The following minutes are a summary of the Planning Board meeting of February 19, 2015. Interested parties may request an audio recording of the meeting from the Board Secretary for a fee.
Call to Order & Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act: Chairman Nalbantian called the meeting to order at 7:37 p.m. The following members were present: Mayor Aronsohn, Ms. Bigos, Mr. Reilly, Chairman Nalbantian, Councilwoman Knudsen, Mr. Joel, Ms. Altano, Mr. Thurston, Ms. Dockray, and Ms. Peters. Also present were; Gail Price, Esq., Board Attorney, Blais Brancheau, Village Planner, and Michael Cafarelli, Board Secretary. Christopher Rutishauser, Village Engineer. Mr. Abdalla was absent.
Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board – No one came forward.
Correspondence received by the Board – Mr. Cafarelli said he received a memorandum summation from Bruinooge and Associates and one of the same a memorandum summation from Wells Jaworski & Leibman.
Public Hearing: Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan AH-2, B-3-R, C-R and C Zone Districts – Continuation of Village Planner, Public Comment, and Instructions to the Board. Following is the transcript of this portion of the meeting, prepared by Laura A. Carucci, C.C.R., R.P.R.:
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: We have the next item number, the public hearing on the Amendment to the Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan, AH‑2, B‑3‑R, C‑R and C Zone Districts. Tonight we're going to hear closing remarks or summations from the attorneys that have been presenting for both CBR and also the various applicants.
We have been going through these hearings now since December of last year so about 15 months almost. And we started the process by hearing public comment to get a perspective of the public's views and we went through the process of hearing testimony from various experts, from applicants, from CBR as well as from the board. And we closed with public comment at the last session about two meetings. So tonight we hear closing remarks. So, Ira, I believe you're to begin tonight?
MR. WEINER: I mean I thought Tom had written ‑‑ I thought Tom had written a letter they were going to go first. I was going to go and they were going to rebut.
MR. BRUINOOGE: I never said anything about going first but I'd be happy to.
MR. WEINER: I think it makes more sense for them to layout what the project is, my comments are a little more, you know, if they don't mind.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay. That's fine.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Go ahead.
MS. PRICE: Ira, did you just say they would have an opportunity, if necessary, then to rebut.
MR. WEINER: Yes, I don't have many comments directed at ‑‑ specifically at their projects, but if they feel the need to, certainly I don't think I have a problem with their rebutting. I think it's fair.
MS. PRICE: Just so the record is clear, I think the Chair just proceeded under normal course where the requesters or however we're phrasing it, would go last. So I mean I think that's ‑‑ but we can go over however the parties agree.
(Mayor Aronsohn is now present at 7:42 p.m.)
MS. PRICE: With that stipulation and then Mr. Bruinooge and Mr. Wells can add anything else that they want.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Mr. Bruinooge, before you begin, Michael, would you please note for the record that the Mayor has joined the meeting.
MS. DOCKRAY: Can I ask a quick questions, should we follow along in your memo or are you going to be speaking separately?
MR. BRUINOOGE: I will make some comments as I had indicated in the cover letter and allow you to peruse, review and comment whatever you want on the memorandum that we provided.
MS. DOCKRAY: Okay. I just didn't know if I should follow along. I'll just listen.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen of the Board, first of all thank you for your attention over these past 15 months. For your attention to the witnesses. For your attention to all Counsel, and to their arguments, their positions, their questions. Thank you for your patience and focus on the comments of the public.
I think a special thank you is warranted to the professionals working with and for the Board, for assisting you in making this process one that I believe at the end of the day we'll all be proud of. The process truly as has been long, lengthy. But it has resulted, not withstanding that length of time, in at least one good thing. And I believe that is a thorough and complete airing of the issues that you need to consider as you make a decision as to whether or not the Master Plan of the Village of Ridgewood should be amended.
As I said, the lengthy proceeding has resulted in a lengthy record, actually 16 transcripts as of this week, with a few more, I'm certain, to follow. So the record to date that is through January 6th, as reflected in the memo that I provided you, we summed up and we stated in that regarding that 27 page memo provided to the Board last Friday, as reflected by the secretary and his comments on communications received.
My client 257 Ridgewood Avenue L.L.C., a petitioner to this Board under the local ordinance and the provisions of the Municipal Land Use Law seeks an Amendment to the Master Plan. The position of 257 is amply and completely set forth in the memo. And we urge you, and I would expect that you would, furthering your responsibilities as a board member, review the memo as well as the transcripts, all 16 of them or however many there end up being. But, for the record, I respectfully request the Board to mark the copy that was previously filed on Friday, January 13th with the Board, along with the appendix attached to it as a part of this record, and set it forth in the record as if it were set forth verbatim and completely.
I do that because I think the record needs to be complete for your use, and I think for the use of others in the future, as the occasion or the need arises. I also would like to mark into evidence what has been previously marked by my client and me, on behalf of my client, six exhibits, E‑1 through and including E‑6. (Whereupon, Exhibits E‑1 ‑ E‑6 are moved into Evidence.)
MR. BRUINOOGE: By marking them into evidence, we expect that those exhibits will be reviewed by you as part of the record as you make your decision. So simply stated, my client and I ask this Board to amend the Ridgewood Master Plan to incorporate the proposed B‑3‑R zone, zone change. We tell you that the facts, the testimony presented, the expert testimony presented, when viewed carefully and objectively, warrant and merit, in our opinion, your vote to adopt that Amendment. We ask that you consider the B‑3‑R proposal as a separate petition from 257 Ridgewood Avenue L.L.C. warranting and, as in our opinion, is required by the ordinance, a separate vote, based, A, on the petition as filed; and, B, on the record as it relates to that particular zone change, the B‑3‑R zone change. Clearly, we strongly believe that amending the Master Plan to incorporate the B‑3‑R zone is simply, after all is said and considered, the right thing to do. Quite simply, we ask you to do the right thing. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Bruinooge.
MS. DOCKRAY: Charles, is E‑1 through E‑6, are they on the website so we can see them?
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Michael, are all the items on the record posted, are we current?
MR. CAFARELLI: I have to go through the list and see what I received from Gail's office. But I do ‑‑
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Okay. And you will verify that they are?
MR. CAFARELLI: Yes.
MS. PRICE: Michael, just use the microphone, please.
MR. CAFARELLI: I need to verify the list, which I started doing today, that I received from your office, Gail, from what we have in terms of evidence. But it looks like just about everything is up there.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Michael.
MS. DOCKRAY: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Tom?
MR. WELLS: I have additional copies of the memorandum that I submitted. Is there any Board Member that doesn't have them?
MR. CAFARELLI: Thank you. I knew you would have them tonight.
MS. PETERS: Thank you so much.
MS. DOCKRAY: Thank you very much. Thank you.
MR. WELLS: Anybody else need a copy?
MAYOR ARONSOHN: Thank you.
MR. WEINER: Could I have one?
MR. WELLS: I will stick them over here in case anyone in the audience wants a copy (indicating). I didn't have time to write a short letter. I wrote a long one. And I'm really a big believer in brevity. And Mr. Bruinooge blew me away because I thought he would be a long time because he's such a talented lawyer and does such a good job. And I enjoyed reading his brief, and so I was surprised on how brief he was. And I'm not going to be that brief.
So I am going to take a little bit more time to go through this process that we've been in together or most of us have been together, certainly the Chairman, Mr. Reilly, Ms. Bigos, and your attorney have been here since the very beginning ‑‑ oh, Mr. Joel, since the beginning. Some of the others have joined us along the way. But it feels like quite a trip we've been on, but a valuable one. And I'm going to end by thanking but I'll begin by thanking you for your attention.
I always remind myself when I sit through these long nights doing this, that I get paid for this and so, that's good because that's how I support my family. But it also is some reward because sometimes it's pretty tedious and boring, and if I don't forget to remind myself that you folks don't. So it's really appreciated that you take the time to be here night after night and to deal with the minutia that inevitably becomes part of these things. So sometimes it may seem like I get a little exasperated or pushing too hard. I never want to forget to say thank you for what you do. I did have the experience, and I related this to a couple of you on different occasions, but I was actually on a Planning Board myself in my own hometown for many years and I was the Chair for six years, four of which we utilized to completely fundamentally relook at our Master Plan. That isn't done very often, re‑examinations, you're starting one now. But for whatever reason we decided it would be good to start over. Let's throw it away and start over. And it was, I have to tell you, the hardest thing I ever did in my life, the absolute number one hardest thing I ever did.
