's been sworn prior, so I would call him in a minute and we'll ask him to speak to you.

I am going to introduce three exhibits:  One is a blowup of what you've already seen as D‑7, it's a perspective and Mr. Loventhal had explained it better, it's a prospective from across the street, it's an actual photograph with the building superimposed into the photograph. 

And then in addition to that, they'll be two small exhibits that will be part of his testimony, which will be ‑‑ D‑7, as I said was the number that we previously used.  According to my records D‑12, 13 would be the next two available numbers. Is that right? 

MS. RAZIN: It is, but under D‑7 I have like ‑‑ well, on mine, it could be a typo, I have Lincoln traffic variations. Is that it? 

MR. WELLS: Oh, D‑2. I'm sorry.

(Analysis of School‑aged Children in Existing Projects is marked as exhibit D‑12 for identification.)

(New Jersey Multi Listing Service information is marked as exhibit D‑13 for identification.)

MS. RAZIN: So this is not different than D‑2? 

MR. WELLS: It's a slightly larger version than D‑2.

MS. RAZIN: So no additional? 

MR. WELLS: No additional, it's D‑2. And then D‑12 and D‑13, I will let him lay a foundation for, but D‑12 is an analysis of school‑aged children on some of their existing projects that they've actually built.

And D‑13 is information with respect to some rental properties under the current multi‑listing here in the village. In the way of introduction for Mr. Loventhal, I just wanted to say this.  We're in an interesting part of the process, because we're asking for the opportunity for the principals of the developer or the principal of the developer to come back and speak to you. As you know from my prior comments, I've had the good fortune/misfortune, I guess, of being involved in this type of Master Plan process for rezoning on a number of occasions, both on your side of the table and on representing developers.  I've also had the experience of being able to work in situations where you do that, have actual developers sort of in‑process inputting on what they thought might be helpful if it was rezoned, and times when that did not occur, where it was completely in a vacuum, you know, let's do this and see who comes.  I would commend to you to take advantage of the fact that you have an actual developer, in the case of Mr. Loventhal, one of the state's biggest and best developers of multi‑family housing and most experienced in doing this kind of thing in other communities, to talk to you as he has in the past and as the other applicants, about what they could do, they're not telling you what they will do, because that's for other hearings, and we've tried to make that very clear in the past.  What they will do will depend on the zoning that's ultimately passed and that will be part of the site plan process, but they're basically telling you this is what we could do with this kind of basic zoning in this area.  And why that's particularly helpful is because you're not dealing in a vacuum, you're dealing with real information about a real developer who's credible in talking to you about, you know, how this works and how they would be able to contribute to the community.  So I hope you see that as a time not only for him to make a presentation to you, but, by all means, ask him questions, if you have them, in terms of how this would actually work and what he would be able to accomplish with what you're considering here, which is multi‑family zoning. 

That said in the way of introduction, what I'd like to do is call Mr. Loventhal and have him sworn. 

Let me say one other thing.  Because he has sat here through the last three and a half years and knows pretty well about this whole application, I'm not going to take you or him through an extensive Q and A. He knows the points that you're interested in, I think it's faster and easier, I'm just going to let him come up and talk to you about the project and answer the questions, kinds of things he's heard people query about in the past, and then invite you to ask him questions and anybody else who wants to cross‑examine him after that.  So if we can get him sworn in, Katie, we'll be ready to go.

MS. RAZIN:  You need to state your full name and your business address.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Yes.

Scott Loventhal, spelled L‑O‑V‑E‑N‑T‑H‑A‑L, 820 Morris Turnpike in Short Hills, New Jersey.

MS. RAZIN:  Okay. Do you swear that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: I do.

SCOTT LOVENTHAL,    

820 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, New Jersey, having been duly sworn, testifies as follows: 

MS. RAZIN:  Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

Good evening, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Mayor, members of the board.  I want to thank you all for the opportunity to speak you to you this evening.  This has been a long process and, as I said to the Chairman before this evening's meeting, I think that he really questioned and was surprised by what I had said to him.  I last appeared before this board in March 2011.  It will be five years since I made an initial conceptual presentation with a vision for the Brogan site. In those almost five years, I have sat now for 46 hearings. Those included workshops and, of course, our last 13 months' worth of public hearings.  I say that not because 46 meetings or almost five years entitles anyone to anything, but merely to suggest to you that a significant amount of information has been presented to you both from developers' experts and witnesses, and the municipalities' experts and witnesses, as well as the public.  And in that time, I certainly would hope that this board has been left with an opportunity and is in a position to make some decision as it relates to what we're here for, which is an amendment to the Master Plan. I would also like to suggest to you, and we have experienced members on this Planning Board who have participated in the process before, when we put that in perspective and recognize that your Master Plan and the housing element of your Master Plan, which is reviewed periodically under state law, I would submit to you that your board has not sat through the number of hours of testimony that it presented for one simple amendment, simple, I suggest, in terms of its scope as it relates to the property included, but one amendment to the Master Plan and the housing element as it relates to the entire Master Plan, I would submit, that you will likely not hear the extensive amount of testimony that's been presented. 

I would also like to suggest to you that in my 22 years of experience, the amount of information that's been provided, while not detailed site plan information, because we know that's not this process, the amount of information that's been presented to you short of detailed site plan information is as extensive as I have ever seen.  So I'd like to take a few steps back, since I've sat and listened over the course of 40 some odd hearings, and try and hit a few points from questions that I've heard from the board and the public, and hope that I can provide some dimension and some clarity as it relates to what we've discussed, and then hopefully answer some questions as it relates to things that you might have been dying to ask me. In any event, I always think it's important to make some personal connection, even though we know this is not about this particular property, and some of the board members that are here, I would say about half of you were present in March of 2011.  You know, we always hear about the developer that comes in and is looking, of course it's a business, we get that, and there is a profit motive associated with business and I think we all can appreciate that, but I do personally on a personal level have a personal connection to Ridgewood.  And while I don't live here as a citizen, I have a personal connection, and, that is, that my great uncle actually owned Sealfons' and ran the department store from its inception in the late '60s, early '70s.  He bought it from a man named Sam Sealfons and took a small storefront that was on Maple at the time and bought a bowling alley on the corner of Maple and Ridgewood Avenue and constructed ironically what is now a part of this process in terms of one of the properties.  And I do always have fond memories of Ridgewood, even though I grew up in Essex County, New Jersey.  I have fond memories of coming to Ridgewood and walking to Ridgewood Avenue and going with my uncle, who is now deceased, and spending my childhood working at the penny candy counter that existed there.  But I think that that's part of what I want to tell in this story here today, and, that is, that there was a time and place for Sealfons and for things like that, a small department store, unfortunately that time and place has passed, and there's a time and place for change.  And things sometimes need to change in order to make things better. I'm not going to debate; Ridgewood is a wonderful community.  We recognize that.  It's got a lot of good things going for it.  And I'm not going to suggest that what I'm proposing and what this Master Plan amendment is proposing is going to have significant impacts on the community. Obviously from a negative perspective, I'm going to suggest there's very few negative impacts. From a positive perspective, I'm going to suggest there are going to be significant positive things that come out at what we're proposing, which, at the end of the day, is a very small development on a several acre tract of land ‑‑ and I'll go back to talk to you ‑‑ 2.67 acres, which of course is the Brogan property as well as the Pickley building, which are under separate ownership.  And we signed a contract to acquire and develop in early 2011.

So I'm not going to suggest that there's going to be significant negative impacts, nor positive impacts, however, what I do think is that I'm going to help you to meet what your Master Plan speaks to, and, that is, a mix of housing types.  And there is clearly a void in what we are proposing on our site, and we think that by filling that void we can continue what has been a remarkably vibrant community well into the future.

So I want to talk to you, one, about how we look at a site.  Because one of the things I've heard time and time again from board members and from the public is related to how do we know that a project like this can succeed, and where are the market studies, and what do they know? 

And what I would like to submit to you is that our organization, Garden Homes, which is a Short Hills, New Jersey based development company, is a suburban developer, we are not an urban developer.  This is not an urban project, nor one that we would look at in an urban setting, this is a suburban project.  We have a lot of experience in these types of projects, and when we look at sites, we try and identify what we believe is appropriate.

What we were doing during the recession was identifying uses that no longer had their place in downtowns, recognizing that the suburbs, where we had significant success in the past, were no longer sprawling.  You know, we were what we always call the "kings of suburban sprawl."  We would buy 100 acres on the corner of First and Main, and we'd build a shopping center and we would build townhouses and build single family homes, and that's how much of New Jersey grew in the '70s, '80s and '90s, but suburbia isn't sprawling.  So now it's about taking our downtowns around the infrastructure, which seems to be where the trends are going in terms of what people want, taking those downtowns and making sure underutilized sites are appropriate and are used in a manner that provides vibrancy to the community and also fills a need as a housing type.So we identified the automobile industry is one that was going to see significant losses.  The automobile industry is suffering significantly on a national basis, but, most importantly, it was recognized that the automobile industry made a decision, that is, state highways were the right place for automobile dealerships, and as such we identified a number of car dealerships that have been located in communities just like Ridgewood, where we began to assemble land, and that is where we identified the Brogan site as one that lost its franchise with Cadillac and we had the fortune of signing a contract with the longstanding owner of that property, who, of course, has also been a fabric of the community and wanted to leave a lasting legacy, one that he felt was appropriate for the site.

He could have taken a quick buck.  There were a number of uses that wanted to operate on that site.  They were either automotive in nature, they were commercial in nature.  He didn't feel it would work.  And why?  Because he was a perfect example of who should be living in a project like The Dayton.  He is a longtime Ridgewood resident who had nowhere to turn in terms of wanting to retain his roots in Ridgewood and wanting the opportunity to live in a luxury development.  I said this five years ago, for those of you who remember.  I'm also not going to be scared of the word "luxury."  It's not a negative word.  We're proposing something that's luxury.  It's appropriate for the demographic of Ridgewood.  And, as such, we plan on delivering a luxury project. So as it relates to when we do market research, what are we looking at?  We were looking at an available, assembled site that could provide for a void in a community, and in this case the void was luxury market‑rate housing.  Now, of course, we're also a developer that's done this for a long time, and we recognize that if in fact the state policy requires us to provide affordable housing, we intend on doing so and working with this community and providing for an affordable housing component, whether it be inclusionary or a contribution to affordable housing at another site.  So from a public policy perspective, we certainly are going to assist this community in meeting its affordable housing needs. I wasn't intending on discussing affordable housing at too great a length, but I do think it's important to recognize that there are other means by which a developer ‑‑ we've seen other examples that have been cited in this process ‑‑ could work with a community or not work with a community, and, that is, filing a lawsuit.  And Ridgewood remained and remains vulnerable in the previous rounds of COAH in providing its fair share of affordable housing.  We chose not to go that route.  We, as a property owner, made a conscious decision to work through this process.  Did I imagine this process would be 4 or 5 years in the making, even as an amendment to the Master Plan?  I did not, but, notwithstanding, we still are working with this community and not looking to have any type of a threat over your head as it relates to affordable housing. Affordable housing rules are going to play themselves out, and we've already stated and I would submit we would state once again that we will provide an affordable housing component that is necessary and ultimately determined to be necessary as it relates to the development of the state. So I think in the process, when we're looking at the Brogan site, we recognize this void in housing, and I'd like to suggest to you that we have a longstanding track record, and it's not necessarily about presenting to you demographic studies.  Demographics speak for themselves.  We look at them very quickly and we recognize that type of development.  And I also suggest to you that I'm constructing a community in an adjacent township in Fair Lawn, and the only thing that I can cite in Fair Lawn is that I've got a significant number of Ridgewood residents who are now renting from us luxury apartments. And why are they renting from us in Fair Lawn?  Because they haven't found that opportunity in Ridgewood, and there's a good number of residents that are doing so.

MR. WEINER:  Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt.  You're a developer, you spent a lot of money, but this isn't about how good a company they are, this is about ‑‑

MR. WELLS:  Is this an objection?  State the objection.

MR. WEINER:  I'm stating the objection.

This is all irrelevant.  To the extent he wants to talk about this project, a project on this site being good for Ridgewood in general in terms of the master plan, fine, but his connection and what kind of developer he is, and what he's doing in Fair Lawn and who lives there has nothing to do with here.  I sat quiet for a while, but this isn't a sales spiel and it isn't a site plan, it's a Master Plan for review, so I think if you stick to that, fine.  This is just going on way too long, and it's just a sales pitch for his company.

MR. WELLS:  That objection is totally objectionable.  I hope you rule him out of order.

MR. WEINER:  I don't know what that means.

MR. WELLS:  It means to call his testimony irrelevant ‑‑

MR. WEINER:  The testimony about Ridgewood residents are living in Fair Lawn, this is all anecdotal.  We're here to talk about a Master Plan, and to the extent he wants to provide that for you, I sat quiet for a long time, but at some point it gets to be more of a sales spiel than it is testimony about a Master Plan.

MS. RAZIN:  Okay.  Mr. Loventhal, I'm going to let him continue to speak.  The board understands who he is, what he's saying, and I think that they can take their own weight of what he's saying and his experience, but we heard your point and I'm hoping that you will move it forward.  Good? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes, absolutely.

And, again, I'm trying to emphasize a number of things that I've heard over the course of hearings, hoping that I can answer questions, and these are things that have been brought up. 

Will this Master Plan amendment lead to successful land use opportunities? 

And that was where I was coming from in terms of how we analyze a site and whether we believe that what's being proposed in connection with the Master Plan, the changes to the Master Plan and what is being proposed to change that Master Plan will do exactly that, lead to successful land uses that will lead to a vibrant community and ultimately meet exactly what is intended in your Master Plan.

So, notwithstanding, I've got a couple of things that again are specifically in connection with what I heard over the last year or so as it relates to public hearings and thought that we could take a look at what I think Tom marked as exhibit D‑12.  What I wanted to do was touch upon school‑aged children, and what I heard from board members over and over and over, and I heard from the public over and over and over, is that the Rutgers study and this planner's projections and that planner's projections are really just that and I agree with them, they are really just that, they are just projections, they are just numbers.  You know, everyone has their own method to ultimately drawing their own conclusion, but what I'd like to share with you are real numbers, and I think that's what people wanted, they wanted real numbers.

MS. RAZIN:  But real numbers ‑‑

MR. WEINER:  Anecdotal schoolchildren at selected projects elsewhere in New Jersey from someone who's not an expert planner who's going to give something that is material to the board, I don't know how that's going to help you.

MS. RAZIN:  I'm going to guess that these numbers are collected from the site?

MR. WELLS:  Their own projects.

MR. WEINER: So these projects have this many here in Cranford, what does that have to do with Ridgewood? 

MS. RAZIN: But the board can take it and say I'm going to give this weight or I'm not going to give it weight.  Right? 

MR. WEINER:  Well, it's not even probative.

If that's your ruling, then I'll sit down.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  We're proposing a housing type ‑‑ actually your amendment to the Master Plan is, theoretically, going to permit a housing type that I've outlined in trying to give you some examples of existing product, and I'm going to present testimony to you that the numbers that are in this D‑12 are actual numbers. And what I'd like to suggest to you is that I run through them very, very quickly, and there are three, and the distinction, again, which I don't know if it was emphasized enough during Blais' testimony recently, but from my perspective I think is important, and I wanted to emphasize the difference between non‑garden style apartments and garden style apartments.  I'm giving you three examples of projects that are rental non‑garden style apartments.

As you see in red, and I won't belabor the point, you will see the actual number of school‑aged children that exist in these completed projects.  Those are surveys that are done by me and my staff.  We survey our project after the fact, and we ultimately conclude, so that when we can go back and try and use this information so they can be helpful to a board in determining school‑aged children. 

Everyone is always going to say it's not Ridgewood, that's fine, but this product doesn't exist in Ridgewood.  We're proposing a new housing type as it relates to the amendment to the Master Plan, and, as such, I provided you with three examples of actual school‑aged children, counts that exist in similarly sized and similar type projects that we're proposing. So I wanted you simply to see them.  We have a 93‑unit project that's located in Springfield, New Jersey.  It is an elevator building.  There's no green space.  We're not proposing green space in what we're proposing, nor does your Master Plan amendment suggest that our projects will require green space, and, as such, they are not attractive to school‑aged children, and that's what we see, 93 units, similar to what I'm proposing in The Dayton, and we have four school‑aged children in the project.  The project has been fully occupied for approximately 5 to 6 years.

We have another project in Cranford, 123 units, across the street from the train station, in the downtown.  It's a redevelopment project.  Similar density, similar size, similar number of units that are being proposed, similar number of units that will be proposed under any of the developments that are currently outlined in this Master Plan amendment that would allow for development of this nature.  We have six school‑aged children, 123 units. The Fair Lawn Promenade, many of you may be familiar with the Fair Lawn Promenade.  It's right on Route 208.  We have 150 units.  At this point, 104 are occupied.  They're fully occupied.  They are leased in six months, rents that are consistent in each of these projects with what we are proposing, which I think is important to hear.  They are higher rent.  They are luxury projects.  They don't provide for amenities for children.  We have eight school‑aged children.  We can all come to our own conclusion.  This project has been mentioned in the past, the one in Upper Saddle River has been mentioned in the past.  I didn't want you to think I was only giving you good examples, I want to give you an example of a garden style apartment type community that we constructed with the intention of being opportunities for children.  We have playgrounds.  We have open space.  All of the units are garden style and the units have exterior entrances.  There is surface parking.  There aren't elevators.  It's in a community that has similar schools to Ridgewood, that's a personal opinion.  Follow New Jersey Monthly magazine and see where the schools are in each of these communities, they're consistent with yours with regard to school system.  In that community, a garden style community with lots of green space and lots of amenities for children, there are 37 children in 154 units, but these numbers are reasonably consistent with the numbers that Blais presented to you, that the Board of Ed presented to you.  Of the 855 total garden apartments, we know there was approximately 500 change of garden, and 200 and change of non‑garden, and 200 and change of non‑garden, there were 17 school‑aged children, that's consistent in what we see in real projects that are similar, and it's also pretty consistent in what we're seeing in a garden style apartment with amenities to provide for families. I'd like to then turn to D‑13. 

D‑13, front and back, is from the State of New Jersey multiple listing.  Anybody can pull this off.  If it hasn't been passed out, I'll give you a moment so you can all take a look. Again, arguments that have been made throughout this process were that these potential units that are being proposed under this amendment to the Master Plan will be places where there will be significant opportunities for families with children to have a lower cost opportunity to put their children in the school system in Ridgewood. I'd like you to take a look at what I've presented, and, that is, a copy of the multiple listings from January 5th, it's a sampling.  And what this sample shows you is six examples of listings in Ridgewood of single family homes for rent. There are currently double digits, and I don't know the exact number, double digits, this is just a sampling of single family homes that are available to rent. I'd like you to take a look at the rents.  The rents are in the $3,000, $3,100, up to about $3,700.  What do you get for that dollar figure?  You get a single family home on a minimum of a quarter of an acre, you get a front yard, you get a rear yard, maybe you get a swing set, you get a garage, you get a basement, you get 3 to 4 bedrooms.  I would like to suggest to this board that it is certainly apparent from these numbers, that there is a family that wants to move to Ridgewood today and spend $3,000 a month in rent plus utilities, $3,000 a month in rent plus utilities, they can do so today in the environ, a single family home that exists in the multiple listing.

So when I suggest that my rents that are proposed are in the approximately $3 per square foot range, so if I build apartments that range from 1,000 to 1,600 square feet, I'm proposing rents of approximately $3,000 to $5,000 a month in rent plus utilities, all utilities, water, sewer, electric and gas, plus phone, cable, all the same things that are required of a resident who wants to rent this single family home. 

So why is someone going to rent a one bedroom apartment for $3,000 a month that's 1,000 square feet in size, when they could rent a single family home, if their goal is to place their children in the school system?  Those opportunities exist.  The product that's most likely being proposed under the scenario that's outlined in your amendment to the Master Plan for potential luxury, in my case luxury apartments, but certainly apartments that are at densities outlined in the Master Plan amendment, are simply not a place where families are going to go.  Our project will contain apartments that are for the "bookends," as we've heard time and time again, and all of our projects that I cited in the previous exhibit are exactly that.  They are bookends.  The bookends are young professionals, singles, young couples and empty‑nesters, and that's what we're going to see here as well, because the housing stock exists today for someone who would like to rent and be in this community to put their children in the school system. So I think that's very important. I've also heard a lot over the course of time and I've introduced and I'll ‑‑ Tom, I don't know what exhibit this was.

MR. WELLS:  D‑2.

MR. LOVENTHAL: So this is an enlarged version of exhibit D‑2.  And exhibit D‑2 was prepared by Appel Design Group, who was presented earlier on in the public hearing, and we heard loud and clear from the board and from the public that they wanted to see what our project would look like in scale.  So what I want to talk about for a moment is height and mass in the building. I would like to suggest to you that this exhibit is to scale.  It is.  It's to scale.  It is an actual photo with the building at the same scale superimposed on the Brogan Cadillac site.  And as you can see, and I'd like to reemphasize, when we initially sat down with the community early on in the process, when we had concept plans that we were proposing, we had a very boxy building, and a boxy building that was within at that time the 50‑foot building height. While this building does slightly exceed the 50‑foot building height, it ranges anywhere from two stories, three stories, and four stories total.  While it slightly exceeds the 50‑foot building height, we believe it does so in a manner that is not only appropriate from a scale and massing perspective, but that we're very proud of, and we think at the end of the day is something that we hope Ridgewood would be very, very proud of. So from my perspective, I would like to submit to you that I believe the height as it's currently set forth in the AH‑2 amendment to the Master Plan is not only appropriate, but on the only site where the AH‑2 is proposed, which is an amendment to the affordable housing site, which is the Brogan Cadillac site and the adjacent Quick Lube site, that the existing height of 50 feet, while we would love to have some additional height, we believe it's appropriate, we believe that it fits within the scale of the surrounding community and the surrounding buildings, and we are going to work with the 50 feet as it's currently proposed.  You know, I've been asked time and time again, well, from a fiscal perspective, what can you live with? And, you know what, what we believe is that the project that we've proposed can fit within the amendment to the Master Plan as it's currently set forth and that it's a project that we believe everyone at the end of the day will find very, very attractive from a scale perspective and ultimately fill a void in terms of your housing stock that exists. The last item that I wanted to touch upon, before I'll open up to questions, is the "what‑if" scenario.  And everybody seems to focus, we've heard time and time again, "What if?" "What if?"  "What if?"  What if other sites become available outside of this process? 

