Planning Board Public Meeting Minutes 20150106

The following minutes are a summary of the Planning Board meeting of January 6, 2015. Interested parties may request an audio recording or transcript 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 6:30 p.m. The following members were present: Mayor Aronsohn, Ms. Bigos, Mr. Nalbantian, Mr. Reilly, Ms. Altano, Mr. Joel, Mr. Thurston, Ms. Dockray, Mr. Abdalla, and Ms. Peters. Also present were: Gail Price, Esq., Board Attorney; Blais Brancheau, Village Planner; and Michael Cafarelli, Board Secretary. Councilwoman Knudsen was absent.

Executive Session - Mr. Nalbantian read the resolution to go into executive session. The resolution was adopted and the Board left the auditorium for a closed executive session in room 116.

The Board returned from executive session at 7:44 p.m.

Chairman Nalbantian made opening remarks regarding safety issues and the hearing process.

Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board – No one came forward.

Committee, Professional Updates Ms. Peters thanked the Mayor for his opinion letter editorial in The Bergen Record regarding civility, and asked residents and others who are serving in our committee positions to recognize civility. She encouraged the same with the Board, attorneys and the public.

Correspondence received by the Board – None

Mr. Nalbantian asked attorneys if they have any memo or brief on any matter that they prepare and submit the documents within a few days following public comments.

Public Hearing Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan AH-2, B-3-R, C-R and C Zone Districts

Mr. Nalbantian said that he and Mr. Reilly had questions for Mr. Brancheau and asked Mr. Reilly to begin.

Mr. Reilly said he had several concerns about the scale of the project, the bulk, and the height. He said 55 feet seems too high and currently the height can be 45 to 50 feet. Mr. Reilly asked if the parking could be below grade that would reduce the height and he asked if other roof designs could be incorporated that break up the box look and instead of the flat roof, have cantilevered roof or step backed roofs.

Mr. Brancheau said 45, 50 feet height is permitted today with affordable housing in the B‑1 and B‑2 zones, not in the C zone where 45 is the standard today. He said the heights proposed, in the downtown area are above the average and the additional height was done to accommodate affordable housing and an incentive to deal with the aesthetic element by not having a flat roofed building or a building without gables or pediments because there's no ability to put it in without violating height.

Mr. Brancheau discussed other ways of mitigating visual impact such as different setbacks, projections, recesses, different materials, and buildings. He said below grade parking on the ground level could be done.

Mr. Nalbantian said on page five of the draft report, Mr. Brancheau refers to architectural designs that added five feet. In addition, potential concepts of setbacks, breakup of setbacks,

so for properties with a large row street frontage, there would not be a straight line. There could potentially be breakups. Mr. Nalbantian asked if the specifics would be outlined in the ordinance and provide details on the height and the architecture. Mr. Brancheau said yes. Mr. Nalbantian said housing would increase foot traffic in the downtown area and bring activity to the retail businesses to create a more active environment.

Mr. Nalbantian asked if there are studies that suggest that a more active downtown also attracts others to come and use the retail facilities, the restaurants or retail stores and theatres in the downtown or is that really a moot point. Mr. Brancheau said he does not think it is moot, an empty downtown discourages stores, a busy downtown encourages stores and stores encourage people to go there.

Ms. Dockray said she has been more cognizant of multifamily developments and she sees various types of parking facilities for the developments. She asked Mr. Brancheau if he were given the names of other complexes could he report to the Board on the complexes height, number of units, type of parking and what might be transferable. Mr. Brancheau said some of this was done and looking at other facilities would only be valuable to Board members if they were to see the actual complex.

Mr. Reilly said that he is struggling with the height and mass and the difficulty in looking at developments on paper rather than complexes already build.

Mr. Nalbantian said it is not a comparison of development against an empty lot, but a development against a developed lot. He said a five-foot difference could be sizable versus nothing. He asked if Mr. Brancheau had a recommendation on how to gauge height and mass.

Mr. Brancheau said at least six comparisons have been presented. Mr. Brancheau said there was some virtual modeling presented to the Board to show proposed structures in their context.

Mr. Brancheau said he is not looking at specific structures, but for purposes of a Master Plan,

a conceptual theoretical structure 50 feet, 45 feet versus 55 feet assuming certain setbacks. In that context would be helpful to the Board.

Ms. Peters said there are too many possible solutions, peaked roofs verses flat roofs. The proposal is a design development for developers. Ms. Peters liked Mr. Reilly's suggestion of underground parking. She said property owners could charge what they want for the space that will dictate the type of business that can occupy the space.

Ms. Altano asked if it is possible to determine the proper height and go back, revisit and adjust the density to fit what is ideal for Ridgewood. Mr. Brancheau said height affects density and to achieve a certain density one needs a certain amount of height or you need a certain amount of coverage.          

Ms. Price said she wants to ensure the Board takes steps not to place itself in violation of the

second round housing plan that provides for the 45 and 50 feet. She said it is relevant to revisit the issue of underground parking with Chris Rutishauser as he has underground concerns on certain sections of the downtown because of the water table, and it may affect the cost to the developer. Mr. Rutishauser has an engineering concern Village wide that he did not want to see certain underground disturbance occur for environmental and water table.

Mr. Brancheau deferred to questions posed at the December 16 meeting by Board Members. Ms. Altano asked about enrollment projection from the Board of Education. Mr. Brancheau said he obtained updated figures from the Board of Education that indicated it only does enrollment projections once a year and the projection for the Village for next year is 5,720 students, a decline in enrollments.