The biggest piece in any master plan is always the housing and zoning, so you have been in the heart of what that is but there's a whole lot of other pieces as well. And it's tough stuff, so I appreciate you doing what you've been doing. What I've submitted to you and I ‑‑ and I am going to go through it in a little bit, not read it all, by any means, tonight. I'm hopeful that you will read it as well. It's not a brief. It's not a legal brief. I write legal briefs. I know how to write them and do them all the time, but I thought about this. I gave it some thought. I actually didn't write separately for the two clients that I represent. As you well know I represent both the Dayton Project and the Chestnut Village Project. But rather, I put myself in your place and I put myself back when I was chair of our board and I've also served as the attorney for both boards as well. And I said, you know, how do I distill this in terms of, you know, what I think, since I get a few minutes to kind of give you my pitch. You know I obviously have a bias. There's two applications in particular I'd like you to approve. I happen to think you probably should approve some other ones as well, but that's my bias. But to try to distill for you what I think it is that you need to take a look at. So I think ‑‑ so I did it in two parts. The first part's only about a page long. And I said, okay, well, what's sort of a legal basis of review? What are we doing here? And this is a little presumptuous on my part because you have a very qualified attorney who has, I'm sure, been informing you that and will inform you again.
But one of the reasons I'm just going to talk a little bit about the legal basis is there's not a whole lot of law in this. I mean I could come to you and tell you, "You must do this," or "You must do that." There's not a lot of case law in this. Basically, planning boards in their discretion, get to gather a lot of information from the public and experts, as you have, and then to prepare Master Plans. And there's really no precisely right or wrong Master Plan. The Master Plan is what's right for this community. Now, there are ways that you can go so far as to go outside the discretion, you've been advised every once in a while, one or more of you, or a member of the public will ask, "Well, what if we did this". And counsel will advise you, "We can't exactly do that." In other words, courts have looked at it before and said, "No, that's not proper. That's too far." In other words, the police power that allows the municipality to zone has limitations on it. But I'm not going to spend any time on the law at all. What I am going to say to you is what ‑‑ these are the kind of ‑‑ I try to distill everything down into just a few numerical points. I picked out four things that I think you really need to be focused on. One is the Amendment that you're about to do after all this time, and you studied so extensively, is a comprehensive dealing with that subject matter which, in this case, is multifamily housing in the Village. That's a reasonable question that you, as the board, should feel like, do we have everything we need to make this decision? Have we studied enough? Gosh, I think you have, but that's a question.
A second question is: Do we take into account the wide variety of factors that we should be thinking about? For example, housing demand by empty nesters and young millennials and so forth. Do we look at that and do we consider the economics of the core downtown. And do we also consider our constitutional responsibilities and our statutory responsibilities? The State Constitution, I'm talking about the affordable housing. So that's another level of inquiry.
The third one is: Is the Master Plan that we're suggesting, is it realistic? And that is something I want to go off for a minute on. I think you have an unusual opportunity here that is actually ‑‑ every once in a while, it sounds a little like you've been told it's something bad. And I actually think it's actually something good. So I want to speak to that for a moment. And that is, you've had the benefit of, as witnesses, and presenting experts, several people, developer's, clients, whatever you want to call them, who actually want to this. That's a good thing. In other words, you've had the benefit of saying ‑‑ people that said, "Well, if you rezone this, we can't tell you exactly what we're going to do because that's for site plan and all the rest of that, but here's what we would like to do and here's why we'd like to do it. We've studied this. We know that there are people who want to live in this kind of housing. Otherwise we wouldn't spend the tens of millions of dollars it's going to take to build these buildings. We've studied that. We've built them before. We've looked into all this. And they've given you their information in terms of how they would do it.
They've also you ‑‑ given you a really lot of information about what it could look like and, you know, a lot to flesh around that. That's really important. I asked Blais that question. I did it because I knew I was going to be saying this some day, but a lot of times boards plan in a vacuum so they say, "Hey wouldn't it be a good idea to have retail on the downstairs and we'll have a couple of apartments upstairs." That's what some future ‑‑ or some past board did here years ago in the Village. And they said, "Let's put retail on the ground floor." Even way out on Chestnut Street that's what it says, retail on the ground floor, two stories of residential above.
Ah, it might have seemed like a good idea then, doesn't seem so good now and you also know that there's not anybody interested in building it because nobody has in all these years. So it's valuable information.
My real question is ‑‑ the real is: Is it realistic? On that point, I would tell you with respect to the two clients I represent, the Dayton Project which is proposed on the Brogan Cadillac site and what has been since all this us ‑‑ for as long as all of us can remember the Brogan Cadillac site. And Chestnut Village which was the inspection station, and Ridgewood Furniture Refinishing and a video store out front and an exercise store, a bunch of commercial uses. Those uses are gone. They're not coming back. I wouldn't think you'd want them to come back as planners who get to influence that. And, quite frankly, I would not think, although you may differ from me, that you would want to see an office on either of these sites because they would generate a lot more traffic and probably not terribly needed in the Village, nor would I think you would what to see retail. I think retail belongs in the core business area which needs to be supported. And it's not necessarily a good area for retail. So that's ‑‑ that's all about is what we're talking, what we're proposing to do, realistic? Can it really happen? And as I told you, I think in your case, you're particularly well‑suited on that because you've had some real people telling you, by the way, if you approve it, we're going to do it. I think that's a good thing. And the last question that I sort of ‑‑ as I was thinking to myself what your responsibilities are, is the plan future oriented because that's what you guys are charged with doing, saying, all right. This Village has come a long way. And it actually has really done well when you think about it. This is not ‑‑ this is not like so many communities that have popped up in the '40s and '50s, even that surround us, where they're right around the highway. It has a core business downtown there. It has multifamily housing already, 835 units all told, 500 right near the core business downtown area. So we already have different kinds of housing in the community. Are we planning for the future? Are we trying to look ahead and say what would be good for the Village going forward? Those are the things, I think, you need to do. So, then I wrote 15 questions. Now, where did I get 15 questions from? There was no magic number, I didn't set it out to be 15. But I did, and I don't know whether you did, but I actually took notes, Andy helped me, too, on the 58 people that spoke in the last couple weeks. So I have notes on what they all said. Plus I've been listening to all of you. Some have more to say than others. Some of you have been pretty quiet. Some of you ask a lot of question. But I think I was able to dispel in 15 questions, and some of them might kind of, you know, massaged a couple things into one question or not, all of the things that I heard asked about during the time we have been together, you know, especially the last little over a year, but certainly in the three‑and‑a‑half years before that. And then what I did is, I said, okay. This is like when I was chair of the planning board, how do I make this a little easier.
Now, again, I've got a bias, so you can go search for quotes that go the other way, but I don't think you're going to find them. So what I did is said, okay, rather than gave you all those 16 transcripts ‑‑ although, please read them if you feel so inclined. All I did is I took the questions and said, here's what I think the answers are and, by the way, here's exactly what was said on the record by a witness under oath on that question. And, fortunately for me ‑‑ fortunately for me in terms of making the legal case, in many cases you'll see most of the quotes I put in the thing are from your own experts. You know I would object because I do this for a living, the fact that I hear some members of the public get really cynical about witnesses when they're presented by applicants or folks in our situation. I don't think that's fair. I think that, you know, they're certainly paid by us. They're not going to come up here and give crazy testimony that's completely contrary to what we're doing, but they're credible, solidly researched individuals. I can tell you, everybody who's ever worked for me is in that category, otherwise, I don't think ultimately they're of any value at all. But with that said, I recognize that the Board probably does hold, in higher regard, experts who are not retained by an applicant but instead retained by the Village.
So let me start moving right through the questions that I posed, that I had heard asked and see what's said. I'm not going to read all in its entirety, but I asked the very basic question, the first one out of the box, and that is: Why rezone to allow multifamily housing? And you see Mr. Brancheau's quote right there. "We stated that the purposes of this are several purposes to address housing needs both market housing and particularly the housing niche that the Village currently does not have a significant quantity of luxury apartments. Also, the need and obligation under the law for affordable housing."
And he took you through with real care and did a good job because it's his job, and he did it well. I don't always think that. Sometimes I tell Blais, "Well, what are you thinking?" But I thought he was very complete in taking you through the New Jersey State plan. He took you through several planning documents and put together with respect to Transit Villages and Sustainable New Jersey Planning. Then he basically told you why is multifamily housing valuable.
I go on and I quote here, and I'll let you do it in more detail, Mr. Steck and Mr. Burgis will also tell you why this is valuable. Mr. Burgis points out to you during his testimony that your own basic reexamination, the last time you looked at your Master Plan, said these are goals for us. Our goals are a wider range of housing. Second goal was to provide more varied housing of development in the residential multifamily area. Again, the Village has done historically well, but the goal was to do better. And the third was let's address housing needs of the aging population. Those are your own goals. I would suggest that you have been studying that right in this process and this kind of housing meets that. And then finally, Mr. Brancheau tells you when we're focusing on this particular kind of housing in or near the core business area, he said the more people that live in these units that walk downtown, that go to restaurants and stores, that helps economic development. The fewer you have, the less.
But I am talking about having housing, mixed use, all near transit and how there's a synergy that creates a livelier downtown, more attractive, doesn't decrease property values, increases property values, creates better business, creates better housing, creates better transportation. I would tell you that that is why you should do this. It's right in your own record. It's part of your evidentiary material. And he finally points out, as everybody pointed out, that affordable housing is valuable, too. Take a minute on affordable housing. I told you at the very beginning of this process which only a few of you were here for, that I represent clients that could come in hard on affordable housing and that happens in some communities. It's almost like a sledgehammer that's used in communities many times. You have to do affordable housing because the State says you do and the courts say you have to do it; therefore, give us the rest of this housing. And a lot of times it's done in the form of a lawsuit through what they call a builders' remedy lawsuit.
