South Orange Creates Subcommittee to Consider Options for Marylawn

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The Village of South Orange has created a working group to study future uses for the Marylawn of the Oranges property on Scotland Road and to make recommendations for any zoning changes that would be needed to attract such future uses.

Trustee Mark Rosner, chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee, held the first meeting of the subcommittee on October 31 to talk about the future of the former site of Marylawn Academy — now that Seton Hall University has withdrawn its proposal to buy and renovate the property as a graduate medical school campus.

The working group includes representatives of neighborhood groups including the Montrose Park Historic District Association and the West Montrose Neighborhood Association. Also on the subcommittee: Village Administrator Barry Lewis, a representative from Village Counsel Steve Rother’s office, Trustees Sheena Collum and Steve Schnall, and a member of the Village Development Committee.

The next meeting of this subcommittee of the Planning and Zoning Committee will take place Friday, November 14, at 8 a.m. at the municipal offices at 76 South Orange Avenue. The public is invited.

Seton Hall’s plans provoked significant opposition from neighbors who felt that the proposed graduate medical campus would generate too much traffic in the area. Representatives of Seton Hall presented plans and answered questions at four Zoning Board meetings starting in May and faced more questions at future meetings if they had continued with the proposal.

Trustee Sheena Collum noted that the idea of the working group was to see “what you want and if you need to change the zoning to do it.” Collum said that it was frustrating to see a property advertised for a nonconforming use and then to go through a lengthy and potentially divisive process to gain approval. The idea would be to smooth the process for a use that is accepted by the community.

“It would be great for someone to propose something that people support,” said Collum.

Rosner said that the committee is looking at all possible scenarios. However, the three major scenarios at present are:

  1. finding a possible buyer that would use the property for a school similar to Marylawn Academy;
  2. zoning the property for 10 to 12 single family homes or — as a compromise — for town homes; or
  3. zoning the property for higher density apartments — Rosner said that this would be the “worst case scenario” for residents.

“Everything is really on the table,” said Rosner, who also added that nobody wants to see the property sit vacant. Rosner said that the possibility that the Village would buy the property (it is still owned by the Sisters of Charity) is extremely slim.

Rosner also noted that there exists a convenance on part of the parcel stipulating only single family home zoning. He said that the Graves House is not protected from demolition; however, he said that a report was expected shortly from the committee’s attorney concerning a suit by residents against the Sisters of Charity related to possible demolition of the Graves House.

Rosner said that the subcommittee should meet four or five more times. He said he’d like to have a recommendation presented to the Board of Trustees by February 1, 2015.

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