And I keep hearing that.  Maybe they're not concerned, maybe everyone isn't concerned, I hope this board isn't concerned, because what's in front of this board are several amendments to the Master Plan. 

While you can consider the what if, I would like to submit to the board that this process, as extensive as it has been from my perspective and based on my years of experience, is insulated and protecting this board and the community from further consideration for multi‑family housing in the what if scenario.  And I'll explain that for a moment, the what if scenario. What if Stop & Shop ceases to exist and the owners go out of business?  I would like to suggest to you that after 13 months of public hearings on amendment to the Master Plan and almost four years of planning and workshop testimony, that this board and its planner, who's not here tonight, to get credit for what I think was a very thorough and good job as it relates to bringing everything together for the board and for the public. This board has gone through this process and, as such, you would be insulated from any further challenge.  Now, anyone can challenge anything for anything, we all know that, but from the perspective that you have reviewed and studied the entirety of the CBD, and I talked about process early on, am I thrilled that we're here for four years for a project that may yield on a 2.67‑acre site approximately 100 units? No, I'm certainly not.  Nevertheless, it was your process, and, as such, you should be as respectful of your process as we have been.  And, as such, you are leaving yourself in a position where you have studied extensively housing in the downtown.  And your planner and each of the board members have concluded that a certain number of sites and a certain number of locations may be appropriate for an amendment to the Master Plan and may be a location that's appropriate.  And you've concluded that these other sites are not appropriate, theoretically.  And as such, you will have this document, as we proceed through the process, to present to any other developer or any other property owner who believes that he's entitled merely because of the what if, and that's if property becomes available.

So I just want to make sure that from a developer's perspective you understood that you're not starting something that's going to continue.  You've done a comprehensive study, and that's why we've all been respectful of that process.  And by doing a comprehensive study, you've concluded that only certain sites may be appropriate for higher density multi‑family housing, and, as such, I believe from my years of experience that you've left yourself in a very good position as it relates to any further challenges.

I'd simply like to suggest to you that once again this is a property as it relates to the AH‑2 zone that was always considered as part of your housing element of the Master Plan as a site for affordable housing and that as such it is appropriate, it meets your Master Plan as it relates to providing for a mix of housing types.  There is a void in your stock of housing that currently exists, and, as such, I think that the Master Plan amendment as it's presented to you, should be approved or recommended to the governing body as it currently exists. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Mr. Loventhal. 

Before you sit down, members of the public, in the past what we've done is, following testimony, we've allowed you to ask questions of the witness who's providing the testimony in advance of the board.  So we'll continue that process tonight; however, what I'd like to do is stipulate that any questions need to be very specific to testimony this evening. 

So if you do have a question for Mr. Loventhal with regard to his specific testimony this evening, can I have a show of hands as to who might have questions?  Anyone else? 

Okay.  Is there a motion to open to public questioning for this witness? 

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Motion to open to the public questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Is there a second? 

MS. BIGOS:  I second. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Before we vote on this, do you have a question? 

MS. RAZIN:  Mr. Loventhal, I'm sorry, and this may help, but can you just tell me your actual title or role?

MR. LOVENTHAL: Director of Development, and I'm a principal at Garden Homes and K&K Developers LLC, which is the actual petitioner here before you this evening.

MS. RAZIN:  Thank you. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Please come forward, if you have a question.  Please state your name, spell your name, and provide your address, and then you may ask your questions.

MR. WATSON:  Andrew Watson, A‑N‑D‑R‑E‑W W‑A‑T‑S‑O‑N, 300 Highland Avenue. 

I just had one question.  What is the width of the building that's pictured there? 

MR. LOVENTHAL:  The width of the building? 

MR. WATSON:  Yes.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Or the length of the building? 

MR. WATSON:  The front of the building, I guess, yes, the length. 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes. It's approximately 320 feet.

MR. WATSON:  Okay.  And I guess I didn't use the correct term.  What I've used, the depth of the building.

MR. LOVENTHAL: The depth is a little more difficult, and while I haven't presented a site plan, I think the best way to describe the depth is think about the letter E, if you're looking from the top in a plan view down, what we're proposing is a project that the long side of the letter E is what you're seeing in the image behind you, and there would be four prongs.  So an E with a fourth prong. There would be four prongs that would be perpendicular to Board Street that come off to create the E.  So each portion of that E, the leg of the E, is approximately 75 feet deep.

MR. WATSON:  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Mr. Watson, just for your information, if you go to the website, there are several exhibits which might provide some of the detailed questions you're looking for during the course of this process.  So if you look at the housing subset under the Planning Board page of the website, you might find more information.

MR. WATSON:  And what is that exhibit? 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: I don't know the exhibit offhand.

MS. RAZIN:  That's D‑2.  

MR. WATSON:  But that's not going to tell me what the length is.

MS. RAZIN:  Correct.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: But if you browse that, you might see various exhibits.

MR. WATSON:  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you.

Are there any other questions from the public?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Is there a motion to close public? 

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Motion to close public portion.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Second, please? Is there a second, please? 

MR. THURSTON:  Second.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you. 

All in favor?

(Whereupon, all Board Members respond in the affirmative.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Anybody opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you. 

Mr. Wells, did you want to continue ‑‑ oh, sorry, I almost forgot, board questions, the most important thing, and Ira. 

Why don't we begin at this end this time.

MR. THURSTON:  I just have one question. 

I understand confidentiality, so if you can't answer this, I understand. You had mentioned that there were previous potential buyers for the property. You were going to do a different sort of development there.  In the event that this amendment is turned down, will you not be the contract purchaser any longer and then give that back to these other people for their potential development? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: That's certainly a possibility.  We haven't thought about, you know, potential exit strategy, for lack of a better word, as it relates to where we would go.  We have a contract to purchase the property.  There are contingencies in that agreement.  I'm not going to suggest otherwise. 

Certainly the Brogan family and the company, the Brogan companies, has owned the property since the 1928, I believe.  They do have every interest in seeing it become a productive property to them from a business perspective. So I can only speculate as to what it may become, but certainly there are other users that considered it before we considered it for multi‑family housing.  I would only conclude that there would be other users that would consider it post any other consideration.

MR. THURSTON: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Nancy.

MS. BIGOS:  Mr. Loventhal, I want to thank you also.  I think this evening that the information that you shared with us on D‑12, D‑13, and D‑2 was quite helpful, I do, especially the rental non‑garden style unit comparison and just the fact that we get to see these sites. 

I can share with you that my sister lives in Cranford, and I have been to your Riverfront site.  I also have good friends that have just sold property on Lincoln Avenue and are now residing in the Fair Lawn Promenade.  So I think that, listening to your testimony this evening, trying to figure out what is the best route for our community, but also knowing that, you know, some of the fear factor that many of our residents are sharing right now might be put to bed with the fact that these projects are successful and that you do believe in what you're doing.  And there is a need, working very closely with the senior citizen population within the community, I know of many that want to remain in the village and are not able to keep up their homes.  So I'm grateful for the picturesque, I'm grateful for the numbers of school‑aged children, and your testimony this evening, and I have no questions.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Nancy.

Susan?

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Thank you. 

I have a couple of questions regarding the other opportunities that presented to the Brogans prior to your arrival, as to whether or not or to what extent those went through a process that would have actually come to fruition; whether or not they were floated; were there any real tangible contracts; what position were they at before they terminated their interest in the Brogan site? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: It is very difficult for me to answer that, because obviously I only have direct knowledge of my own negotiations on the property, but I have obviously had a number of conversations with the Brogan companies and someone who is not here tonight to answer because of a conflict that he had.  Notwithstanding, I can tell you that the prior proposal was for multi‑family housing at triple the density of what I'm proposing.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: That's not what I'm asking.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Okay, maybe I didn't understand the question.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  I'm asking very specifically, because you made a statement that there were other interested parties in the Brogan site and that the Brogan owners, in fact, turned those offers away, were your words.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Yes.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Those offers were turned down.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Because their interest was in doing something to leave a legacy.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Uh‑huh.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: So my question is, because you made the statement:  At what point were they at in those negotiations and at what time or what point and by whose hand was it terminated, any that you referred to? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: It is very difficult for me.  If you're asking whether they entered any type of a land use entitlement process, I believe that there had been no applications prior to our petition before this board for any changes to zoning, nor any site plan approval, since Brogan ceased to operate.

So let's start with land use.  There were no land use applications and nothing was determined either pro or con, nothing was approved or nothing was denied as it relates to land use. 

I can only suggest to you that based on specific conversations, there were a number of uses that were consistent with the existing zoning that were presented and that were ultimately determined to be not in the best interests of Brogan, and I can't conclude why they were not in the best interest.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Okay, but you're leading us to believe that your conclusion and the reason why was because the Brogan people wanted to put something there that would ultimately leave a legacy.

MR. LOVENTHAL: That's right.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: But, in fact, it could have been something that wasn't really lucrative or, for a variety of reasons, it could have been terminated, but in fact when my colleague on the Planning Board asked the question relative to whether or not someone might come back to the table if in fact you did not move forward, you alluded again to the fact that you don't know or that there were some level of substance to any previous contracts, but you wouldn't necessarily say that at this point? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: No, but what I'd like to suggest to you in response is that under the existing zoning on that property the opportunities are limited, and I'm going to cite a specific example, and that is the Buick building across the street, which is owned by a building company. The Buick building across the street has the same zone. The Buick building across the street requires ground floor ‑‑

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  I'm going to stop you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: I can't finish? 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  No, I'm going to stop you because you answered my question.  I'm very familiar with the zoning and the limitations of such, so you answered the question and I understand.

MR. WELLS:  I think it's proper to let him finish answering the question.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: I want to make sure that my colleagues down at the other end of the table have ample opportunity. I didn't mean to be rude but...

MR. LOVENTHAL: My only point that I was going to be making is that the same zoning exists across the street, the same zoning exists in many places throughout the town.  The same zoning exists across the street, which requires ground floor retail or commercial uses and the opportunity for upper floor commercial uses and/or upper floor residential, and what I'd like to say to you is that the same paper that was up years ago when I signed the contract to purchase the Brogan site sits in the window of the Buick building, for a number of reasons, but most of which is that the market for that type of zone property with ground floor retail doesn't exist at that location.  So what I was concluding is that there's a number of factors that play into what we just discussed.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  My next question is:  When you said that the time and place for a Sealfons is a time gone by, essentially is what you said.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Yes.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  So are you suggesting that more residential or that residential is the future of our Central Business District, because what you're suggesting is that somewhere the retail generated or the interest of retail in a village‑type setting, in this type of downtown setting, is not necessarily viable.  And I just wanted a little clarification.