We told you right in the beginning. We thought affordable housing should be a component of this, but we don't think it drives it. We told you right at the beginning, we think the market rate housing, the luxury housing, is what's really needed in the Village, and the affordable housing, too. Not just because the State says so, but because it's valuable for the Village to have some housing that is less costly so that our own children or other people who can't quite afford to live in the Village can live in that housing. And in the case of people with disabilities, housing for ‑‑ especially conforms and meets the needs of those disabilities, valuable to put that in the Village, and that can be facilitated through this process. Mr. Brancheau tells that as well, so it's another reason why to do this.
My second question, certainly you heard this a lot, and I'm going to be honest with you and tell you I don't think it's really a very valid question and for the reason Mr. Jahr tells you it is, what about the traffic that will result from this rezoning? I won't spend time on it. You've heard it. Mr. Jahr tells you very concisely in that quote, this is going to generate less traffic than other permitted uses that'll be on this property if you don't rezone it. That's the bottom line. Every traffic expert told you this generates less traffic than the other permitted uses. What about parking? Another one of those issues. Talked a lot about it, and not terribly relevant to this application. But let me do a segue way for Mr. Aronsohn, Ms. Knudsen, boy, I hope you heard it, because I sure heard it over and over again. There is a crying need for more parking in the core downtown. We've been all hearing that forever. Gosh, there's a message there, you know, that people really want that, and it's important and they really should have it. But Blais said it best, since these projects are designed to provide all the parking that's needed for these projects ‑‑ and that's the law, that's what the State says you have to do and that's what will be determined in a site plan process, when he says, if we are requiring multifamily to provide all of their own parking, which you are, which your amendment says, they're not contributing to the downtown parking problem. Why do we need to look at the downtown parking problem to look at multifamily housing? He's right. It is an issues. It's a problem. It needs to be solved. But you can't solve it on the back of this need. The multifamily housing is a need as well, separate.
But I think loud and clear, this Board should hear as a Master Plan process and the governing body should hear this community really wants some additional parking solutions. I realize that there are discussions going on right now that don't involve structural improvements involve just better management of the parking and that's part of an important move in that direction.
I'll move on to the next item. Number 4, school age children, you've been correctly told that this is a little bit of a red herring because you're really not supposed to be limiting housing tied into school age children, but we all understand, it's kind of the elephant in the room because people worry about what the tax effect will be of the additional children. And, quite frankly, and I think legitimately, some people are worried not just about the tax impact, but they're saying, well, they're counting the number of kids in the classrooms and saying will this over fill in my school and my classroom?
Let me just summarize the testimony in brief. Mr. Steck and Mr. Burgis told you that there would be six school age children from the one project and seven to eleven in the other, which is like sixteen. Blais went through it with a completely different analysis Ridgewood based, and said it could be higher. In fact, under his numbers, he comes up as high as 30. The young people coming out of the two projects that I represent, so we're dealing with a project with 106 units, that's Dayton, and the Chestnut Village with 52 units. And he's concluding that there could be 30 people ‑‑ 30 students.
But here's the real news, and what he also told you, that's not a lot of students. You have 5700 young people in the school district. It's going down every year. You heard the testimony that every year it's going down further and further, and that that number is so small that it's really less ‑‑ less than the number that it goes down each year. It's less than one half of one percent of the overall school district. So it's not an issue that should be speaking really loudly to this particular decision.
Mr. Loventhal pointed out, and I thought really ‑‑ I was really pleased with that particular testimony that he was able to give you, and I hope you noticed it. He just ‑‑ all he did is ‑‑ and Mrs. Dockray I know works in the real estate business ‑‑ he just opened the listings and said, "Okay. What's out there in this price range," that you know, where mid‑3,000. So he went out and looked for single family homes. They're there. There's a half a dozen single family homes. And he makes the, I think very valid point, why would you need 1,000 square foot, you know, downtown, really luxury kind of thing with your family when you can rent a house and have a background and all of the other amenities in a house? The point is, that this is just not where families are going to go because, quite frankly, the developers don't want them. They're not built for them. That's not the ‑‑ that's not the intended customer here. You heard that from the developer's themselves. I think logic tells you it makes sense. It's not who they want to be there. That's why we push back on the ‑‑ you know, like they'll put an amenity deck on it, but they don't really want to put a playground on the project because they don't want a playground because they don't want young people to be there. So I think the school age children issues has been dealt with the evidence that you've heard. Number 5, why were these areas selected? Well, you know the answer for that or for those that have been around a while, you know that you as a board went through a careful process of first telling Mr. Brancheau what you thought was important and he looked at every possible site in and around the core business area, narrowed it down to 30, and then ultimately narrowed it down to a much smaller group. And really, just so we all get ourselves focused on it, you're narrowed down to something that is larger than I represent or that any particular applicant represents. You narrowed it down to three zones, the one by Brogan, the one by the Enclave and then really all of Chestnut Street. And all told, that's about 10.3 acres, the largest one being on Chestnut Street which is about six acres. In reality, the Dayton Project is that entire zone.
The Enclave project is three‑quarters of the zone so, in other words, you're actually talking about a zone that goes larger includes the Brake‑O‑Rama property. And the Chestnut Street site, we're only ‑‑ we have an application on 1.24 acres of the six acres you're talking about. So you ‑‑ as part of your consideration, you're considering rezoning, you know, all the way from Franklin all the way down so it's somewhat larger. So about 5.3 acres of the ‑‑ of the full 10.3 acres is what is, you know, sort of being advocated for. And I think that becomes important. We'll talk a little bit more about what exactly happens here.
And why were they selected? Well, I can only speak to my two sites. We think they're perfect. Traditionally, the best places for multifamily housing isn't necessarily in the core downtown area. It's near it. And that's where all of Ridgewood's development to date has been. And that's because, to be honest with you, highest and best use in the area is usually retail. Now, combining retail and housing can be a home run and that's what's been suggested with respect to the other zone as you're considering. But in terms of the Dayton Project, the Chestnut Village Project, they're close to the downtown. They're very close to the railroad tracks. They're right on the railroad tracks. They have easy access to the transit. They have easy ability to walk downtown, but they're not in the downtown. It becomes a perfect transitional use between sort of traditional single family housing and the downtown area, and that's why there's so much of it there, some 500 units already, and that's why it's totally appropriate now. And I won't read the quotes, but Mr. Wells ‑‑ the other Mr. Wells, Peter Wells, and Mr. Apel tell you about how they designed their units to be transitional, to look good in those areas, especially in the case of Peter Wells where they put this step up apartments in the front, so they tried to create kind of a residential transition into the apartment project. And if you look at the two projects, you can see how they've been designed to work well were their surroundings.
And then it's a small issue but it kept coming up, so I should mention it. The people ‑‑ every once in a while, people go the other way and say, "Well, why would you want to live near the railroad tracks?" I guess that's a legitimate question. Many of us, somewhere along the line have lived need railroad tracks. I had a little period near one. I don't live near one now. I can tell you eventually you just don't notice it. But putting aside my anecdotal evidence on that, Mr. Loventhal says in reality they do a lot of transit projects. That's what he testified to, and that's the quote in here. And it's not an issue, just not an issue. They do soundproofing and so forth. And they don't find any down side in terms of being able to sell or rent units as the case may be when they go near the railroad tracks. So this is a two edge sword, you know, Transit Village near the railroad tracks so you can get to the railroad, other side kind of hear the train. He tells us the other edge of the sword, not a concern, not a concern. And we have to trust him. What the heck, he's building these units to sell them. He's not going to build them and then ‑‑ he doesn't want to go in there one day and say, well, nobody will rent any of these because they're near the railroad tracks. So I think that's important evidence.
Number 6, slippery slope. I heard that over and over again from people that had some concerns about the project. They say it's a slippery slope. Once we do this, everybody who has other kind of land can do this. Not so. Just not so. I'm a zoning lawyer. I do this for a living. I've done rezonings before. I've also brought use variances applications. And I can tell you, the one time you can't bring a use variance application is any time after the Planning Board has substantially considered a particular issue and come to conclusions. So, this Board has study the heck out of this issue. It's going to ultimately, hopefully, allow some multifamily housing in certain areas.
