UPDATE: Site Plan Hearing on South Orange Village Hall Restaurant Carried to Feb. 6

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Update: The site plan hearing for the development of South Orange Village Hall has now been carried to the Feb. 6 meeting of the South Orange Planning Board. See the revised Jan. 5 agenda here: https://southorange.no-ip.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=594199&dbid=0.

The site plan hearing for the development of a restaurant at the former South Orange Village Hall will continue at the Thursday, Jan. 5 Monday, Feb. 6 meeting of the South Orange Planning Board.

The meeting, which will take place beginning at 7: 30 p.m. at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, will also include the approval of resolutions for the informal review of the Marylawn application by Orange Education Foundation and the preliminary site plan approval for the Villas at Orange Lawn.

The hearing on Village Hall (the applicant is South Orange Avenue Urban Renewal LLC, a division of Landmark) began at the December 5 Planning Board meeting and was mostly compromised of testimony by the applicant explaining the valet parking plan for the site.

Landmark is proposing to renovate the site and open Village Hall Restaurant with The Pump House beer garden and two banquet hall spaces in the former home of South Orange’s municipal government.

The project has been years in the making, with Landmark receiving unanimous approval from the South Orange Village Board of Trustees for financial and redevelopment agreements for the sale of historic Village Hall in November 2015 after months of wrangling, public forums and a bidding process for the site.

Once the site plan is approved by the South Orange Planning Board, the sale of the property will close and construction will begin. Landmark will pay the Village $1.2 million for the property. Total costs for the construction, liquor license, purchase, landscaping, contingency, etc. will bring the project’s costs to about $6.5 million for Landmark.

Landmark will benefit from a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes — or PILOT— on the improvements to the property. Landmark will pay full land taxes on the property from the closing date. (Read about the details of the PILOT here.)

On December 5, representatives of Landmark explained how a valet parking plan would fulfill the usual 200 parking space requirement for such a use despite the fact that the adjacent lot and spaces at additional offsite lots leased by Landmark would provide just over 100 traditional spaces at peak times. However, Landmark said that, using an experienced valet parking service, more cars could be parked and staged, reducing queueing and traffic and providing adequate parking.

Some near neighbors of the project were not convinced.

Mark Murphy of Mark Murphy Music on Scotland Road said it seemed unfair for Landmark to dominate the adjacent parking lot after 5 p.m. and asked if the developer was open to moving the 5 p.m. cutoff to later. The developer indicated a willingness to discuss the timing.

Another member of the public expressed concerns about the amount of traffic the valet parking scenario would generate in the area as valets traveled to the offsite lots in the area of 1st Street and Valley Street.

(South Orange Village Engineer Sal Renda said that he wanted a traffic expert to address the impacts of the queuing and valet parking at a future meeting.)

In addition, a South Orange Village Center property owner began circulating the following notice citing concerns and publicizing the Jan. 5 meeting. (The property owner wishes to remain anonymous.)

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