MR. LOVENTHAL: I actually was very specific and I said the time for a department store in the downtown, where we've seen that department stores have now all moved to primarily ‑‑ not all, but we know Ridgewood lost McHugh's (phonetic), Ridgewood lost Sealfons.  The full service, full‑priced department store in the downtown no longer had its place there and that as such, I did not suggest that retail will not remain and service‑oriented businesses will not remain your predominant land use in the downtown, but that change in this case has the potential for being good in continuing that vibrancy, and that vibrancy in the case of Sealfons, I don't want to speak for the Sealfons site but I used it as an example, that residential may allow for vibrancy to continue in the downtown, as opposed to vacant space to remain in the downtown, when a department store, and that's what I referred to, no longer has its place in that downtown.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  You did say "department store," and I'm clearly aware that you said department store but ‑‑

MR. LOVENTHAL: But you didn't say it.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  I know I didn't say it, but I guess my point to you was whether or not that at some point would translate down or filter down to a more traditional single user retail location? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: In terms of replacing it? 

Is that what you're saying? 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  So, in other words, if your point to Sealfons is a department store, would then also filter to a more boutique‑type store, because certainly many boutique stores are located in malls as well.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Absolutely.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  I guess that's where I was leading to.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Right, and I was just emphasizing that a vibrant mix is really what will lead to a vibrant downtown.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: So my next question is:  Relative to the houses that you pointed out were for rent ‑‑

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  ‑‑ do you know how many, and I know you didn't mention this, what was the average rental of one of your units would be?  Did you mention that? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.  Approximately $3 a square foot is what we're proposing, which would, assuming that we get unit sizes that are between 1,000 and 1,800 square feet, just to multiply three and determine a base monthly rent.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Okay.  So when you talk about luxury, could you just define that for me, what would the amenities be in your definition of "luxury"? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Sure.

I think luxury starts with unit finishes. So unit finishes in today's environment includes stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, decorative moldings, individual, what I call, "condominium style" finishes as well, so that the building theoretically could convert to condo and, that is, individually controlled utilities and heating and cooling.  Those are things that the luxury renter is looking for, as opposed to a central boiler, as it relates to heating and cooling. So those are a handful of interior finishes that lead to luxury.

As it relates to amenities, amenities include anything from community spaces.  We're seeing the trend is that people want smaller and smaller apartments, because they'd rather congregate in common areas and, as such, they want libraries that have free Wi‑Fi, they want places to gather where they can socialize, they want coffee bars, they want community rooms, and those things don't necessarily exist in a lot of existing housing types in Ridgewood, because there was always a tendency to build larger units and cut down on common space.  But today, there's a trend towards smaller units, because people are spending less time within their individual dwelling unit, but they like luxury finishes, whatever end of the market, wherever they are in the marketplace, they like the luxury finishes that I just described, and they like places where they can gather for community activities within the building. 

Early on in the process, and I know you weren't part of some of the workshops that go back a number of years, when we did give a little bit of greater detail as it relates to what was proposed specifically for our building, we talked about and again one of the items I didn't talk about is what people like today is that personal touch.  They like that the lobby be attended and that there be concierge services that are also attributable to luxury projects.  People's time is very valuable to them, and, as such, they like to know for their rent they've got somebody they can turn to who can handle dry cleaning pickups and drop‑offs for them, can handle dog walking, can handle various daily chores in a concierge‑style service, and they like to have a friendly face when they walk into a building.  So buildings like this generally are lobby attended as well.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  Good evening.  Thank you for your presentation.  I have a few random questions, and I'm going to ask you of them both in your capacity as a developer as well as sort of taking Mr. Wells' suggestion, just picking your brain more generally as someone who's experienced in this. But let me just start with the issue of the luxury apartments, because that's something that actually, as I've expressed before, that I'm interested in.  To me, it's an niche in Ridgewood, it's housing that's missing that needs to be filled.  We have low, moderate income apartments, which is great, we have a lot of single family homes obviously, and that's great, but we don't have something of what you're proposing, the luxury apartment that would be good for the empty‑nester, who might be somebody who wants to stay in Ridgewood, who's lived here a long time, given a lot to the community, is used to a certain style of living, but doesn't want the large house, may not want the large tax bill associated with it.  I'm very interested in this, and on a couple of occasions I've questioned our planner, Blais, what can we do, what do we have the capacity to do, sort of build some criteria into this amendment process that would sort of make sure that, if we went forward with this, that what we're getting was luxury apartments, that we weren't getting more of the same. 

We've had that conversation, and I'm still not clear exactly what we can and can't do. 

I know you're not our planner, but I don't know if you have any thoughts on that, because when you talked about like the public space, the library, the concierge service, that sounds good, but I don't know if we're able to write that into the amendment.  So do you have any thoughts to share with us on that, for someone like myself who might be, that's in a sense a goal of mine, but we're still trying to figure out what to do with that.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  It's difficult.  I believe the uniqueness of this process is that we know throughout this process we blended some site plan issues, some project specific issues, but the true goal and the testimony that's been presented that I think is most important is as it relates to the Master Plan that was drafted and its terms.  I think that you started along the lines, certainly there can be some provisions that speak to a certain percentage, just like any other percentage in a zoning chart, a certain percentage of common space, you know, as it relates to habitable space, a percentage that would be attributable to common space. 

Can you write and this is, you know, you're picking my brain, can you write specifically about some of the things that I just suggested, define in our opinion, in my opinion "luxury"?  I don't know that you can do that.  I think that one of the reasons why I was adding some dimension to the process is because I'm a real developer, and I have a contract and have obviously expended a significant amount of time and effort and have represented to this board what my intentions are. In terms of how do you hold me to those intentions?  It's a difficult question to answer.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: Thank you. 

Next question. 

Train station, so it's come up quite a bit, this issue. On the one hand, building next to or developing an apartment complex like this near a train station, obviously the benefit is for those who like the use the train, commuters, it's obviously a benefit.  But we've heard and it's come up in our hearing, who would want to live near a train? Can you speak to that and do you have any other apartment building like this, sort of in the same proximity to a train track as you're proposing here? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes and yes.

First of all, of the examples that I gave you today as it relates to providing examples for school‑aged children, two of the four that are on that sheet are within walking distance of the rail.  But I believe you're zeroing in a little closer, and, that is, some of the potential downside of the [noise|nose] and other factors related to the rail? 

MAYOR ARONSOHN: Yes.

MR. LOVENTHAL: It has been our opinion and our suggestion and it's my experience that that has not been a deterrent. In this particular case, we would be building into the building certain construction techniques to lessen any impacts that the public or a resident may experience as it relates to sound, and the nice thing is that that is always very subjective.  You know, there's a balancing act that a tenant needs to go through. 

That balancing act may include standing on the site while it's being built, standing in a model apartment and waiting for the train to go by and determine, you know, what their tolerance level is as it relates to some of the nuisances, and balance the pros and cons of being adjacent to a train station. 

I would like to add to not only Riverfront and Fair Lawn, but I have a number of other communities that are under construction in Bergen County as we speak, and, coincidentally, each and every one of them are adjoining the rail.  I'm building a luxury townhouse development in Allendale that's called The Whitney and it is directly on the rail.  It's for sale.  So, you asked about apartments but it's a for sale multi‑family community, and those units are being built directly on the same New Jersey Transit rail line where trains run 24/7, and in that specific development, we have investors, purchasers that are buying those units and are buying so with a balancing act, and the balancing act is, can I walk to downtown Allendale, can I get on the train in downtown Allendale?  And the answer is yes in this particular site. And as such, overnight four trains go by and, you know, we'll hear the rumble of the train actually.  I'm also building in Elmwood Park, directly adjacent to the rail.  So there's a pattern here, and the pattern is that that seems to be recently, when one is determining that balancing act, preferred more than a quiet apartment out in 78 in Hunterdon County, where you don't have access to rail. So I think that I've got four examples I just cited to you that are all within earshot of Ridgewood, where we've had success in renting and selling luxury product to buyers and renters, without any concern ‑‑ but possibly a concern, that's not fair, but that balanced pros and cons of being adjacent to the rail, and those projects remain successful.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  Okay.  Thank you. 

On the issue of density, obviously something we've talked about a lot here. If I remember correctly, it was about 40 units per acre.

MR. LOVENTHAL: We're at 39.6 on our site, approximately 40 units per acre, yes.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  Two questions.

You've given us a few examples of apartments. I was wondering, first of all, offhand, if you know the densities of those? 

And, second of all, we kicked around and I threw out there at one point this idea of going down to like 30 units per acre, you know, and at some point we're going to try to figure out what the right number is.

What are your thoughts on that?  What are your thoughts when someone says to you 30 units per acre? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Well, I've got 2.67 acres, and we can do the math and calculate what that does in terms of number of units. 

In our analysis of this particular project, we looked at a number of things as it relates to management, but they're very specific to us, so I don't know where their place is in this process, but they're specific to us in terms of where we like to see our projects in terms of size and how our pro forma works as it relates to number of units on a particular site.  But that's, you know, not necessarily relevant to the process per se, that's my particulars.  As it relates to some of these projects, they're actually in excess of the densities that we're discussing here, you know, they're between 40 and 50 units per acre.  There's 123 units on 2.2 acres, I believe, in Cranford, and in Fair Lawn, of course it's a mixed use project, but on the residential component, it is 150 units on approximately three acres, so just over 50 units per acre.  Those projects work.  Those projects have ample parking.  Those projects have not presented any parking issues.  Those projects are consistent with the parking that we've set forth in our concept plans and what we believe your amendment to the Master Plan is proposing as it relates to RSIS, and, as such, that's why we're supportive of the amendment as it's been presented.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: I appreciate that.

Clearly, you know, I guess in my mind there's a tipping point, there's a number by which, you know, at which it's no longer economically feasible, perhaps, for a developer to develop and, you know, we're trying to figure out what makes the right thing. 

As you've heard, we've kicked around different numbers and we really haven't established criteria, but what makes sense for, you know, these areas that we're looking at.  So we're wrestling with that one, obviously, still, and I'm sure they'll be more discussion on that at some point.

MR. LOVENTHAL: I would just, my only other response is that when we're talking about a site that's 2.67 acres and you're talking about wrestling with density and units per acre, the difference in the unit count is reasonably negligible on two acres. 

If we were looking at larger tracts of land on a site and even in total when you look at all of the properties that are subject to the amendment, the difference between what you're wrestling with is not significant. 

I made a comment during my testimony that I'm not going to suggest to this board or to this community that what we're proposing, of course I'm not going to suggest there's significant detriments, I'm also not going to suggest that these projects, because they are not, in my opinion, significant as it relates to the sites that they're being proposed upon, even when you look at the totality of the amendment, that are not going to provide significant positives as well, they are simply going to meet a housing type that doesn't exist and provide some level of vibrancy and continue some level of vibrancy within your downtown. 

