Maplewood Planning Board to Continue Post House Site Plan Review August 31

by The Village Green
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Editor’s Note: August 31, 12 p.m., This article has been updated to include a quote from Tom Carlson responding to John Harvey’s statement about members of the public being required to attend planning board meetings to “know when a topic of interest will be addressed.”

The Maplewood Planning Board is moving forward with a special meeting on August 31 to continue its review of the site plan for the Post House project, a 20-unit apartment building with 9,515 sf of retail space and 21 underground parking spaces proposed for the site formerly occupied by the Maplewood Post Office in Maplewood Village.

The review began at the Planning Board’s regular August meeting on August 11. At that time, project architect David Minno gave a detailed presentation of the site plan.

Minno also went over a list of more than 20 “minor, technical deviations” from the redevelopment plan, included those related to the building’s height, setbacks, and design elements. Planning board members asked specific questions regarding many of the deviations.

Due to the lateness of the hour, the meeting was adjourned before the presentation ended and the board agreed to continue the site plan hearing at the special meeting on Monday, August 31 (the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Maplewood Town Hall, 574 Valley Street).

Also at the August 11 meeting, Planning Board members discussed an appeal being made by Village Keepers requesting that the building’s owner demonstrate financial hardship before being allowed to demolish the current Post Office and that Mayor Vic DeLuca and Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan, who both serve on the planning board, recuse themselves from any decision involving the Post House plan. (Read more about the appeal here.) Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson stated at the August 11 meeting that the Planning Board would address the appeal at its regular meeting on September 8.

Meanwhile, the community group Engage Maplewood, made a written request to the Planning Board asking that it postpone the August 31 meeting. John Harvey, on behalf of Engage Maplewood, asked that the meeting date be moved because the date “represents an unreasonable hardship on community members in terms of vacation scheduling and the demands of preparing for the new school year.” Harvey also outlined issues related to cross-examination of witnesses, public commentary and public outreach (see Harvey’s letter below).

However, Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson responded that the meeting would proceed as scheduled due to the fact that “the site plan review process is now underway” and as “this process is prescribed in statute … the applicant is legally entitled to have his site plan heard in a timely manner.”

Carlson said he was “surprised” by Harvey’s statement that “the proposed arrangement requires members of the public to attend all meetings so as to know when a topic of interest will be addressed.” Carlson wrote, “I don’t know any other way for an individual to become informed about the case except to attend all meetings. After all, that is how the members of the board function.”

Carlson also responded to Harvey’s three other concerns regarding cross-examination, public comments and outreach (see Carlson’s response, also contained in the document below).

Engage Maplewood has since made three of the four requests from its original letter to Carlson directly to the Township Committee and the developer JMF Properties (see letter below). As of Monday morning August 31, neither has responded, according to an Engage Maplewood representative.

See the August 31, 2015 Planning Board meeting agenda here.

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