Well, good luck with somebody who comes in a year from now and says, "Oh, but I want my site to be considered for a use variance," for example, if you know anything about this and I know Councilwoman Knudsen knows certainly about the Board of Adjustment and knows what they hear, but you know precedent and they want to hear about ‑‑ they want to hear about ‑‑ when you want a use variance, you want the talk about the Master Plan, the reexamination, and how this differs from it. There's just no room for that kind of argument any time soon with respect to the Village. Some day? Sure. Ten years from now when somebody comes back and you haven't studied this in ten years and it's ‑‑ and I could virtually guarantee this multifamily housing will work out really great and then somebody says, "Well, I'm going to actually rip down these three buildings and I'd like to build some. Could they do it then, ten years from now? Yup. Yup. Could happen. But anybody could. But there's no slippery slope here. You don't need the be worried about that. Mr. Brancheau tells you twice, and I won't read his quotes, but he tells you he doesn't think so either and that's the evidence in the record. Need for open space. Mr. Currey works and puts a lot of effort as part of the committee talking to you about open space. But to be honest with you, his testimony really wasn't very compelling or on point here because, as we told you, these projects are not going to have open space on the sites because it just doesn't make any sense. And, in reality, what we learned through Mr. Currey's testimony was Ridgewood's really not so bad on open space. They start with alarming statistics, but once you put in the park system, and the County park system's a terribly important part of what Ridgewood's open space and how we do it, and then you throw in the right‑of‑way in the middle and we actually come out better than our surrounding communities. We basically are close to the state requirements.
So not to say it wouldn't be great to have more open space and we should all seek to try to accomplish that, but that's not an issue that really has to speak loudly to this particular Board.
Density? Okay. Well, how much is the right number and, you know, why should you approve 50 units per acre or 40 units per acre? We don't need ‑‑ at least the two applicants I'm representing, we don't want you to approve 50 units per acre. We're content with 40. Why do we think 40's the right number?
As Mr. Brancheau tells you in some real detail here, he came up with this kind of same numbers by actually saying, "Okay. What would be a reasonable building here?" Let's look at the height, let's look how we fit, let's look at setbacks. And he comes out with about that number. Well, that's the same thing we're doing. Now, I won't ‑‑ there's a reason why 40 units per acre makes sense for a developer and that's because it fits reasonably on the site, it's efficient in terms of construction, it's efficient in terms of management, people seem to like the size, it's large enough that it allows the amenities like elevators and amenity decks and all the other kinds of things so that it all works together economically and it makes sense. Can it be a few units less? Yeah, sure. Can it be radically less? Probably not. It won't happen. It'll be like the zoning that the Board did whenever it was, 25 years ago when they put, you know, the 12 units over the top. Yeah, you could say it, but nobody's going to build it. It's just arbitrary. It might even be more arbitrary when groups of people and, obviously, I won't talk about this strictly, but when a bunch of people to come up and say 20 or 25 units, that's a good compromise. Well, there's a logic to that. I mean, you start at 50, you go half, that's 25, but what other logic is it? It's just like ‑‑ it's like well, if 50's bad than 25 is half as bad. What I would want you to say is 50's not bad. There's nothing wrong with 50 or 50's not bad, but 40's even better. As long as it ‑‑ you really have to look at the core elements. Does it look good? It is too high? That's something worth look at. Does it generate more traffic? We know it doesn't. Does it create a problem for school age children? We know it really doesn't. Does it do any of these ‑‑ those real things? What's behind the number? So ‑‑ and will those, for example, if it's 40 units per acre or 45 units per acre, what would that incremental difference do? And if there's not some logical tie to that, why are we doing that? Why are we compromising between something that's not bad to something that's not bad, but less not bad?
We can talk about density. Understood the interesting thing that I think we all got to observe on the January 29th and February 3rd when the public came in and finally got a chance to talk, and quite frankly, this Board was real quite fair to the public all the way through the process. And it's hard because they're not here night after night like you are. They're coming in, you know, sometimes fairly uninformed about things that you talked earlier, but they spoke a number of times and a number of times very eloquently. But when it comes right down to it, the 56 people that spoke, more than two‑thirds of them basically were in favor of multifamily housing in some substantial numbers. Only half a dozen said we don't want this.
So I thought that was encouraging. I thought that the sense of, you know, compromise numbers that some people like was just sort of arbitrary. That people hadn't really thought about it. It's your job to really think about it, really think about what's behind the numbers. Number 10, luxury apartments. I can go back to my clients. They do this for a living, not in the case of the Bolger, 240 Associates, not ‑‑ not totally for a living, maybe a lot of other things. The only project of this type in and around here was the Bellair Project built by 240 Associates a number of years ago which is a luxury condominium project, but I can tell you that they really believe the need is here. I think we all instinctively know the need is here, although some people don't agree. But you heard better than a dozen current or recently not Ridgewood residents, because they couldn't stay here, tell you, "We want this kind of housing." And I think that the need for it is apparent. I think the need for affordable housing is just as apparent. It's good for business. I spent a lot of time and some people say it's not good for business, your last three presidents of the Chamber of Commerce tell you it's good for business. The president of the guild tell you it's good for business. All of the planners, including your own planner, tells you it's good for business.
I will tell that the folks who don't think it's good for business don't really understand how the Village works. It is good for this core downtown area to have this multifamily housing.
A couple of people talk about spot zoning and I'll just take a minute on that. This is not spot zoning, guys. The fact that you've identified four or three particular sites as a part of your process, and you also briefly talked about doing an overlay zone. That's not what spot zoning is. Spot zoning it more like when you go into a use variance process and you just get one particular area radically changed in use against the ‑‑ without the process and everything that you've done, so I have no fear about this being spot zoning. It's not an issue worth worrying about. Location, here I'm going to speak more to my two projects and everything that's with you. I mentioned before they are along the railroad tracks, they're perfect for Transit Village. And I would also say to you, as I inferred before, that if not these uses, what? What is it that you want to see on these sites that would make some sense? This is really the right thing. And the 14th question that I had on my outline, on page 11 is about height and architectural aesthetics. We think 50 feet's the right number. You know, if it's 48, it's no big deal. We also think that you would be well disposed to be thoughtful about the height in terms of allowing for some design. Mr. Apel has a long quote here. Peter Wells has a long quote. And then Blais has a long quote. And they all really tell you that they've tried to consider how this building looked. I mean, if you look at the building of the Dayton Project, and you look at the roof lines and you look at the design and then let me read Mr. Apel's quote here: "A lot of this is heights that are only due to roof line and architecture. The inside of these units, the space from the top floor habitable ceiling is only 53 feet. So all of this extra height, and I'm going to keep repeating this, extra height is for architectural purposes. So rather than have a flat facade or a none barrier facade, we used the height to help the building and help it feel like a comfortable neighbor in the downtown village. So we feel that the ordinance would control the height of the building. We're encouraging the Board to look at this and provide some ways that, as an architect, we can utilize the roofs and the architectural appurtenances to make the building better. And even though it does increase the height slightly, we feel that this is a tremendous, tremendous improvement to the architecture."
Gosh, I hope you agree. It doesn't seem hard to me. Be thoughtful about that. Let the buildings be a height that makes sense, but also don't just put a firm, tight number that forces a developer to say the only way I'm going to get a building in here that makes economic sense is to build a flat roof that we're all going to hate to look at. So I think that's a point that's worthy of emphasis. I hope agree. The last point/question that I had here ‑‑ well, I don't think ‑‑ I cheated, I told you it's all questions I heard asked. I didn't really hear this question asked so much, but I did hear ‑‑ I like Blais' quote and I happen to think it's an important thing for you to know, so I'm going to tell it to you. And that's is this a unique opportunity? Yeah, I think it is it is. This is a moment, you know, not to say it would never happen again, and Blais, in his quote says, "Are we at crisis point?" Well, maybe not, but then he tells you it is an opportunity to do something right for the Village.
I think this is one of those opportunities that come along every once in a while where the right economics are there, the right players are there that you could make a significant change that'll really, materially improvement the Village going forward. Okay. That's my 15 questions that I think got asked and the answers that I think are in the record in evidence that support it.
So now I got six more things. So I had four, and then I had 15, I have six. List of six. And these are six things that I wanted to say to you and then I'm going to sit down and shut up and let Ira say whatever he wanted to say.
First is, I wanted to say it's been hard for a lot of the time to be treated almost like the enemy. The two clients I represent, they're not the enemy. The Bolger family has been deeply involved in Ridgewood for years, tries to do quality projects whenever they can do things, has this property that they've owned for a while, thought about putting a storage project there, decided that wasn't the best thing for the Village. Would they like to build a project that works economically? You bet. But do they really want to build something that would be good for the Village? Yes. Likewise the Brogan/Cancelmo family who are ‑‑ they're Ridgewood residents. They're ‑‑ these guys are taxpayers just like everybody else who want ‑‑ yes, they would like to do something profitable on their property, but they really are excited about tearing down what's there now and building this really nice project that they and other people can live in. So I think it's important that people understand that we're really ‑‑ it's hard to be treated almost like you're the enemy because you're proposing to do something that happens to make money. It's also very ‑‑ we really sincerely believe this is the best thing for the Village.
