Government Maplewood

UPDATE: As Neighbors Organize Against Proposed 60-Unit Springfield Ave Building, Planning Board Ruling Sends Developer Back to Drawing Board

Updated June 11, 2019: 1734 Springfield Avenue LLC has NOT as yet resubmitted plans for 1722-1744 Springfield Avenue. The proposed development is not on the agenda for the June 11, 2019 Maplewood Planning Board agenda. The story below was first published on May 22, 2019.

Neighbors are organizing against the proposed 60-unit development by 1734 Springfield Avenue LLC.

The developer of a proposed 60-unit mixed used development for the corner of Springfield Avenue and Wellesley will be making changes and resubmitting plans after the Maplewood Planning Board ruled on issues related to lots at its May 14 meeting.

Planning Board Chair Jerry Ryan explained that the property presents some challenges as to zoning code because “there are several rules that apply to the case of a corner lot, and several rules that apply to the case of a lot next to a transitional lot.”

“The rules are pretty clear about both [corner and transitional], but this is the first time we have every seen both applying at the same time,” said Ryan.

The Planning Board voted on May 14 to accept that the property being developed (1722-1744 Springfield Avenue) is a corner lot, as recommended by the Planning Board’s Engineer. But the Planning Board disagreed with the engineer on the designation of the lot behind the property; the Planning Board ruled that that lot is a transitional lot, noting that it meets the depth requirement of less than 100 ft if measured from the appropriate dimension (the Planning Board decided that the engineer considered the depth from the wrong dimension).

Because the lot behind has been ruled a transitional lot, any plans submitted will need to allow for 15 ft between the back of the building and the property boundary.

In addition, Ryan said that the Planning Board ruled that the building must be set back by 12.5 ft. on Wellesley as there must be at least 50% of the residential set back because the lot is next to a transitional lot. Ryan said that the transitional lot designation would also require a similar setback on the Springfield Avenue side of the development, because the corner lot designation means that the development has two “front yards” that the rules apply to; however, that conflicts with Springfield Avenue design standards which call for lot line development on Springfield Avenue.

Allowing the property to be developed to the lot line in the front could help with the need to leave 15 feet between the building and the property line in the back.

Ryan said that the applicant — 1734 Springfield Avenue — said they would resubmit with new plans in time for the next Planning Board meeting on June 11. That would be a fast turnaround time as there are deadlines for submission of plans for review and approval by the Planning Board’s Engineer before the meeting, as well as notice requirements for the surrounding properties.

Residential neighbors of the project in both the Hilton and College Hill neighborhoods have been organizing against the project via Facebook groups like SOMA Lounge and Friends of Maplecrest Park. Stephanie Scott has posted notices on various local group pages alerting members to Planning Board meetings on April 9 and May 14. Her posts have included a link to photos of the plans and an update on the plans noting the following:

* They are still requesting a variance for insufficient parking (only 50% of required spots on site)
* It is a large “super-block” style building. To fit into the narrow lot, several variances are being requested regarding setbacks, curb cuts, lack of a loading zone and setbacks from street and property lines.
* In a change from the previously-submitted plans, the developer has now proposed pushing the building closer to the existing homes behind the lot, leaving only a 7’ buffer between existing homes and what will be effectively a 50’ wall. This proximity to exiting homes will be exacerbated by the developer’s plans to remove all buffer trees between their lot and the existing homes. 
* There will be a net loss of retail space.
* As noted before, this is a high-density development with several two and three bedroom units, as well as units with “bonus” rooms that could effectively serve as multiple bedroom dwellings.

The Maplewood Planning Board meets again on Tuesday, June 11, at 8 p.m. at the Maplewood Municipal Building (Town Hall), 574 Valley Street, Maplewood, NJ.

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