So when you talk 30 versus 40, you know, that's obviously for your debate, but on sites that are only a few acres in size, we're not talking about substantial swings in unit counts.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: You mentioned townhouses.  I think you were talking about Ramsey? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Allendale.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: Allendale. I'm sorry.

Did you consider townhouses for this property?  Because that's another issue that comes out, like why don't we have townhouses?  That would also seem to fill a niche in Ridgewood.

MR. LOVENTHAL: We didn't, but if I suggested to you why, is merely because it just didn't fit within the economic structure of what the site offered, so economics do play a factor. 

I also don't think that there really is a place for a townhouse product per se on this particular site.  I think you got to look at both of those properties.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  And my last question is:  Age restricted housing, we've talked about it, I'm sort of curious of everyone's thinking on this, what is your thinking? 

For me, I look at, you talk about the bookends, my focus has always been on the empty‑nesters, maybe because I know a lot of them.  I have a foot, I have a kid in college, a kid in high school, I see the people, their kids graduate high school and they leave, so my focus has always been on the 50, 55, 60‑year‑old. 

Why not age restricted? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: I think from our perspective, we simply in order for a project to be vibrant and a project to be successful, you want to open it up to the demographic that we believe will be predominant.  We believe that while empty‑nesters will make up a good portion of our prospective renters, we don't want to preclude young singles and young couples from having opportunity to live in this type of a project, because they will contribute to that vibrancy.  I think that, and often is the case, that in all age restricted projects does not provide you with the vibrancy that a project that's open to potential residents of all ages would.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: Well, let me ask you, because you're talking about vibrancy, but as you acknowledge, so economics, you're a businessman.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Yes.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  So the vibrancy is a good thing to consider, but that's more like our concern.  Is there not just a market for ‑‑

MR. LOVENTHAL: No, there is obviously, because we've had the conversation that there is a portion, certainly a significant portion of the prospective residents of these buildings on our site that would be empty‑nesters and would be 55 and over.

So is there a market?  Certainly.

Do we believe that that market should not preclude people of all ages as it relates to this particular site? 

I don't believe it should preclude all ages on this site and as part of this amendment.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: Okay.  Great. Thank you very much.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Anyone else over here? 

MR. ABDALLA:  I have two questions.

First, thank you for your time and your testimony.

I have only two questions and maybe a point, if I have occasion, in regard to the exhibits that you shared with us tonight. 

One of the exhibits you showed examples of six single family homes available for rent.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

MR. ABDALLA:  Do you know how many single family homes are available for rent

MR. LOVENTHAL: I think I suggested in the testimony that it's double digits.  I think that there are ‑‑ I ran reports on January 5th on two types, two family homes that are available for rent. I didn't offer them here, but I have the data, if anyone is interested, two family homes that are available for rent obviously single units and two family homes, because you have several of those in the community and single family homes. 

To answer your question, it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 homes that are available for rent as of January 5th.

MR. ABDALLA:  Okay.  And the second question I have, also I believe your testimony provided some sort or alluded to some sort of a comparison in terms of schools and school‑aged children between the rental garden style units and then the non‑garden style units, but I don't recall you mentioning, in your opinion, how do you rate the schools in the three projects that you have as non‑garden style units? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: How would I rate them? 

I would rate each of the school districts in the communities that are listed under non‑garden style units as top 20 percent of school districts in New Jersey, if not higher.  And in each of these cases, they are reasonably consistent school districts with Ridgewood.  I think I alluded to some rankings, so without specific rankings, each of these are within the 20 percent of school districts in New Jersey, I believe.

MR. ABDALLA:  Okay.  Thank you. 

And the last clarification that I would like for you to provide is that I think you mentioned something about obviously the development of the project is going to be a luxury development project, but you mentioned something about helping the community meet their affordable housing requirements. 

How do you suggest that, unless I misunderstood what you said? 

MR. LOVENTHAL:  No, you were right on point. 

From our perspective, I think the AH‑2 zone was always established in connection with your housing plan under Round III of COAH, this site was considered as part of an inclusionary component of your affordable housing plan.  I believe that by virtue of amending this AH‑2 zone, the village will be afforded a greater opportunity to meet the needs for affordable housing, because with an increased density, if ultimately Round III of COAH, which is what's in flux now and is the subject of a Supreme Court decision which may come out soon, suggests 10 percent, 15 percent, some percentage with a greater number of total units, we would theoretically be able to provide and submitted that we would provide under the AH‑2 zone that percentage that's ultimately required of us under the state requirements. 

So I said we would assist by virtue of not shying away from the obligation under the zone as it's currently proposed to be amended, which would include an affordable housing component in accordance with the state standard at the time.

MR. ABDALLA:  Thank you.

MR. WELLS: Just explain to the board, many of them may know this, when you say "provide," let's say hypothetically it was 15 percent, and how would that be inclusionary in terms of what you would actually do?  And if it's not inclusionary, you can explain that as well.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Well, the AH‑2 zone as it was proposed, in fact, included as an inclusionary component, "inclusionary" meaning that that portion of the units, let's say in this case 15 percent, would be set aside and deed restricted for 30 years and would have to meet the guidelines under the affordable housing, assuming that the uniform affordable housing rules and regulations don't change, a lottery would be held, and those units would be available to low and moderate income families.  And they would be mixed within the building, and they wouldn't be set apart any differently, other than the possibly of interior finishes, but nothing that would be perceived by the public to set them apart and they would be mixed within the community.  It is still up in the air as to whether other potential avenues exist.  Under Round III, it was pretty much inclusionary development or none at all, but under previous rounds of COAH there were opportunities to either contribute to the affordable housing trust fund or build other affordable housing in the community and the opportunity to build other affordable housing in other communities in the housing region.  And right now nobody knows what ultimately the courts are going to decide and what COAH, if it still exists, will be charged with in terms of reviewing plans as it moves forward.  So that's the process, if you're not familiar with it.  So we would be proposing to meet a higher percentage and a greater number of affordable housing units would be built on a site like this, if the amendment was ultimately recommended.

MR. WELLS:  If I could follow‑up?  That's, for example, if a site was found either within the Village of Ridgewood where affordable housing could be built or a special needs affordable housing, which had been discussed by a number of people, what you could do would be provide in the Master Plan amendment and then ultimately in an ordinance, rather than build an inclusionary, have the affordable housing in the building that you would make a contribution based on a certain formula towards funding that, and that's very likely to be the law in the future, but we're not exactly sure.

MR. ABDALLA: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you.

Isabella?

MS. ALTANO: Thank you.

I want to thank you so much for your very informative presentation tonight. 

I just want to clarify something.  You're talking about five, 10 percent allocated to affordable housing.  I just want to make sure I understand it.  Within the unit [sic] you will allocate 15 percent of the units to affordable housing? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Right, within the development.

MS. ALTANO:  Within the development.

MR. LOVENTHAL: That's right.

MS. ALTANO: And within the development, a proportion of that will be luxury finishes, and then 15 percent would be of affordable housing, and the finishes would be different? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.  Often is the case, and I don't think we need to be bashful in setting forth what has been common practice in the development community and is completely consistent with the rules and regulations under COAH, and that is that those units, many, many years ago, you could actually set them aside, as long as they were on the same development site, but there was a stigma associated with, oh, well, those are the affordable units. Currently the regulations require that those units be mixed within the development, they would not appear to be any different, but, as such, the rents are significantly lower, in order to afford the opportunity for low and moderate income families to live in those units, and, as such, there is no particular obligation as it relates to the developer to have the same finishes in those units.  So I'm just being completely aboveboard to suggest that one would never know that a unit was affordable versus non‑affordable if they were walking down the hall; however, the units that are ultimately deed restricted and that we as a developer ultimately are restricted from charging market rents and must live within the guidelines as it relates to rents, the interior finishes of the affordable units may not have the same finishes as a market‑rate unit.

MR. ABDALLA:  I'm trying to clarify the percentage.  This percentage dictated, is it something? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: No, the 15 we're using is just a placeholder, as an example.  Fifteen percent has been the number under previous rounds of COAH. COAH Round III, which was the third round of COAH that provided affordable housing in each community, has been challenged in the courts over the last number of years and we're all awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court as to how they may act and what percentage of each project may be required to be affordable.

MS. ALTANO:  Thank you.  Because, to me it seems like an oxymoron to have luxury apartments in affordable housing, the two things don't go together, so that's the reason why I need to find out about the percentage.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Right.  It's a public policy and certainly something that's subjective as to whether you look as there's a place for affordable housing within a luxury development, but in the past there has been.

MS. ALTANO: Thank you.

One more question to ask you is:  The units are going to be located, naturally, next to the train station.  Also we are worried about proximity to transportation, which is a really good thing. 

Is your company familiar with the need for neighborhood development, which is something a lot of communities are striving for? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Can you repeat the term? 

MS. ALTANO: Need for Neighborhood Development, it's NND. 

Is your company familiar with proposing, developing projects that have that in mind? 

Certainly it would be a benefit to Ridgewood, but this is probably more of a site plan discussion than Master Plan, but I think it would play well in the whole discussion.

MR. LOVENTHAL: I'm certainly familiar with the LEED acronym, but Need for Neighborhood Development I'm not particularly familiar with.  I'm not sure if that's something that has been implemented in any part of New Jersey.

MS. ALTANO: It has.

MR. LOVENTHAL: I would certainly be interested in hearing more about it, and I'm assuming that it's the same process of following a point in order to provide for certain energy efficiencies.

MS. ALTANO:  Correct.

MR. LOVENTHAL: And certain things that are beneficial to the environment and ultimately receiving a certification.  Certainly an interesting process and one I will look into.  I'm not familiar with it.

MS. ALTANO: Do you think that a thousand square feet would be too small for units? 

MR. LOVENTHAL:1,000 square feet would be too small? 

I think that for a single occupant and/or a couple, 1,000 square feet is very commonplace for an apartment.  And I think, again, it is subjective as it relates to a potential resident, if a resident doesn't believe that a thousand square feet wouldn't meet their need wouldn't rent there. 

In my experience is a thousand square feet unit appropriate and successfully being rented in this type of community?  The answer is yes.

MS. ALTANO: No more questions.  Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

MS. DOCKRAY: Okay.  Thank you for coming this evening.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Is this your 47th hearing then? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: 46, but who's counting? 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Okay.  Just one question on the NJMLS, I assume that's where you printed it? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Correct.

MS. DOCKRAY: Earlier in your testimony, you mentioned that the market here has an interest in luxury finishes. 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

MS. DOCKRAY: Are you aware whether any of these homes have luxury finishes? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: I'm not aware.  I did not personally visit or look at the interiors, I'm simply presenting the listings as they list, so, no, I don't know.

MS. DOCKRAY: Okay. And then over on your list of rental non‑garden style, rental garden style units, a couple weeks ago ‑‑ I'm a Realtor ‑‑ and I had a customer who gave me a list of towns she would live in, and one of them was Upper Saddle River, and she's in California.  I said, "Oh, I'm going to drive up to Upper Saddle River," and wouldn't you know, landed in your project Commons at Upper Saddle River to see what that was.  I drove by it many, many times and never knew really what it was called.  I do now. 