My next point: Some of these numbers, so people get really going with this like we're doing horrible gigantic and material things. The numbers are not that great. And I just want you to focus on them for a minute. The population of the Village, if the statistics are right and, Mayor, you can help me, but I had 25,320. Pretty close, right? As of now, we haven't checked the Valley Hospital today, but ‑‑ and so, what we're talking about is ‑‑ along the way, we also learned that these units, if the statisticians are right, have about 1.8 people per unit. Well, there's no such thing as an eight‑tenth of a person, but you know how that works. And so the two projects that I have, 52 units, 106 units, 150 people, give or take 284 people would be living there. That's one percent. In other words, it's a small number. It, at one point, pushed Blais to call it "worst case". I don't know whether it's really worst case. I don't like the terminology "worst," but he said what if the whole 10.3 acres got built for multifamily housing? Remember, there aren't developers for half of that. Those are just things you're talking about rezoning that nobody is necessarily building on and a couple of them have office buildings on them, so not terribly likely you're going to rip down the office building and do it. But if all got built, he ultimately said 500 units. So 500 units sounds 1.8, you come up with like 900. That's still three percent. So it's small. It's not ‑‑ it's not like we're changing the whole Village by changing it. Another number, the Village has 8800 housing units right now, so what are we talking about, 158, two percent. If it's that 500 number which nobody really thinks will happen, six percent. How about the schools? I mentioned this before, 5782 students right now. Don't use my number, 16 school age children which is what our planner said, use Blais' numbers which are higher, 30 school age children, half of one percent. Not even as much as the normal incremental growth or drop off. So I'm just trying to give you some perspective here. This is terribly important. It can really change the downtown, but these are not earth shaking numbers that change the whole character of the Village.
Okay. Number three, everybody's really for this except for half a dozen people that are really against it. Our planner, obviously, thinks this is a good idea. The Enclave's planner is for this. Your planner is for this. These are well established planning concepts, and more than a dozen of the Ridgewood residents came here and told you that these are real needs that ‑‑ these are the kind of units they would like to move in. Anyway, that's my third. And I only have a few more.
Number four, the two sites that I represent, I mentioned this earlier, but I just want you to ‑‑ remember, that you're ‑‑ when you're doing a Master Plan and when you're doing rezoning which comes next, it's your chance to sort of influence. You don't get to take property because the U.S. Constitution says you can't go so far as to do a taking, but you as a government on the police powers says you can influence people by zoning and by telling them what would be appropriate there. This is the opportunity of you as a planning board and the government to influence what could be there. Well, something's going to be there, and why not multifamily housing? It makes so much good sense. And the alternative is, let's face it. I mean, you know what the zoning says right now. It's going to be an office or it's going to be retail or some combination thereof. Those are not preferable alternatives or I guess we could build the storage project.
Number five, the negatives. The negatives, I just want to go through them again real quickly with you. Traffic? No, not really. Parking? No, not really. It's not really a big factor. School age children, we've talked about. Not a big factor. Slippery slope? Nope, it doesn't exist. Spot zoning? Nope. Bad for business? Nope. So really, the negatives that we keep ‑‑ that different people come up and talk about as if they're very strong positive ‑‑ they're very strong effective arguments aren't really strong arguments.
This one doesn't even seem hard to me and that's maybe because of where I stand and I have to be an advocate, you know, for a particular position. But this really, despite the amount of time we put into this and the amount of work that you as a board have done, and all of the testimony, this doesn't even seem ‑‑ does not seem like a hard decision to make. Okay. I have a final comment. You'll like this one. And that's really to start to end where I started and to relate back to my own Planning Board experience, and to thank you for what you've done. You're going to have to deliberate now. That's not a lot of fun because you now have to kind of figure out amongst yourselves what you think. And this Board reminds me of the Board that I chaired. There's differences of opinion on the Board. You don't think as one, and that's a healthy thing.
But we really do appreciate the effort that you put into this. I have great faith that you'll come out with a good conclusion in the end. I know you're going to deliberate on the 17th. I'll be here, as will, I suspect, some other people. The deliberations process is something you do in public, but you don't ‑‑ you obviously can't deliberate with everybody talking to you. But I would say to you that just like I tried to be right now, just conversational with you, take you through the questions straightforward that have been raised and what our perspective on it is. If you would like additional clarification, if you'd like to, you know, have a dialog back and forth because there's nothing wrong with that, along the way, we'd be happy to chat more about this. We want to take this process to a conclusion. And then just keep on going and hopefully do something that can be really important and significant for the Village of Ridgewood that some day we're all going to be proud of and be able to tell, you know, children, grandchildren, whatever, "Oh, yeah. I worked on that. I was a part of getting that here in the Village." Thanks.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Wells.
MR. WEINER: Before I get started, does the Board want to take a five‑minute break? It's tough to sit and listen for an hour now. I don't want people to go and ‑‑
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: How long are you going to be speaking?
MR. WEINER: About a half hour or so. It won't be as long as that.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: You want to take a break? Okay. Why don't we do that. It's 8:30, so why don't we say, 8:50, ten minutes to nine.
(Whereupon, a short recess is taken.)
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Michael, will you call the roll please?
MR. CAFARELLI: Certainly. Mr. Thurston?
MR. THURSTON: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Ms. Bigos?
MS. BIGOS: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Councilwoman Knudsen?
COUNCILWOMAN KNUDSEN: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Mayor Aronsohn?
MAYOR ARONSOHN: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Mr. Nalbantian?
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Mr. Joel?
VICE CHAIRMAN JOEL: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Mr. Reilly?
MR. REILLY: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Ms. Dockray?
MS. DOCKRAY: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Ms. Peters?
MS. PETERS: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Ms. Altano?
MS. ALTANO: Here.
MR. CAFARELLI: Mr. Abdalla?
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Michael.
Before the break, we heard Mr. Wells give his closing remarks, so now Mr. Weiner.
MR. WEINER: Good evening, everybody. As I was preparing these comments, a line from one of the great philosophers of my generalization, Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead, came to mind. "What a long strange trip this has been." And the reason I say that is because there are times throughout the hearing that I didn't know if I was sitting listening to a Master Plan re‑exam or a Master Plan Amendment or a site plan. And I'm not being critical of the Board. This is just the way the hearing went. But so much of the testimony, so much of the focus here has been on site plan issues. I sat and listened to what specific traffic reports for a hypothetical project and what kind of parking it's going to have. We were talking about finishes in the apartments. This is not about that. We're not in front of you on a site plan, telling you what we're going to build. We're here to determine the future of the downtown.
And I take a little bit different view and there's a real danger in looking at this process through the lens of multifamily housing only. I am not saying it's bad. We're not opposed to that. It's certainly an appropriate use and it may be very appropriate here. And you may decide that it's a good thing to do. But planning is about the long view. Not the short fix, but the long vision. And we have to understand that when you're changing the Master Plan and looking down the road, we're not looking at next year or 2018. Maybe we're looking at 2040 or 2050. And what is proposed here has the capacity to make a fundamental change in what the downtown area is. And it is CBR's view that we want the Board to keep that in mind and look at that this process through that lens. Certainly, there are positives from multifamily housing. And I'm going to get into some more detail on some of the specific issues in a moment. But the point here is: What do we want the downtown to look like 30 or 40 years down the road? Do we want to have it with multifamily housing on these sites because long term that's going to be what we want, that's the best thing we can put there or did we hear testimony about the alternatives? You know, it's real easy to say, "Well, multifamily apartments are very popular today." Yeah, well tomorrow they fall off the face of the earth and they're not so popular, and you know what everybody's looking for? Retail. And now we've already built our housing. Now, I'm not saying that that's going to happen, but it seems to me that that should be a significant part of this process, is to determine long term, 30, 40 years down the road, are we doing something by eliminating available space for retail or office or any other entertainment or other uses that we ought to at least consider in favor of multifamily housing because we have some developers here that are willing to build it tomorrow. And we think that that's a very important point not to have that shortsighted view. That's not to say you shouldn't consider it. It's not to say it's bad. We have never said we are philosophically opposed to it, but the long view is what we're doing here and you heard it tonight. And, you know, Mr. Wells pointed to an exhibit and said, "See, they designed the rooms this way." Well, what are we doing here? We're talking about the rooms in a hypothetical project, what we should be talking about what do we want the downtown to look 30 years down the road. All right. And that's what we feel is ‑‑ has been lacking in some regard in terms of the testimony. Now, I want to read something that was put in the record by one of the citizens. It was a letter, I guess, to an editor or to a bulletin board or something, and the quote is: "The responsibility of the plan necessitates that a long range view of what is in the best interest of the community and its residents." A little bit later in the letter:
"It must involve a comprehensive, integrated assessment of planning indices to ensure that decisions made do not adversely impact other planning goals of the community." Other planning goals of the community, the community as a whole. The downtown as a whole. And that includes other things. It's not only whether a multifamily house or project can bring positives. Certainly there are some. It brings negatives also and I'll discuss them in a moment.
