Neighbors of the Orange Lawn Tennis Club are expressing opposition to a proposed plan to develop five acres of the site and rezone the remaining 11 acres for private recreational, single-family homes or townhouses.
The South Orange Board of Trustees voted on Monday, Feb. 22 to introduce an ordinance for a redevelopment plan to construct 22 luxury townhouses on the property of Orange Lawn Tennis Club. It passed 5-0 with Deborah Davis Ford absent.
A second reading of the ordinance has been carried from the March 14 South Orange Board of Trustees meeting to April 11, dependent on a hearing of the ordinance by the South Orange Planning Board scheduled for April 4.
On Feb. 22, Village Administrator Barry Lewis told the Board of Trustees that the redevelopment plan had been crafted after lengthy discussion with the club’s owners, the developer and neighbors, as well as review by the Planning and Zoning Boards. Lewis said that the township believed the plan to be “a good transition from existing surrounding housing stock.”
Also importantly, Lewis said that the plan would change the zoning for the remaining 11 acres of the property, so that they could not be developed as a high-density apartment complex should Orange Lawn ever close and sell the property. In a follow-up phone call, Lewis clarified that the remaining acres, under the new zoning, could be developed in future for private recreation, single family homes or townhouses. Lewis confirmed that under the proposed new lower-density zoning, a developer could potentially construct another 48-49 townhome units.
However, since the proposed plan would reduce the number of townhouses to be developed on the five acres currently being sold from 27 to 22, and since it would reduce the allowable density for the remaining 11 acres should they be sold, Lewis said the plan represented a “compromise.”
In the days following the introduction of the ordinance and prior to the originally planned March 7 hearing of the ordinance by the Planning Board, neighbors of Orange Lawn began posting about the proposed ordinance on the online group Nextdoor West Montrose and started a petition which “aims to reduce density for development of the entire club property, should the entire property be developed.” The petition had garnered 202 signatures as of Sunday night, March 13 (read it here).
Several neighbors expressed disappointment with the proposal and process online and in emails to Village Green. Lewis, however, said that the township had been in “discussions with a core group of 5-7 neighbors” with the “implication they were communicating with others” and that they were “satisfied it was an open, deliberate process.”
“We never shut anybody out…. We have had discussions at public meetings.” Lewis added that he is “available to speak to any resident about the situation at any time.”
South Orange resident Joe Korb said he was one of the residents who was “deeply involved in discussions with the township, OLTC and the proposed developer,” and that he took “exception” to Lewis’s comments in a Feb. 24 Village Green article.
“For Barry Lewis to represent that this proposal came out of lengthy discussions that among others included the neighbors is to blur what actually transpired,” wrote Korb in and email. Korb said that neighbors had been assured “that concessions were forthcoming” but “what emerged is exactly the proposal put forward by the developer many months ago which the neighbors clearly indicated was not satisfactory.”
Korb added, “[A] contentious process from here on is not in anyone’s interests but may be inevitable.”
The ordinance and redevelopment plan are attached to the March 14 Board of Trustees meeting agenda. Read them here.