I went into the rental office there to get some literature for my customer, since you directly rent and don't work with brokers. 

But they shared with me some information that's different than what's on this sheet.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Okay.

MS. DOCKRAY:  I asked if there was a playground, and they said "no."

MR. LOVENTHAL: Okay.

MS. DOCKRAY: Is that correct? 

Were they misinformed? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: There's a playground in close proximity.  Is it on the site, an actual tot lot? 

MS. DOCKRAY: Yes.

MR. LOVENTHAL: It may not be.

MS. DOCKRAY: She said no.  She told me there were just one and two bedroom units.

MR. LOVENTHAL: We have some duplex units that have some basements.  I think there are a handful.  So one and two bedroom units may have been the only units available.  We have a handful, what we call a two bedroom, den.

MS. DOCKRAY: She said you couldn't use it as a bedroom, because I was looking for a client who needed some space.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Right.

MS. DOCKRAY: So, anyway, and it's also true that quite a few of the units there abut Route 17 without a sound barrier. Is that correct? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes, reasonably close proximity, that's right.

MS. DOCKRAY: All right.  I just wanted to be clear, because your information doesn't jive totally with what I was given and what I was told. One last question.  The literature they did give me described those units as "luxurious."  I spent a few minutes in the rental model, and I just wondered if you can tell me if that's what you mean for "luxury" here in Ridgewood? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Well, those units were constructed 6 to 8 years ago, so I think that when we used the term "luxury" as it relates to that project, you know, again, that's a term of what we believed those finishes include.  So do I believe that the project that I'm proposing here in Ridgewood would have the same level of finishes?  I don't.  I mean, that's a garden style apartment that was built eight years ago and is not consistent with what we're defining today as "luxury," but that doesn't mean we can't use that term, and I think that's simply a term. So I've tried to present to you this evening, when asked how I perceive "luxury finishes," and I've described some of those finishes, and I think I stand by that testimony.

MS. DOCKRAY:  So what I saw was not necessarily ‑‑ the luxury finishes that you market there are not necessarily the luxury finishes we would see here? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Well, again, it's an eight‑year‑old garden apartment complex as opposed to today's new construction and a three story elevator building, so the word "luxury" is the word "luxury."  I believe that as it relates to other housing types in that market, those are still luxury units, yes.

MS. DOCKRAY: Okay.  And then one question about The Whitney.  I didn't know you guys were in The Whitney too, and I showed some units over there a long time ago.

As I came into the right, the townhouses there look different and the architecture is a little bit different. 

Did you put your affordable units along the railroad tracks? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: The affordable units are mixed, some of them happen to have been, and we didn't get the site plan approved, it was a development that had been approved and was in foreclosure when we purchased it.  The affordable unit are intermittent, they happen to be on those small streets that are perpendicular to the rail, but the architecture on the building on the right is identical.  I have one architectural type throughout the entire project, other than the fact that there's two types, there's carriage homes and there's townhouses. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Maybe they weren't done when I looked at them.  It was a while back.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Right.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Okay.  Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Okay.  Thank you, Mr. Loventhal. 

I mean, we've received certain projects that are kind of success stories. 

Do you have any projects where you got approvals, either a Master Plan or zoning approvals, where there was a change in circumstances and became not so successful, say you were going to build something luxury and then you had to change tacks and then it became something else? 

MR. LOVENTHAL:  I'm not aware of any.  Our organization just celebrated its 60th anniversary, and I'd like to suggest to you that we haven't had a distressed project in our history.  So I'm not aware of a circumstance where we had to change course by virtue of what you're describing, no.

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL:  Not necessarily distressed, maybe just a change of heart or circumstances, have you changed any projects or do you commit to them and what you're presenting is what's going to go? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Generally that's the case.

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL: Okay. 

Have you had any luxury projects that have been maybe you're not getting the rents that you want and have changed from it?  Does the project have to be totally done in total before it's started to be rented out? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: No, depending on the size and the scope of any particular project, you can begin your marketing and leasing efforts based on the construction completion and whether you can obtain a certificate of occupancy and permit construction.  So the marketing and leasing of individual units does not need to wait until an entire project is complete. In fact, there's always pre‑leasing that's going on.

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL: Do you ever have any circumstances where you have to drop the rent to fill up the building? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Market conditions will always dictate, so I think that it's certainly clear that in the recession, most rent recession, rents across‑the‑board dropped.  I think that, you know, if you follow the market, but I think everything is relative, but, sure, you know, I think it would be unfair for me to suggest that rents don't change with market conditions, they certainly do.

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL:  But buildings that you've developed that were luxury haven't changed to non‑luxury? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: No, we haven't had a circumstance like that, no.

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL: Okay.  Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Loventhal, again, for your presentation, also your time with our questions.  I just had a follow‑up question to Mr. Joel's a moment ago. Are most of your developments today luxury developments as a developer?  And the reason I ask that question is not really to inquire about your business, but more specifically to help better understand the process by which a developer looks at property and determines luxury versus something other than luxury, and maybe you can speak to us about that.

MR. LOVENTHAL: That's a very good question, and I think the answer is that a greater percentage of our particular projects today happen to be luxury.  We're attempting to fill that need in a number of markets. 

But I would also suggest to you that we have a number of developments in middle income communities where there simply isn't the need or there wasn't the void, if a luxury product exists, where, if the economics are appropriate, where we are developing middle income and not simply luxury projects. 

So it's a matter of market conditions, it's a matter of demographics, and it's a matter of economics for a particular project which will determine luxury versus middle income.  We are not developers on a personal level, we're not developers of lower income or affordable projects that often are associated with various tax credits in order to make them viable as a business.  So I think that part of the process is that land costs are where they are, construction costs are where they are, and every other cost that goes into any of these projects are leading to much of what we're seeing in the marketplace being luxury projects, but I think that that's, you know, also filling the void.  You know, we used to say we're proposing a rental community here. There was generally, many, many years ago and in often cases, a stigma associated with rental, and now we call it "rental by choice."  People are choosing to rent because they don't want to be tied to market conditions as it relates to ownership, because home ownership doesn't necessarily provide them with the same financial assurities that it may have once provided and, additionally, people want and their lifestyles are more transient in nature, and, as such, the nice thing about a rental is you're making a one or two year commitment and then can move on. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you. 

Also as a follow‑up to Wendy's question about the rental units that you provided as an example, were these selected primarily based on their closeness, if you will, to your projected market rents or were they again the 15 to 30 units that you indicated were available on the listing overall in Ridgewood for rental properties that are available?  Because I would assume there's some on both ends of the spectrum.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  In fact, I would suggest to you that of all of the rental homes that were on the multiple listings on January 5th, the range for single family home rentals went from a low of $1,800, to one anomaly for $7,000, and that anomaly was a custom single family home that I'm assuming the builder couldn't sell, because the fine print of the listing suggested that it was a requirement that the tenant show the unit to brokers while they are living there and that they can terminate the lease on short notice.  So with the exception of one anomaly at $7,000 a month, which was a luxury custom home, as we see it depicted in the picture, the rents ranged from $1,800 and up to about $4,700, with the majority falling in this 3 to $4,000 per month rent.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay. Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Susan, you have follow‑ups? 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: I just wanted to ask a question relative to kind of expanding on the mayor's questions. The Fair Lawn Promenade, is there any reason that you didn't consider a mixed use with some retail and little shops for this particular location? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Here?

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Yes.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Yes, absolutely.  Well, first of all, it's 2.67 acres, and the Fair Lawn Promenade site is 10 acres, and in order to provide the parking for self-park for retail at five spaces per thousand, it would be extremely challenging. Second, there is no reason to compete with the existing downtown, the foot traffic doesn't exist on Broad Street, and that was the example I was giving on the Buick building before.  And while we know that the Buick building, if we zeroed in on it, was purchased by a particular user for a business, his initial intentions were the rent the ground floor as retail.  It was set up as a retail storefront.  He was unsuccessful.  As I understand, he is now going to use that for his own business that occupies the balance of the building, but he was unsuccessful in renting that as a retail location for some of the same reasons why I didn't consider a mixed use community on the Brogan site, and, that is, there is really no place for ground floor retail this far south on Broad Street, you don't get the foot traffic, and I'd be competing with existing product.  I have the statistic, and forgive me, it's in my file, as to what your current vacancy rate is on the ground floor retail in the Central Business District ‑‑ actually don't quote me, it's not significant ‑‑ but it's several thousand, it might be 16,000 square feet, and that includes a few buildings that are ground floor completely vacant, a few thousand square feet, so don't quote me on that, but as it relates to, there is existing retail opportunities and service spaces that are available, and how would I draw? 

In fact, I've seen time and time again projects, while I didn't develop them in other locations, that were required to be mixed use with ground floor retail and second and third floor apartments, that the retail was built merely as a placeholder to get the development built and get the apartments built, and the retail sat vacant.  And that occurred in a number of what we call "mixed use" "town center" "transit oriented," all the catch words, and the retail sat vacant, there just wasn't a place for it, but at the time the planners and the Planning Boards felt that mixed use was the way to go.  I would submit to you here that ground floor retail would be very, very difficult for me to compete, because of the cost associated with its construction.  I wouldn't be able to compete with the rents that are charged on space that's available in better locations along in the core of your CBD.  I really believe this is a transitionary site and one that transitions from some of the multi‑family that exists on S. Broad, some of the single family that exists on S. Broad, some of the service users as you work your way north toward the train station, and, as such, it wasn't viable for retail use.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: The other question is:  On your average rents, I know you have different, one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom, but on the Promenade, what are your rents there?

MR. LOVENTHAL: Rents now run from $2,000 to $4,000 a month, and apartment sizes that range from just shy of 1,000 square feet for a one bedroom and up to, actually I have a three bedroom unit there that's almost 1,800 square feet.  And rents that are now currently on the market from $2,000 to $4,000, and the absorption has been terrific in terms of the demand.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: And then what is the rent at the Upper Saddle River location? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: The rents are slightly lower.  To tell you the truth, I don't know them off the top of my head.  I think that our one bedroom there are probably in the $1,500, $1,600 rate, up to probably $3,000 a month, in that range.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Okay. Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: I just wanted a clarification on one of the questions that Wendy had asked you.  I think it was the building called The Whitney, and she was asking you about the affordable units.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  And she was asking about their location. 

Are they the ones that are closest to the train?  I didn't understand the answer.

MR. LOVENTHAL: The answer was, when she asked whether we placed them there, I didn't get the site plan approved, it was approved by a previous developer who went bankrupt before the development got built ‑‑ excuse me, the developer didn't go bankrupt, the project never proceeded and they dropped out of contract, but they got all the approvals through years and years of litigation.  But, nevertheless, the units are mixed within the buildings in the first phase that happened to be closest to the rail, yes.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  So in other buildings like that that are next to train stations, there's no effort to put the affordable units in what one might suggest the area that's closest to the train station?

