Collum: ‘As of Right’ Limits Town’s Leverage on Proposed Orange Lawn Development

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On Monday, April 4, the South Orange Planning Board will discuss an ordinance — #2016-08 Approving the Orange Lawn Redevelopment Plan for Block 1304, Lot 6 — to ensure that it consistent with the town’s Master Plan, said Village President Sheena Collum at the last South Orange Village Board of Trustees meeting.

In February, the South Orange Board of Trustees voted to introduce the ordinance approving the redevelopment plan to subdivide the tennis club’s property and allow Orange Lawn to sell five acres of its 16 acres to construct 22 luxury townhouses. The ordinance would also rezone the remaining 11 acres so that they cannot be developed at the current 6.6 unit per acre zoning allowance but instead at 4.4 units per acre.

Collum said she wanted to let members of the public — including Orange Lawn neighbors who have expressed opposition to the plan — know that the purpose of the Planning Board meeting was for the Planning Board to see “whether or not the plan is consistent with Master Plan.”

“That meeting is very much limited to consistency with the Master Plan,” said Collum at the March 28 Board of Trustees meeting, who instead directed those who wished to express opposition to the redevelopment plan to attend the April 11 Board of Trustees meeting where the ordinance is scheduled to have a presentation and hearing.

(Find the South Orange Master Plan and related documents here.)

Collum also defended the Orange Lawn redevelopment plan at the March 28 meeting.

The Village President took pains to explain that, unlike other proposed development projects in town, South Orange Village has more limited power when it comes to the potential development of Orange Lawn Tennis Club.

Collum said that’s because, should the club close down and sell its entire 16-acre parcel (which it says it will need to do if it cannot sell the five acres for development), it could be developed “as of right” with the current zoning for 105 units of housing — possibly multi-story — without the need for a variance. Collum said that the town would have no recourse to stop such a project.

However, since Orange Lawn is seeking to sell off a portion in order to stay afloat financially, the town has some leverage due to Orange Lawn’s need to gain town approval to split the property. While the town has used this leverage to reduce the number of units proposed on the five acres from 30 to 22 and to rezone the remaining 11 acres at 4.4 units per acre, a further reduction in zoning density could damage Orange Lawn’s ability to attract a buyer and stay afloat, Collum suggested in a follow-up phone call.

“When we get to the April 11 meeting, I welcome everybody who sent emails or signed petitions to come,” said Collum on March 28, noting that many petition comments centered around whether the town could “keep this property as open space.”

“We are between a rock and a hard spot,” said Collum, later adding that the public “needs to understand what the Board was faced with.”

Collum also clarified that there was no PILOT — payment in lieu of taxes — or tax abatement on the table for the proposed development.

“It will pay full taxes,” said Collum.


Read about neighbors’ opposition to the Orange Lawn Redevelopment Plan here.

The South Orange  Planning Board meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 4 at SOPAC. The South Orange Village Board of Trustees hearing on the ordinance will take place at 8 p.m., Monday, April 11 at SOPAC.


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