The Maplewood Planning Board will meet on September 8 to continue a hearing on the Post House development — a 20-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail proposed for the site of the former Maplewood Post Office.
At this hearing, the Planning Board will hear testimony from the public as well as deliberate on 20 deviations from the redevelopment plan requested by the developer, JMF Properties (scroll down to read a description of all 20 deviations, plus three requested waivers).
The Board heard testimony from architect David Minno on several of the deviations on August 11, and from project engineer Eric Keller and project planner John McDonough at a special Planning Board meeting on August 31.
On August 11, Minno discussed some of the requested deviations related to building height, parapets, balconies and setbacks.
At the August 31 meeting Keller took the Board through some requested changes to sidewalk widths, maximum building coverage (from 60% to 61.9% — the increased area is beneath the sidewalk and not visible), and parking lot landscaping.
McDonough then discussed a request to forgo the 10% (two units) affordable housing provision and instead pay into the affordable housing fund, as well as a request to allow for two studio units — a deviation from the stipulated one- and two-bedroom mix outlined in the redevelopment plan.
With regard to architectural deviations, Planning Board member Nancy Adams expressed concern about the change in elevation on the Maplewood Avenue facade as it related to retail unit access. Adams said that the proposed stairs and landscaping were “not an ideal retail situation.”
Minno responded that moving the building back several feet to accommodate trucks backing into Kings Supermarket’s loading dock had actually improved the situation, “softening the edge” of the access points and allowing for an additional mid-point set of stairs. Minno argued that the new Whitney Museum in New York City had “almost the exact same conditions” with respect to slope and that the treatment was “quite lovely.”
Adams countered that this was not a museum but added, “I’m not saying it can’t work … I’ve seen it work.”
Planning Board member Jim Nathenson brought up the massing of the building and questioned Minno about perspective renderings of the proposed building. “I don’t instinctively believe that these renderings are accurate,” said Nathenson. Minno explained the process through which the renderings were created, ultimately responding, “I don’t know what to tell you … the heights are what they are.”
Nathenson responded, “I think a lot of people are going to say, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.'”
Overall the questions from the Planning Board members seemed to be looking more at elucidation of the plan and requested deviations while not making direct criticisms.
Read coverage of questions from members of the public at the August 31 meeting here.
See Maplewood Planning Board engineering consultant Robert Bratt’s details of the deviations and waivers in the letter below: