CANCELED: South Orange Planning Board Meeting and Orange Lawn Zoning Discussion

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BNE Real Estate Group presented this plan for townhomes to neighbors of Orange Lawn Tennis Club in December.

BNE Real Estate Group presented this plan for townhomes to neighbors of Orange Lawn Tennis Club in December.

Updated: The Feb. 2 meeting of the South Orange Planning Board has been canceled due to weather. Stay tuned for more updates.

At its February 2 meeting, the South Orange Planning Board will discuss a proposed ordinance to change the zoning code that would allow Orange Lawn Tennis Club at 305 Ridgewood Road to subdivide its property and develop a portion as townhomes.

As explained by Trustee and Planning Board member Mark Rosner, BNE Real Estate Group has proposed purchasing a portion of the property and developing it as 27 town homes. The development would take up about one third of the current 16-plus acre site. Village Administrator Barry Lewis said that the ordinance would not change the current zoning, which allows for residential development and recreational use of the property. However, the ordinance would clarify that the property could be subdivided for two separate uses.

On January 12, the South Orange Board of Trustees voted to introduce the ordinance that would allow Orange Lawn to subdivide its property in order to sell a parcel for development. The Board of Trustees is waiting on a recommendation from the Planning Board to inform its discussion of the second hearing and final vote on the ordinance at its Feb. 9 meeting.

Should the Board of Trustees approve the zoning change, the development would still need to be presented to the Planning Board for approval. The discussion at the Planning Board on Monday night concerns only the proposed zoning change and will not be an official review of the proposed development.

In an email to The Village Green, Orange Lawn board member Peter Shapiro said that the zoning change and development were necessary for the survival of the historic club.

“The development is made necessary because of the financial condition of the club,” wrote Shapiro. “If the club were in sound financial condition, it would vastly prefer to retain the integrity of the beautiful historic property that has been its home for more than a century.”

However, Shapiro continued, “Without the sale, the club cannot survive.  The sale will allow the club to extinguish its debt, and put it on a secure financial footing going forward.  Without the sale, the club will be forced to close, and to sell off its entire property for development. The choice comes down to this: develop a portion of the property and allow the club to continue as a historic South Orange institution, or close the club and develop the entire property.  We would overwhelmingly prefer the first alternative. The interests of the club and of its neighbors are fully aligned in wanting to limit the impact of the development. We are committed to working with the community to do so.”

At the January 12 Board of Trustees meeting, Joan Youell, who owns a home adjacent to Orange Lawn, said that Orange Lawn appeared to be under “continual financial crisis” and had appealed to the Village on financial grounds before, in at least one case obtaining permission to expand. Youell complained that the current proposal runs counter to the Village’s Open Space Master Plan of 2004 as well as its Smart Growth Plan of 2007, which call for maintaining open space and recreational uses. Youell also said the slope of the property presented issues with water runoff. She said that traffic, access and parking would all be problems and noted that the development would displace current parking for the club’s recreational and catering facilities. Youell pointed out that the property is surrounded by single family homes.

Another nearby resident Joe Korb questioned that the project was already “well baked.” He asked that the process be “slowed down.” Korb also noted that the property had been rezoned in 1993 to help the town meet the state-mandated Mount Laurel Doctrine which requires municipalities to plan for and provide affordable housing and that Orange Lawn had benefited financially from that designation. Korb said that Orange Lawn had successfully derailed previous efforts to return the zoning to recreational only.

A call to BNE Real Estate Group, the proposed developer of the parcel, was not returned.

See the agenda for the Feb. 2 South Orange Planning Board meeting here.



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