MR. LOVENTHAL: No.  In fact, contrary, as it relates to the buildings that I've designed, because, as I've talked about the four prong E, end units generally afford us the opportunity for the greatest exposure and the largest square footages, so it would not be, in a business perspective, I'm going to tell you that's obviously a consideration, and that is where you maximize your rental dollar.

So, no, there wouldn't be any particular effort made to locate those units along the rail, they would be mixed, as required under the affordable housing requirements.

MAYOR ARONSOHN: Great. Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Any follow‑up questions? 

MS. DOCKRAY: Yes, I just have two. With regard to The Dayton and its proximity to the railroad itself, are you aware that the trains hit their horns right about there? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

MS. DOCKRAY: You are? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes, I find it charming.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Okay.  I just thought, well, it's not just the vision, you know, being right up against the tracks, but it's hearing the horn as it's being struck. And what was my other question?  You made me lose my train of thought. 

MS. DOCKRAY:  Oh, no pun intended. It had to do with the train too. Go ahead.  Sorry, I forget.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Other follow‑up questions? 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  One more.  Sorry. 

So just from your vantage point, the difference between the Promenade in Fair Lawn, what you suggested earlier, was that Ridgewood empty‑nesters have moved over to the Promenade in Fair Lawn, but the rent there is $2,000 on whatever size you said, it starts at $2,000? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: The rents there are one bedroom apartment size.  It starts rent at $2,000, that's correct.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: And a one bedroom at the new location here would be? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Maybe closer to $3,000.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: So why would a Ridgewood empty‑nester, if they have the choice to go to the Fair Lawn Promenade with all those amenities versus this particular location for the $1,000 difference?

It's possible that those empty‑nesters went to Fair Lawn to save money also.  It's possible that those ‑‑ it's possible or would you suggest it's possible that those empty‑nesters necessarily wouldn't come back to Ridgewood anyway, even though what you're saying is there's a need, they would then be faced with the option of the $2,000 rent or the $3,000 rent.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Are you asking whether you lost them as residents?  I mean, I'm not getting the question.  I'm not suggesting they're going to come back, I'm just simply suggesting that the demand was there for that type of apartment that didn't exist in the village.

MR. WELLS:  She's trying to suggest could there be demand for $2,000 and no demand for $3,000? 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Actually that was rephrased well.  Thank you.

So, yes, is it possible there will be a demand for a $2,000 luxury unit in Ridgewood and the $3,000 price point will be just something someone's not going to pay?  Is it possible? 

MR. LOVENTHAL:  I don't believe so.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Okay.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  I believe that then, you know, you'll be the judge of whether you believe that someone who has lived in Ridgewood for many years and what they find attractive about Ridgewood, they might not find attractive about an adjacent community, so it is difficult in that regard to compare specifically, but I don't believe that the difference in rents that you just described, it may for a particular individual, but I'm not going to suggest that there wouldn't be an individual that would leave our project successful.  And I think that that's a good way to conclude, that I believe that what's proposed in this amendment to the Master Plan leads to a successful project from the developer's perspective and a successful project from the village's perspective.

MR. WELLS:  Can I ask this as a follow‑up? 

With your experience, not to in any way put down the other project that you're still renting, the Fair Lawn project, but the Ridgewood project is projected or suggested, as it is within a close proximity to the core business district, which is clearly one of the nicer business districts in North Jersey, wouldn't you, from a marketing point of view, see that as generally more desirable for a potential renter? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Well, I think that it is subjective.  I think that it's going to be in the eye of the beholder.  Someone may be more inclined to state highway access on Route 208 and proximity to 287, than they would be with Ridgewood. Tom is leading me with softball questions, so I'm going to answer it to suggest that there certainly is a significant number of positive benefits of living in the village's Central Business District as opposed to living along a state highway, backing on what has always been know and called the "Fair Lawn industrial tract," so I think, Tom, the answer is yes.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  You are welcome.

MS. DOCKRAY:  I think we're readied for my other question.  You mentioned in reference to The Whitney, that people make a choice and there are people who will suffer through four trains a night or whatever. Are you aware that trains that come through Ridgewood, 40 to 50 a day probably in each direction plus freights? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes, I've actually studied the timetables.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Not four a night.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  Yes.

MS. DOCKRAY:  It's a very noisy place.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

MS. DOCKRAY: Okay.  Thank you.

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Before we wrap up, are we all set?  Okay. 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Do you have any questions, Mr. Bruinooge? 

MR. BRUINOOGE: No questions.

MR. WEINER: I only have a couple of questions. You had given us the acreage on the Riverfront in Cranford and the Fair Lawn Promenade, but you didn't say what the acreage was on the Skyline Ridge.  Do you have that?

MR. LOVENTHAL: I don't, but the usable acreage is probably in the 2 to 3‑acre range.  It's a very small tract of property, with density pushing 40 to 50 units per acre.

MR. WEINER:  So you're saying tighter density? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes. 

MR. WEINER:  Are these projects, in terms of what's inside, similar to what you're proposing here, in terms of unit size.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes and no.  It depends on what you're referring to. There are units that vary in size in all of these projects, but they're very similar, they range in size from, as I said, 1,000 square feet up to about 17 or 1,800 square feet in each of these communities, and that's why I choose their sampling, because these were luxury elevator buildings that did not provide for green space, did not provide for exterior amenities that would really be attractive to families and children.

MR. WEINER:  All right.  So similar to what you're proposing here.

MR. LOVENTHAL: That's why I chose them, yes, but in terms of finishes, I do believe that Ridgewood will ultimately provide us with an opportunity to, you know, have luxury finishes that may exceed these.

MR. WEINER:  Okay. You gave the height on the Riverfront and Fair Lawn, how about Skyline Ridge, how many stories is that.

MR. LOVENTHAL: It's three stories over two levels of parking, and the two levels of parking were again because of the acreage, so it's three levels residential, two levels of parking.

MR. WEINER:  All right.  So one of the things I'm a little confused about ‑‑

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes.

MR. WEINER: ‑‑ and you can help me here. The Riverfront, you said, was 2.2 acres.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Approximately.

MR. WEINER:  Smaller than this site, than the site here.  Am I correct.

I thought you said 2.2‑acre?

MR. LOVENTHAL:  It's approximately 2.2 acres, right, and I got 2.6 acres on The Dayton site, that's right.

MR. WEINER:  And you got a four story building.  How many units do you propose here, 90 something, 96, was it.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Let's call it approximately 100.

MR. WEINER: 100. 

So you got 123 units in a four story building on a smaller site.  How did that happen? 

MR. LOVENTHAL: Do the math.  I have 3 and 4 story buildings and you're talking about Cranford?  What are we focusing on. 

MR. WEINER:  Let's talk about Cranford. 

MR. LOVENTHAL:  We have 124 units, and 3 and 4 story buildings, and we got densities that are greater than what we're proposing on The Dayton, that's correct.

MR. WEINER:  And how tall, how many stories is this building.

MR. LOVENTHAL:  It's 2, 3 and 4 stories, with a level of parking.

MR. WEINER:  You have a level of underground parking here.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Partially underground, that's right.

MS. DOCKRAY:  In Cranford? 

MR. WELLS:  No, Dayton.

MS. DOCKRAY:  I wasn't sure which building.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Right.

MS. DOCKRAY:  Okay. 

MR. WEINER:  All right.  How tall are these buildings, do you know.

MR. LOVENTHAL: Yes. 

Fair Lawn's building is, again, the grade changes, so it's between 55 and 60 feet. 

Cranford is between 50 and 55. 

And the Skyline I believe is 55 to 60.  Again, all based on grade around the perimeter of the building.

MR. WEINER:  I don't want to get too much into that.  That's all I have. Thank you. 

MR. LOVENTHAL: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Okay.  Thank you, Mr. Weiner. 

Okay.  It's 9:35, why don't we take a five‑minute break, and Mr. Wells can ask questions.  We'll resume at 9:40 p.m. (A short recess is held.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay.  Everyone, we're getting ready to begin, if you wouldn't mind getting back to your seats. 

Okay.  We're going to begin. Do you mind calling the roll, please.

(At this point in the proceeding roll call is taken with Mayor Aronsohn, Ms. Bigos, Councilwoman Knudsen, Chairman Nalbantian, Vice‑Chairman Joel, Ms. Dockray, Mr. Thurston, Ms. Altano, and Mr. Abdalla present, with Mr. Reilly and Ms. Peters absent.) 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you. 

Okay.  Mr. Wells, do you have another witness? 

MR. WELLS:  I do have another witness for a different applicant.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: So we're finished with The Dayton at this point? 

MR. WELLS:  Yes, we are.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay.  Great.

MR. WELLS:  As the board well knows, I also represent Chestnut Village, and I would like to call J.T. Bolger on behalf of that developer. So J.T., as he's coming up, I will tell you, he said, boy, that Scott, he's going to be a tough act to follow, and I said it's okay, he's been doing this for a number of years, he knows he's the best in the state.  So with that said, I'll make you even more nervous, I'm going to ask if I could have J.T. sworn in.

MS. RAZIN:  Would you state your full name, your title, your business address.

MR. BOLGER:  Sure.

James T. Bolger, 79 Chestnut Street, Ridgewood, New Jersey, 240 Associates LLC, managing member, B‑O‑L‑G‑E‑R.

MS. RAZIN:  Do you swear that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

MR. BOLGER:  I do.

J A M E S   T. B O L G E R,

79 Chestnut Street, Ridgewood, New Jersey, having been duly sworn, testifies as follows:

MS. RAZIN:  Thank you. 

MR. WEINER: Okay.  As I did with Mr. Loventhal, I'm going to ask Mr. Bolger to just talk to you about ‑‑ he's also been here for these many meetings ‑‑ I ask if he would just take you through this project, the conception for it, and then specifically try to address for the board the kinds of issues and questions that he's heard come up during the course of these proceedings, and then to answer your questions.  So the same thing with respect to this project.  So with that said, I'll give you Mr. Bolger.

MR. BOLGER:  I'll do my best to follow Scott.  I appreciate everybody's time.  I know it's been a long road between the last couple of years of public hearings and before that, and I appreciate everybody's time, as I know you appreciate our input. As most of you know, I'm a lifelong Ridgewood resident.  I don't live here now; I lived here the majority of my life.  My family's been here for almost 40 years.  We've always worked within the community.  And I think Chestnut Village is one of those projects that, along with other projects we've done in the village, would enhance life in the village. I mean, I've enjoyed the downtown.  I work right outside the downtown.  I'm in the downtown.  I walk the downtown.  I see the vacancies.

While I can't guarantee, like Mr. Loventhal couldn't guarantee, I can surely say that having housing this close to downtown will help increase vibrancy, and people do want to walk. 

We've looked at Chestnut Village obviously from numerous angles, many of you are here.  I guess it's been about 5 or 6 years ago when we were approved for self-storage.  I see a couple of familiar faces.

Just to give a perspective on that project, which unfortunately the market passed us, by the time we got our approvals and were ready to start building. Just a couple of things. 

