South Orange Withdraws Ordinance That Would Pave Way for Orange Lawn Development

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Updated March 4, 2015 with additional information about public comments related to the Orange Lawn ordinance and information on the Kingman Road hearing.

An ordinance that would have allowed Orange Lawn Tennis Club to subdivide its property was withdrawn by South Orange Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. on behalf of the Board of Trustees at the Planning Board meeting Monday night.

The proposed ordinance would have amended the township’s Code to permit Orange Lawn Tennis Club to subdivide its property in order to sell a parcel for development of 27 town homes. The Board of Trustees was to hold a second hearing and final vote on the ordinance at its March 9 meeting. Meanwhile, a group of neighbors has started a petition against the proposed ordinance, which so far has garnered nearly 300 signatures.

Lewis announced to the Planning Board that the Board of Trustees will be revisiting the ordinance and present a replacement in the future. He cited lack of clarity as a reason for withdrawing the ordinance.

“In reviewing some concerns I had and discussing them with the council, among other things, we believe that there are some provisions that need to be clarified,” Lewis said.

Residents who planned on making statements in response to the ordinance were audibly upset that the withdrawal was not announced earlier in the day. Residents were unable to comment at the meeting since the Planning Board can only hear testimony or public commentary on items for their review. However, residents can comment on the proposal during public comment periods at Board of Trustees meetings.

Both Village President Alex Torpey and Planning Board Chairman Harold Colton-Max apologized for inconveniences to the residents. 

The Planning Board also accepted the Board of Trustees’ ordinance to designate South Orange as an “area in need of rehabilitation” after Lewis’ proposal.

The ordinance will offer tax abatements to property owners if they improve their properties, according to Trustee Sheena Collum.

“Our intention as a governing body is to be able to utilize this tool for the three business districts and to encourage and incentive improvements to properties,” Collum said in an email. “This is a much lighter version of what the central business district has and we hope that this, coupled with our new facade matching grant program, will help jumpstart some of the properties that need the most assistance.”

Concerns about the lack of safety the driveway of the proposed subdivision by South Orange residents Luther and Hazel Turner arose during the hearing of their application. The owners wish to subdivide their property at 14 Kingman Road to allow for the construction of one home on two lots in the Montrose Park Historic District.

These concerns were brought up during public comment by several residents and echoed by Board Member Neil Chambers and Zoning Officer Salvatore Renda.

Chambers said that snow piling up on the sidewalk shrinks the driveway, making it hard for cars to come out. However, the architect hired by the Turners, Lloyd Stephenson, said that the property is large enough so snow piling up would not be an issue.

In addition, the residents did not bring a planning expert to testify regarding the subdivision of the property as requested by the Planning Board.

The hearing did not conclude and could continue at the next Planning Board meeting on April 6 if the Turner’s attorney, Lisa Hendricks Richardson, returns with additional witnesses.

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