But do we have that kind of comprehensive study of the downtown area, of all the planning goals, of all that we're trying to accomplish, and the best way, perhaps, to enhance the retail? Is it necessarily to build multifamily housing? I'm not saying it is or it isn't. I just don't know because nobody put any evidence in on that, because we were all focused, because of the nature of the process, multifamily housing and let's look at that only. Towns have done these things. I know that Summit has done a project. They did a 200 page study. They looked at every single detail and gave the Board this huge well of information on which they could decide how do we want to go? What things should we be considering? And I suggest that that would be a very important kind of project for this town to engage in, before you decide, I want to go with this kind of multifamily at this density, because of some reasons that have been presented. Not all good, not all bad. I ask a question: How many units is the right number of units for the downtown area? Can somebody tell me that? Of course not because there's no testimony about what the right number is. We just have a number that happened to fall out because Blais did ‑‑ you four developers come in with certain sites and Blais did a review and said, "Well, these sites will accommodate it," and I figured out what the properties could achieve, and that's what we came up with.
Well, is that a right number? I don't know. But the Planning Board ought to be figuring out, as a whole down the road, how many units is a good number, even assuming we want to put it there. We don't just pick numbers out of the air because it happened to work out because you happen to have several sites and you happen to have developers willing to build and they decided that they want do it at 40 units an acre and it came out to a number. I think that is a proactive decision that has to be considered in context of everything else that's going on downtown, including traffic, including parking. This process didn't start because somebody said, "Well, we got this big problem. We got to get these homes done." Well, it's certainly ‑‑ there is reasons why people are here. I don't criticize them. Frankly, they have every right to be here and they have a right to argue for what they want. But the question here is: Do some of these benefits really ‑‑ are they really the kind of benefits that are that important or in the balance of things? And I say that advisedly, it's a balance. If somebody wants to put something like how much is the right amount? Should we do it? Should we do all the projects? Should we do only some of the projects? "Here are some of the positives," they say. "Here are some of the negatives." And when you do positives and negatives, it's important to know how positive and how negative. You know, oh, well, it's going to revitalize the downtown. Well, I sit there and I thought about this. You got 25,000 people in the town, supporting the downtown. And I don't know how many thousands of people come and shop here and patronize Ridgewood. We're going put a few hundred people in it, it's going to turn it all around. Well, is there even a problem? The question here is: How much impact, not just, will it make it better? Sure. It's ‑‑ it may be marginally better. Maybe it's a lot better. I don't know. Nobody's put any evidence in about it. They didn't come in and say, "Here, we've done a study and it's going to increase business by X, Y and X. That would give you some quantum of evidence to say, "Oh, look. This is a very big change. It's very important that we have to consider it highly," or it could by de minimus, you know, .00001 percent relative to what's there already.
So without that kind of information about exactly when they say revitalize the downtown, I don't know that the Board has the facts that they really need when you're trying to weigh it in the balance because I guarantee you, if you just put ‑‑ make a list, well, pluses and minuses and you don't know how much plus and how much minus, it's not a very valid way to go about making an assessment. I want to make some comments about some of the other things. The empty nesters, God bless the seniors, and I think I understand that they really do ‑‑ came here wanting some other kind of housing. I think that's important for the Board to recognize. They were all very interested in this luxury apartment housing. But you know something, I didn't realize we were doing an Amendment for luxury apartments. I was all confused about that. I thought we were doing multifamily housing where anybody who owns the lot there that's in the zone to build whatever they want. And, you know, again, if the market for apartments falls out over of the edge tomorrow, you can be sure that you're going to have three and four bedroom condos getting built with kids in the schools. Now, that's not to say that that's a horrible thing either, but it's something to consider. That why you as a board, have to step back and say, "I can't worry about what they said they're going to build. Yeah, that might happen but it might not. Hey, we can't even zone for luxury. We can just zone for apartments." And the seniors, you know, a lot of them, "I got to get out of my house. My taxes are too high. I can't afford that 21,000. I want to spend 40,000 on rent." I mean, I don't know that everybody that came here really fully understood what might be there if indeed one of these kinds of projects were to be built. That's not to say there aren't some folks that are interested, but I think people, it's a nice idea. It would be great. And then they go and find out, geez, they can't afford it or I don't want to afford it. I don't want to move into an apartment that's this big. I thought it would be bigger or whatever and the only way you really find that out is when you do surveys and studies and you ask the right questions, and you find out, you know, would you be willing to spend $3,000 a month to live in a 900 square foot apartment? And then you find out sometimes maybe you get some that say yes and some that say no. And again, that's not to say there wouldn't be some seniors that would be interested. But you shouldn't assume that this is a great thing for all the empty nesters because during the course of the hearings, you also heard testimony from many of them that said, "I wouldn't live there." So that's a mixed bag. And, again, I go back to how important is it, how much of a positive, and I think that that's a mixed bag at best.
A couple notes on traffic and I'm not going to detail this in great ‑‑ you know, bore you with it because you've heard lots of it. The traffic studies do not say that it's going to be the same thing. And Blais relied on that, but if you remember my cross‑examination, what Mr. Jahr did, he said "Well, I took some things that made applications before, I plugged them in, and then if those are the things ‑‑ commercial things that got developed, it wouldn't be any different. Yeah. I said, "Well, what if some of the other things that are permitted are the things that developed?" He said, "Oh, yeah. It would less with commercial." Now, I've been doing this a long time. I go to site plans where they're putting in commercial, they don't even give traffic counts in the morning. They don't even consider it material. And I think in the morning here, especially around your train station where people ‑‑ if you approve this and The Enclave was built for example, you're going to have people driving, you know. It's, you know, the north pole outside. They're not walking. It's the summer. It's 110 degrees. They're not walking. It's raining. It's snowing. It's icy. You have people with physical disabilities. They're late. They're carrying big bags. The point I'm making is: Don't assume that the traffic is necessarily going to be no different because you didn't really get the kind of report you really needed. What you needed was a full build‑out traffic report where the traffic engineer would go look at all the sites, build them out to the maximum of the ordinance, and then evaluate the traffic throughout the downtown area. Mr. Jahr said he wasn't authorized to do that, so he did what he was authorized to do. Now, I'm not saying you have no information. I'm not suggesting that this project is going to generate so much traffic it's a bad idea. But, as a board, changing the zoning, shouldn't you know what the full potential impact of your zone change is and relate that, not just in the abstract, that ‑‑ in a comprehensive fashion to fit that in and say, okay, what kind of traffic improvements are we going to have? Because I tell you one thing, if this were approved today and they build it, traffic's getting worse because there's nothing coming off those sites right now.
Now, maybe in another ‑‑ you know, if you want to site here and theoretically say, "Well, if somebody built this retail that we're telling you nobody wants to build, then the traffic would be the same." All I'm suggesting to you is that a more comprehensive study is what really was needed. You're, again, looking at the whole CBD and what's the impact of everything being built, not just these three projects if they were built this way, but everything. And we heard today there's several acres of other land on Chestnut. Nobody did any study of that. Are we just going to ignore the fact that that's ‑‑ like that's not going to generate traffic? I think in that context, you need to be careful about the traffic numbers and understand that the traffic here ‑‑ and I'm telling you something, I don't drive here all the time. You guys do. You know how bad it is; that's all I've heard. And you know, further on with the parking the same thing, you know. At night for example, I understand you come out here at night to go out and you can't find a parking space. Well, most of the retail's closed most of the time. So if there was retail on these sites, I wouldn't contribute one iota to that. You think in the bad weather that some of the people in these developments might get in their car to drive down to the other end of town? There's potential for additional traffic here. So just keep that in mind. I'm not saying that it's the end all or be all or it's the lynch pin. But again, there's a potential for some additional negative impacts from this.
I want to comment quickly on the schools. You know, I just heard, you know, the last two years the number of children is going down. Let's get on there and make it go back up; that's what the argument is. Who knows how the bad the schools were at the peak. The point here is not whether it's 70 kids or 80 kid or whatever, nobody knows. I don't think we can guess. We've heard so much different testimony on it. But the reality is, I would have hoped the superintendent would have been here as part of the public hearing to describe the impact of new children. Maybe he'd say, "Oh, it's no problem. Wouldn't make any difference at all." Or maybe he would say, "It would make some difference. It affects the quality of education in these regards." Or he might say, "It's terrible." Instead, we heard from Blais who talked to the superintendent and the testimony he gave was, "We can accommodate." Well, what do we expect? He's legally obligated to accommodate everybody. And I don't think the superintendent should be put on the spot and taken a position. But he certainly could have been here to ‑‑ so the public who's very concerned of this ‑‑ probably more concerned in some regard than may clients themselves, could have asked him those questions and you would have that information of what is the level of impact.
Now, I want to talk a bit about compatibility because it goes ‑‑ and I'm going to lead into the issues with respect to density. The Municipal Land Use Law, Section 62, says an ordinance should be drawn with reasonable consideration of the character of each district. Well, with all due respect, you take one lot in the middle of here, it's not going to be much different than the lots on either side. These were selected because Blais found that they were developable and they were over an acre. So the question here in terms of ordinance drafting and Master Planning is: Should we be picking out here, here, and here?
Now, maybe you should. May this is, you know, maybe in order to get this, this is something that ought to be considered. But my question is: How come you don't have one set of rules? Why do you have to have a separate ordinance that's specifically tailored to each of these zones? I don't get it. So in the B‑3‑R zone, for example, it's basically one lot, maybe there's something else there, maybe the Brake‑O‑Rama. The C it's the same thing. It's one ‑‑ one ‑‑ and it's a different zone. I don't get it.