For those that were here, the apartment building is actually a smaller building than what was proposed for the storage, so we're using a little bit less of the site.  We feel it's a better use.  We've been involved in Ridgewood in multi‑family type projects before.  Many of you might know Bellair Condominiums, they're not a comparison to this, I don't want to draw up a comparison, that's a totally different building site and use of the site.  We know from historically doing that, that people do want to live here, they will pay a little bit more for higher finishes, higher rent, washing machine, nicer amenities.

Also recently we just finished the East Coast Burger Place at 75 Franklin Avenue.  I think most people know it's the burger place.  I know when we first started getting approvals, we heard people say who wants to live there? I can tell you, since the day that we've attained our CO, we have not only had that both apartments occupied from the day we received our CO, but every time they do come up for rent there's a bidding war. Why is there a bidding war?  I asked, "Why do you want to live there?"  I understand it's a nice apartment, I built it, I take pride in it, it's a nice building. 

"We want to be near the downtown.  We think this is great.  My husband works for Morgan Stanley in the city, I work in Paramus, we have one car, he jumps on the train in the morning, I take the car, I go to Paramus, it works for us." Unfortunately, that young couple left.  Why did they leave us?  They had a baby.  Guess what, a 925‑square foot one bedroom apartment wasn't enough room for three people, they moved on. Luckily for myself, I filled it quickly.  I've listened to the residents of Ridgewood, and I understand their concerns with parking and other things.  I don't think that parking should dovetail into our projects.  Our projects are providing parking for our projects, which is what we need to do.  Ridgewood has had a parking problem since, I believe, 1950 something.  I mean, let's look at the historical use of our site, the inspection station.  The inspection station had over 35,000 cars a year.  Now, that's not including ancillary uses of the auto repair, the print shop, the furniture refinisher.  35,000 cars would go through that inspection station.  Has anybody noticed a traffic difference in the last six years since that building has been gone?  I haven't.  I haven't seen a decrease.  That's a lot of cars, I believe rough numbers I would equate to about 130 trips a day.  I would call that a fair amount of cars. So I'll take a moment.  As you can see behind us, we have our renderings.  What we tried to do is tie in some of the elements of Ridgewood.  We have the YMCA across the street.  Tried to use the brick, the different facades, the change in level from the front streetscape area, to try and create ‑‑ any mass would be broken up along the front. Of course, we had talked about putting in town homes.  So as you walk across, it would almost have like a brownstony, Hoboken feel.  So it would not feel like a big massive shoebox.  I know some of the board members are concerned that there is going to be big boxes built and it is just going to be a big massive wall. I listened at last meeting, when we talked about different changes in elevation, ins and outs.  We tried to portray some of that early in the process.

MR. WELLS:  Excuse me.  The board has already received this as an exhibit, and these two exhibits are from within these previously submitted.  Is there anybody that would like to have one in front of you right now?  I'll offer.  There, we got one.  I'll give you the exhibit number in just a second. 

MS. RAZIN:  D‑5.

MR. WELLS:  I think so too.  Last chance. 

MR. BOLGER:  (Continuing) We tried to make it fit within the neighborhood.  It would be an attractive alternative.  I understand, and I know people have concerns, Chestnut Street isn't exactly the most beautiful picturesque part of the village.  If you drive down there, the village garage is there, auto repair.  As you do come down it from the top, you will see great pride in the building. 

My building is on the right‑hand side as you come down, recently re‑landscaped.  You have the house next door, which is multi‑family.  You have some nice office buildings.  You have three more homes, before you get to what I would call the YMCA property, that the owners have now since upgraded, the porch is painted, cleaned up, people are really starting to take a different tack along Chestnut Street.  I think this building would be an integral part of that.  The office building is a nice building. 

We see the Chestnut Village property as an opportunity to provide people not only a close proximity to the downtown, but with the YMCA across the way, gives unique opportunity for workout, a pool, etc.

Also, one nice thing and an advantage, I think our property has over others, is the exit, you don't have to go through the downtown, we don't have to create traffic in the downtown.  When the inspection station was here, the majority of the traffic, besides those waiting, as I'm sure many of you waited on line many a Saturday or a Friday, most people leave through Robinson or go down to the end of Chestnut. 

So in my opinion and why I do stand ready to assist Ridgewood in ways to hopefully mitigate some of the traffic issues that might occur, I really don't think it will, just based on historically how the traffic has flowed from that site, and I also heard this evening about what would you think makes this high‑end. 

A couple of things I was just jotting down as I was talking.  I remember going through our design process, and I'll share with you, nine‑foot ceilings, bigger bathrooms, built‑ins in the kitchen, granite countertops, moldings, crown molding, chair rail in the dining room area, higher wood floor, individually controlled HVAC systems, a washer and dryer. As I'm sure many of you know, many of the apartments in Ridgewood do not have a washer and dryer.  This is a nice amenity people enjoy. 

Some community space, which we're still integrating that into our design at the moment. 

Our design is our design.  While it not be exactly what is built, it's what we feel would be the best use of the property.  I also heard, I'm not sure of the member's question about LEED.  We do plan to do some LEED on it.  I am familiar with LEED.  We just finished the Bolger Community Center in Midland Park, an 8,400 square foot building, we achieved a Gold LEED certification, so we plan to play off that.  My experience is with geothermal energy and other factors that get you to that score, so that's one of the variables we've looked at in developing this project. So as not to delay the night any longer, I'm here for you and I appreciate you being here for us over the last few years.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you, Mr. Bolger. 

Okay.  At this time I'd like to see if there are members of the public who have questions for Mr. Bolger specifically with regard to his testimony?  If so, please raise your hand.  Okay.  Before you come forward, is there a motion to open to the public questions? 

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL: Motion to open to the public questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Second, please? 

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Second.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Susan.

All in favor? (Whereupon, all Board Members respond in the affirmative.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Anyone opposed? (No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Come forward, state your name, spell your name, provide your address.

MR. WATSON:  Andrew Watson, 300 Highland Avenue. 

Really two questions.

One:  Do you anticipate a bookends approach for your people who will eventually rent there? 

MR. BOLGER:  I do.  My current apartment on Franklin Avenue is currently occupied by a single teacher and a young couple in their mid‑20s looking to start their life together.  And my previous tenants were 30s.  And my other tenant was single young lady 26, out of college.  And my other one was actually a retiree from UPS that was using it as a steppingstone while he finished his retirement, so, yes.

MR. WATSON: So the Chestnut Village, you anticipate this same, seniors and young professionals, young married, spit? 

MR. BOLGER: I think, based on my experience in the village, that would be accurate and the answer would be yes.

MR. WATSON: Have you done any survey of older people in Ridgewood, like myself, to see whether they would be interested in moving to a place like Chestnut Village? 

MR. BOLGER:  Outside of friends of the family and others, I have not done a survey with people such as yourself within the village.  I feel that the track record of what I've seen at the other apartments in town would kind of solidify it, without having to expend those funds.

MR. WATSON: Okay. Thank you.

MR. BOLGER:  You're welcome.  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Watson.

Other questions from members of the public? 

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Is there a motion to close public questions? 

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL: Motion to close.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Second.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Second.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you.

All in favor? 

(Chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Anyone opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you. Okay. Now why don't we proceed, Khidir, maybe you can begin, if you have questions for Mr. Bolger.

MR. ABDALLA:  I don't have any questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Isabella? 

MS. ALTANO: No questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Wendy? 

MS. DOCKRAY: No, no questions.  You lucked out.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Rich? 

VICE‑CHAIRMAN JOEL: No questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: David, do you have any questions? 

MR. THURSTON:  No. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Nancy? 

MS. BIGOS:  I don't either. Thank you, Mr. Bolger.

COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN:  No, no questions.  You did a great job.

MAYOR ARONSOHN:  You are lucky. No questions.

MR. BOLGER:  Thanks.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you very much. 

Mr. Weiner? 

MR. WEINER:  No, no questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Mr. Bruinooge? 

MR. BRUINOOGE:  No questions.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  If there are no questions, I feel obligated to ask you a question.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOLGER: Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  Thank you. 

MR. WELLS: I have no further witnesses.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Wells. 

Mr. Bruinooge.

MR. BRUINOOGE: Mr. Saraceno will not appear as a witness, but would ask the board for an opportunity to make a brief statement.

MR. SARACENO: John Saraceno, 17 Coventry Court, Ridgewood, New Jersey. 

MS. RAZIN: Do you swear that the statement that you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? 

MR. SARACENO:  Yes.

JOHN SARACENO,17 Coventry Court, Ridgewood, New Jersey, having been duly sworn, testifies as follows: 

MR. SARACENO: Not that I wouldn't.

MS. RAZIN:  Can you just say your business title.

MR. SARACENO: Managing principal of Onyx Equities. 

I was going to sort of do similar to Scott and J.T., but going last usually just creates one gigantic redundancy. So I don't have anything in addition to what they said, to testify to. I'm sure everyone appreciates an early night. There doesn't seem to be much public sort of involvement in the process tonight with regard to questions for the developers.  So if it's okay with the Planning Board, I have nothing to testify to other than to say that I think what Scott, in particular, added with regard to some of his testimony, I support it and I think that it's directly on point to what we're doing here for the last, Scott talks five years, I've been doing this since 2008.  I had a lot more hair when I started this process.  So unless someone has a question, because I don't want to avoid not answering a question, if someone has a specific one, I'm not looking not to receive one, but otherwise I'm sure everyone would like an early night.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Typically, since it's not testimony, questions aren't appropriate.

MR. SARACENO:  How about Mr. Watson? 

MR. WATSON:  No, I'm done.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN:  So I think we're good.

MR. SARACENO:  Thank you.  Have a good night. 

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Mr. Weiner, do you have any witnesses for this evening or any testimony? 

MR. WEINER:  No, I don't.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you. 

All right.  That concludes our testimony for this evening.  Why don't I make a brief announcement about that our next meeting, which is scheduled on this matter for January 29th, that will be here at the high school.  This will be our public comments, it will be the beginning of our public comments session.  We'll have two nights for the public comment, the 29th and also February 3rd is scheduled.  So if you can't make the 29th, please plan to come on the 3rd. Our process will be similar to what we've done in the past, where we provide ‑‑ January 29th and February 3rd.  Our process will provide a time limitation of approximately three minutes per person for their questions.  It cannot be hearsay.  Individuals can read a statement, so long as it's within that time limit and provide a copy of that, what's read.

MS. RAZIN:  They'll be a sign up.

CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Yes.  In terms of process, what we did the last time, I think what made a big difference in terms of structure and organization, when people came in, they would sign in, and that's what we used for that order of calling people one at a time.  I think the best way to participate in this process, as I've indicated in the past, is to attend meetings and, more importantly, to participate both in questions for witnesses but also to share your comments based on the facts that have been heard through the process.  So I would encourage members of the public do come and participate in public comment beginning on January 29th.  Okay. So that ends this evening's meeting.  Again, as I indicated, tonight's meeting will be carried until January 29th, without further notice.  Thank you all for coming.

Approval of MinutesThe minutes from September 17, 2013; September 23, 2013 were approved as drafted.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:03 p.m.

                                                                                     

Respectfully submitted,

                                                                                      Michael Cafarelli

                                                                                      Board Secretary

Date approved:

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