Ms. Altano asked how much of the enrollment growth came from multifamily housing. Mr. Brancheau said he was not able to obtain definitive answers. However, he did obtain the population in housing units from the Census Bureau in buildings containing five or more housing units. He discussed the information obtained regarding population in the housing units, school age children, and the impact on schools.

Mr. Brancheau said he obtained information from the Board of Education that updated counts on the number of school children coming out of the multifamily housing in the CBD area. He referred to the Rutgers study that projected 23 based on the North Jersey Region, for buildings containing five or more units.

Mr. Nalbantian opened the meeting to applicants' attorneys for cross-examination.

Mr. Weiner asked if Mr. Brancheau was recommending the Board adopt the Amendments drafted. Mr. Brancheau said he was not. Mr. Weiner asked if Mr. Brancheau considered Ridgewood a vibrant downtown now. Mr. Brancheau said he thought it is better than many downtowns and that there are some concerns he shares.

Mr. Weiner asked if the multifamily Amendment went in and the zoning was adopted as it stands, could Mr. Brancheau predict whether that would cure the concerns he raised.

Mr. Brancheau said if done properly it could help.

Mr. Weiner asked if there is data that could be used to evaluate how the size of the development would affect businesses and is there information to judge what would be a real negative? Mr. Brancheau said he did not have any hard numbers.

Mr. Weiner said how does the Board determine what number is economically infeasible? Is there any data that has been presented by the developers to demonstrate that they need a particular number of densities to proceed so that the Board can consider those? Mr. Brancheau said he did not have information on economics.

Mr. Weiner asked is it possible to have a five-story building meet the guidelines but due to economic circumstances, the building is unattractive. He said the Board should be careful about imagining a beautiful building at fifty-five feet because as the plans are only conceptual. There may be different developers proposing different things at the site plan stage. Mr. Brancheau said he agreed and when the ordinance is written, the standards need to be carefully drafted to avoid what was described.

Mr. Weiner asked about the Traffic reports, if Mr. Brancheau reviewed the full Traffic Report

on the overall impact to the downtown areas, during rush hour and if it would be worse with multifamily than with commercial. Mr. Brancheau said he did not recall.

Ms. Price marked Mr. Brancheau's report dated September 18, 2012 as Exhibit CBR-2

Mr. Weiner asked Mr. Brancheau about the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in his September 18th, 2012 report and if he could compare the FAR under the Amendment with what currently exists downtown. Mr. Brancheau discussed his findings and what is proposed in the Master Plan ranges from 140 to 160%, which is higher than what now exists. Mr. Weiner asked about the density and how it was achieved and if Mr. Brancheau considered a density incentive for developers. Mr. Brancheau said he did not.

Mr. Weiner asked about potential variances that could be sought by others citing the Medici case, if there was a study on the desirability to empty nesters, on the fiscal impact, and if open space was addressed. Mr. Brancheau replied no. Mr. Weiner asked if the Board has a build‑out study assessing the traffic, school and parking impacts if all of the lots covered by this Amendment were to be built out to the max. Mr. Brancheau said no.

Mr. Weiner said the Board does not have any data that the multifamily housing is not a viable option at a lower density than is proposed in the Amendment. Mr. Brancheau agreed.

9:40 P.M. There was a break and the meeting resumed at 9:50 P.M.

Mr. Wells asked what was the process Mr. Brancheau and the Board used to determine the sites under consideration in the Board's Master Plan and the Amendment. He asked about Exhibit D-11, "Issues and Factors Concerning Multifamily Housing in Central Business District" prepared by Mr. Brancheau. Ms. Price marked the document as Exhibit D-11. Mr. Brancheau discussed the process used to by the Board.

Mr. Wells asked Mr. Brancheau to explain the process establishing criteria for the Board in determining where multifamily might be located, and how the criteria was applied to all sites that were identified. Mr. Brancheau explained the location factors.

Mr. Wells asked if the location value sets a precedent, where others not preselected could ask why their site was not zoned in the same manner. He asked if there were three zones, CR‑zone, AH‑2 zone and B‑3‑R zone and with some modifications to the existing C‑zone.

Could the Board enact a Master Plan or a variation, to adopt one or more of the zones discussed? Mr. Brancheau said the Board could do so.

Mayor Aronsohn said the draft Amendment is a working document, the Board did not agree to anything. He said the Board needed to get the process going and get the public involved. Mr. Brancheau said there was an agreement that this is the draft and that it would put out to the public. Ms. Dockray said she agreed with the Mayor's comments.

Mr. Bruinooge complimented Mr. Brancheau on his professionalism. He said he did not consider the process one Amendment but rather four and he had no questions.

The meeting was continued to January 13, 2015 at Ridgewood High Schoolto begin final testimony and rebuttal from attorneys.

Mr. Wells said he had two witnesses, Mr. Bruinooge said he had one witness, and Mr. Weiner has one or two witnesses and the time for all witnesses would not exceed twenty minutes.

Adoption of Minutes: March 4, 2014, October 7, 2014, and November 17, 2014

March 4, 2014 minutes adopted with revisions per Ms. Peters and Ms. Dockray. October 7, 2014 minutes adopted and November 17, 2014 minutes deferred to January 13, 1015 meeting.

United Methodist Church, Resolution change to add "whereas" re: number of signs as per Ms. Dockray.

The hearing was adjourned at 10:20 p.m. to be continued at Village Hall on January 20, 1015.

Respectfully submitted,

                                                                        Michael Cafarelli

                                                                        Board Secretary

Date approved: March 17, 2015

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