If multifamily housing was here and the idea here was to say it's permitted at some density and some height, why are we going lot by lot? That's what gets the public nuts, and that's why they don't understand. You know, developer's come in, they want these four sites, those are the four sites you picked. The density they want, that's the density that's proposed. And then they get an individual zoning with respect to each one, they're own separate zones. They can't even zone the whole thing as one zone. You got to take a look at it. Now, I'm not making an argument here, this is spot zoning. I don't think the Board needs to get into that legal morose. But the point I'm making is now you're getting down to specific site planning. Well, we got to do this over here because this is what the building you want to put up and if you do this, then it's not ‑‑ you know, that's what's in the mind of the public. And not that you should be deciding just based upon what the public thinks, but the public's important, because if you don't have buying from your public, then the Board hasn't done its job properly, and I think you guys have worked very hard to do that. And, Mayor, I know I heard you say it 16 times, this is a working document. This is not the position of the Board, but the problem is that's where you started. And I think that that, in and of itself, is a problem. And let me explain what I mean by that. If you had started this and said, "Look, we have multifamily housing, it's just you have to have commercial on the first floor". Maybe that's why it's not getting built. I don't know. Nobody's testified about that.
Well, let's presume we go and we eliminate the commercial and we have all multifamily housing like we have now. And let's do it at 12 an acre because that's what it is. Now, developer's come in and prove to me why you need to have it at 40 or 50. I want to know. Tell me why 20 isn't good, 30 isn't good. Tell me ‑‑ tell me that it really doesn't work. Because the lawyer's standing up here and saying, "Well, it's not going to work. Nobody's going to built it," flies in the face of what's going on all over New Jersey where they're building 20 and 25‑unit apartment buildings everywhere. You just have to open your eyes and you'll see it. But I don't ask that you look around and decide what other people are doing elsewhere. The point here is that you didn't get the testimony and make them prove why they needed what they were proposing. And in doing so, you would have had information that would help you now when somebody ‑‑ when you sit down and say, well, there may be folks here ‑‑ I know the Mayor suggested 30 at one point, I don't know where it is now. Obviously, I'm not asking.
The point is, that some of you may be at a different density number. Well, how do you pick it? Well, it would be nice if we knew that the 25 units an acre could make a very nice profit for a developer, and if we do that, they're going to build it. We don't know now. That's what Blais was worried about. Well, don't make it too low. You're going to miss the opportunity. Well, it would have been nice to have some information about that other than picking numbers out of the air.
We feel that quadrupling the density is a mistake. And I'll tell you why, it's not because it might not work. It's too big a risk, because here's what happens, if you put it in and all the things that ‑‑ you know, the experts have told you who are long gone and don't want to come back to Ridgewood when they find out what they told you didn't work out exactly the right way, if that happens, you're stuck with it. So all the bad things that we say could happen you're stuck with it because you already said okay. They built it. It's there. It's not going away. I mean, you have buildings here from 1906, so that's going to be here forever. On the other hand, had you designed ‑‑ the ordinance projected a much lower density, all right, or if you approve a much lower density, now what happens. Let's say you did, the 24 was used, let's say you used that number. If they don't built it after a few years, you could make it higher. You're not at any risk. So one is real risky. You've taken a shot that everything a bunch of people said at a meeting one night is going to work out for you, and all the seniors are going to buy it, all those things are going to be great. Don't worry about it. It's not going to have any traffic. It's not going to have any problems with the schools. You're taking a gamble that that's going to work out for you.
We say, don't take a gamble. We say, if you need to ‑‑ if you're going to go with multifamily housing in some regard, do it at a much lower number. Now, if I were given advice and I do to my client, my advice and what I would do is say, look ‑‑ and if I were the one up here voting, I would vote no on this. I would say, you know what, it wasn't a waste of time. I would take what we learned. I would get the other additional information that I need, more traffic, more information on the schools, and truly try to sit down and decide what the vision is long term for the downtown area. Roll that into a more comprehensive study of the downtown area and/or a Master Plan reexamine, and then sit down with the Board saying, okay, I think we really do need some multifamily, but here's ‑‑ I don't we need as many. We don't need this many units. Maybe we only need a hundred units. Maybe that's what you think. So let's not approve stuff that's going to be 300 or 400 units. But that's me. My clients on the other hand, feel that they were here, and they're not against multifamily. I do want to give the Board their position as to what they think would be an appropriate number if the Board decides to move forward. And CBR's position is they feel that some ‑‑ a moderate increase from 12 to 20 per ‑‑ units per acre would be appropriate with the following proviso for ‑‑ and this could be worked out, extra parking, affordable housing, LEEDS certified, open space that would be additional credits up to 24 units an acre.
Now, the question was asked earlier: Why 24? Where'd that come from? Well, 24 is basically what you have now in the downtown. So it doesn't make sense if you're going to approve something, to approve it at the basic density, the average density, that exists now, so it's compatible with what's there. You don't need a five‑story building and let's see what happens. To me, that makes a lot of sense. It's safe. It's progress, if you want to go this route with a multifamily. It's a reasonable number that the public supports. And it's a reasonable number because it is consistent with what the density is now. If you just decide that we have 40 to 50, it's there. I didn't see any proof that they had to have that to build it. And I think that this makes the most sense in terms of where to go with this, and that's my client's position. And I think that way, if you do a little bit and consider this as part of any ‑‑ whatever numbers you're at, some incentives, you know, to do certain things, get an extra unit per acre, you know, two or three or four, that's a really good thing to do because now you're getting something. You're getting some additional parking.
Remember, even the hypothetical projects, they don't even meet the State code. Oh, well, they've got the traffic engineers to tell you, "Oh, well, I really don't need it." Well, why are you zoning or why are you contemplating a zone that based upon these practical examples, can't even meet the state code because they're going to need waivers. Doesn't that tell you it's a little bit too big? Doesn't that say to you, maybe you should downsize it and maybe do a little bit lesser so that we can have the amount of parking that's required? Certainly, they can go to the board and prove they don't need it and maybe want to do something else. But why zone it that way? It's almost like it's impractical.
You know, it's obvious to me that people really love living in this town. They take great pride in it. A lot of the seniors that have been here for a long time want to stay and they love the town. The town has so much to recommend it. I ‑‑ I grew up in Fair Lawn and I used to come to Ridgewood now and again to shop and do things, go to the movies. And you have a hefty responsibility here. This is important to people. This is ‑‑ this goes to where they live, and I when I say "where they live," not what street, I mean right here (indicating). They feel. This is emotional for them. This isn't just we don't want big buildings. They care about it. And they feel that this is a very important part of what this town is and why they're here. They're very concerned with preserving the character of Ridgewood. What my clients want and I think what the public wants, is that the Board carefully consider that on a comprehensive, long‑term, long way out view, and if you do that, I think the public will be very happy that the Board listened. Whatever your decision, at least you considered it. Let's not go for the quick fix. Let's go for the long view. The public is trusting you with the character of their town as are we. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Ira, Mr. Weiner.
Is there a comment about the rebuttals?
MS. PRICE: Yes.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: So Mr. Weiner had suggested earlier if there were rebuttals that wanted to ‑‑ were required afterwards, after his speaking.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Pardon me. I see no need to offer any rebuttal statement.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Bruinooge.
MR. WELLS: I probably should rebut because it was kind of a clever slight of hand to let the objector go last. That's not the way it normally goes.
A couple of things that are important to realize, I was trying to listen to Mr. Weiner's ‑‑ I will say testimony because a lot of it was testimony, as opposed to argument, carefully, and try to think of what was important to dissect for the Board, you know, in terms of its legitimacy because there are points that are certainly valid and they just differ in point of view. But I want to start with the negatives, if you will. This Board has had the opportunity to hear from not just Mr. Jahr, who is employed by this Board, but from three other traffic experts. They all testified extensively. I won't repeat their testimony here. You can read it. It's in the record. And CBR didn't hire a traffic expert. Instead, Mr. Weiner just came up here and testified as to his opinion about traffic and the fact that it was going to be a problem even though the experts who gave ‑‑ the witnesses who gave testimony say it's not going to be a problem. Same thing with school age children, and then we move through it. So what we have is we have Mr. Weiner giving you an argument telling you, "You need to move slowly, go carefully, because you don't know what's going to happen here because of these negatives that aren't negatives." He says, "Well, I'm not going to tell you it's spot zoning but it might be spot zoning and it might be this and it might be that." There are no real negatives here. The evidence that's been presented to you thoughtfully, carefully, at length over lengthy periods of time, makes it very clear what ‑‑ what experts who are advising you think.
Now, could you get more information? He also criticizes there should be more information. I would tell you that your planner, who is obviously the most qualified to tell this Village about its own destiny and ‑‑ and to give you his professional planning views on it because he's been here for gosh knows, 30 years, and is highly qualified, testified for four nights extensively. And what Mr. Weiner a few minutes ago just told you, you didn't hear anything about, read the transcript. He talked about it over and over again. Mr. Weiner just didn't like the conclusions he came to.
Mr. Brancheau explained to this Board how he came to the conclusion of why the zoning that was ultimately presented as part of the report, by analyzing it from the ground up, there is a fundamental difference in the assumption. The assumption that is being represented by Mr. Weiner and that being represented by Mr. Brancheau who says it's not really his opinion, but he tells you it's good professional planning. And that is this, and I'll leave you with this: It's the fundamental assumption that housing is a good thing for residential community, that underserved housing in this case, the market rate ‑‑ the luxury component in the housing in Ridgewood being underserved, there's and need for that and once the need is established, more is basically better. Now, more to certain point. Now, there are ‑‑ where you should be focused on, when does more become too much? If it's too high, if it's ugly, if it creates negatives. But there's not any real evidence of the kinds of negatives that should make you feel that the numbers that you're considering, the basic 40 units per acre which is basically what developers are presenting to you as something that could be built and work efficiently and work well. There's no negatives that say that that's a bad number. In fact, we indicate that it was a right number. There's also no evidence that 20 and 24 with incentives is a right number. It's really the fundamental question: Is housing good? And then if housing is good, then we build it here in a reasonable way that doesn't create fundamental negatives to the Village. It's a problem. I'll end as ‑‑ I think it was Mr. Steck and Mr. Burgis, when they got to answer to Mr. Weiner and others and to the public, they all said ‑‑ I don't really remember what Mr. Brancheau's statement was, it's a balancing act. Essentially ‑‑ although I believe the negatives were very overstated a few minutes ago in the closing and in some new testimony. There will always be a balance. You're always trying to look and say what's ‑‑ what would be good here and what would be good there, and what works out best. That's the job you guys are charged with. It is. It really is.
And you've heard a lot from the public and a lot from a lot of witnesses, and that's a job that I think you're well qualified to take on at this point, but it is a balancing act. The one ‑‑ the one final point I want to make in closing is, I listened to Mr. Weiner do it again tonight, and I've listened to this ‑‑ and it was a little bit goes along with my statement before, we're not the enemy. Where he told you basically there's an uprising of people who don't want this and want a different position. Where are they? You know, the Chairman knows that I've been teasing him for a long time. I don't really understand why my clients and the other client have paid $30,000 for a us to be in schools for the last eight months and not a single time ‑‑ and I count every single time ‑‑ only the first ‑‑ the first meeting at BF did we ever get to a number that would have stretched that room. Not a single time have we been ‑‑ needed to actually be in a school. We could have been at Village Hall this whole time. There's not some giant ups ‑‑ up swell of people that feel strongly that this is something that's going to ruin the Village. That's not the case. And when the public finally spoke, got a chance to talk, that's not what we heard.
Anyway, I'll stop being an advocate; that's my job. And I'll let you do your job, which is to deliberate and come to the right decision and we're confident you will do that. Thanks.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Wells. So that concludes most of our process. Next step, as Mr. Wells just pointed out, is our deliberation process. And we will begin that on the 17th of March. It's currently scheduled to be here at the high school. I think we are expecting instruction from Counsel with regard to how to proceed with various pieces of evidence as to what's in the record. And, Gail, I don't know if want to comment on that ‑‑
MS. PRICE: Yes.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: ‑‑ currently?
MS. PRICE: Now?
Our office provided Michael with a list of exhibits that we were showing that comprised the record, so I will provide that to the Board Members as well now that we're done this evening. So I'll send it to Counsel as well as ‑‑ I didn't show an objection during the course of the hearings to anything that had been marked by the various attorneys on anything that was marked ‑‑
MR. WELLS: I was going to say I have no objection.
MS. PRICE: ‑‑ for Identification.
MR. WELLS: I do know that I didn't ‑‑
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Hold on. Hold on a second.
MS. PRICE: I didn't show ‑‑ what I was going to say is I didn't show an objection on anything that had been marked for Identification, so I would move everything in that had been marked by the various parties, formally in. Is there ‑‑
MR. WELLS: Yes. I just wanted to add Mr. Bruinooge simply did it and to the extent that you'd like me to do the memorandum that we submitted in this hearing, why don't we mark that as an exhibit, so that it's formally into the record as well. Although, normally it would go in as correspondence to the Board.
MS. PRICE: Right. I think that I'd like to take that under advisement because typically the legal briefs are considered just that, legal briefs, and ‑‑
MR. WELLS: I'm totally comfortable with that, but I got nervous when he marked his into the record ‑‑
MS. PRICE: I know. Mr. Bruinooge ‑‑
MR. WELLS: ‑‑ he marked his into the record. If you're going to put it in the record ‑‑
MS. PRICE: I know. Well, we have ‑‑
MR. WELLS: If you're going to put it into the record ‑‑
MS. PRICE: No, of course. It would be ‑‑ what's good for one is good for the other, but ‑‑
MR. WELLS: Yes, right. Thank you.
MS. PRICE: ‑‑ Mr. Bruinooge has a lot of exhibits that he's attached, but those appear to be transcript ‑‑
MR. WELLS: Transcripts.
MS. PRICE: ‑‑ references.
So I would like to get back to everybody with regard to that one issue before the Board starts to deliberate. But all of the other exhibits that were marked into identification prior to tonight should be considered effectively moved in, unless there's some objection by Counsel. That would be the Enclaves' exhibits, Chestnut Village's exhibits, the Dayton's exhibits, and the Concerned Residents' exhibits. And so I will supply the official exhibit list for all Counsel as well as the Board Members. And, Mr. Chairman, on the instructions, March 3rd meeting is a regular next meeting we have Church of God and Malbin matter, so I would suggest that our office will get the instructions to the Board hopefully by that Friday or the following meeting on the 6th ‑‑ I mean on the 3rd which is the 6th so that the Board will have this the instructions about ten days in advance of the deliberations, and now everybody is standing almost.
MR. WELLS: I was just going to say, I just wanted the Board to know that some time ago when Laura developed the capability to put the exhibits into the transcripts, they have been added to the transcript as well, which I think facilitates ‑‑
MS. PRICE: That would help.
MR. WELLS: ‑‑ and makes it easy for you. Even though you will still be in public and not necessarily taking testimony, it is my intention to have the Court Reporter continue to come to these hearing and will be taking the transcript of your deliberations as well.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Mr. Bruinooge?
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you. Point of clarification, is it your position that you consider the memo which was clearly stated as part of the summation not part of the record?
MS. PRICE: Sitting here right now, Tom, I've never considered ‑‑ well, first of all, I've never asked for my summation, legal summation to be considered as evidence because an attorney's argument is not testimony or part of the record. It's part of the file, so I would like to have the opportunity to look at that issue. I've never had it marked in any matter in 30 years as part of the record as an exhibit, and that's what you're asking for, I think, right?
MR. BRUINOOGE: Yes, that's what I did ask for.
MS. PRICE: So that's what I want the opportunity just to look at because I would rather not rule on that issue sitting here tonight.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you.
MS. PRICE: I've never done it.
MR. BRUINOOGE: And I would like ‑‑ I'd like to, obviously, if you're going to consider it, I would like the opportunity to correspond with you on that particular subject.
MS. PRICE: Sure. If you have something that you want to get to me ‑‑
MR. BRUINOOGE: Yes.
MS. PRICE: ‑‑ that's fine.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you.
MS. PRICE: I mean, as the Board knows, legal argument from Counsel, summation is for clarification and position on applicants, same as it in site plan applications, subdivision applications, and then you utilize the exhibits and the fact and expert testimony that you've heard during the matter to come to your decision during deliberations. So I just want to make sure we're not blurring that line in any way. But I'm happy to receive anything that you have, Tom.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you. I appreciate that and I think to make it more clear perhaps, the text of the memo is essentially a critical part and a central part of the summation. I understand the fine point that you were making. I still would like to correspond with you.
MS. PRICE: Sure.
MR. BRUINOOGE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you, Mr. Bruinooge.
Okay. So we have ‑‑ thank you, Gail.
Any other comments?
MS. PRICE: No.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: So we as the board have a little bit of information and material to review over the course of the next month. Gail will be getting her memo to us sometime around the 3rd.
MS. PRICE: The 6th.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: The 6th. I'm sorry. Three more days, yeah, sometime around the 6th. And we will then resume this hearing on the 17th of March here at the high school. So this hearing will be carried until the 17th of March without further notice. Again, thank you all for coming and thank you especially for having come through so many hearings. And we look forward to you being here again on the 17th to hear our deliberation. Next item on the agenda is adoption of minutes for April 1st and ‑‑
MR. WEINER: I'm sorry.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: I'm sorry, Mr. Weiner.
MR. WEINER: We're not expecting a big crowd so if you want to have the meeting at Village Hall I think that would be fine, but you do what you think is best.
CHAIRMAN NALBANTIAN: Thank you. Please stay tuned, check the website for any final decisions. As of now we're saying it will be here. Thank you.
The meeting adjourned at 9:35 P.M.
Date approved: September 15, 2015
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