Development Committee 1/12/17

Development Committee:

Robert Cole, Chair (Present)

Alexander Elias

Rob Fisch

Thomas Hut  (Present)

Ken Lorman

Michael Minor (Present)

Brian Nesin

Matthew Traub (Present)

Jon Vogel  (Present)

Mark Rosner, Trustee liaison (Present)

Bob Zuckerman, SOVCA Representative

Other Elected Officials and Professionals:

Phil Abramson, Topology, Village Planner (Present)

Krzysztof Sadlej, Topology, Village Planner (Present)

Barry Lewis – Village Administrator (Present)

Mark Hartwyc – South Orange Parking Authority Director (Present)

Sheena Collum – Village President (Present)

Members of the public were also present

Active Projects

NJ Transit Lot Property Acquisition (VP Collum)

  • SO met with NJ Transit and presented an offer to buy the NJ Transit parking lot along with a plan to use part of the lot fronting on Church Street to build a parking deck to accommodate all all current commuter spaces (264) in the existing surface lot plus provide 10% additional commuter spots.  
  • Our goal in this is to free up other land on the site currently used for surface parking that would then be repurposed in a variety of ways – mixed use buildings, Jitney pickup/dropoff, additional daytime parking for SOPAC, etc.  
  • NJTransit rejected an outright sale of the property but expressed interest in partnering with SO on the redevelopment plans through a long term land lease
  • South Orange is not interested in a partnership and is presenting a counter offer and will request assistance from other elected officials to try and reach an agreement, but this may not happen until after we have a new governor

4th & Valley Redevelopment (VP Collum & Phil Abramson)

  • This project is considered to be almost ready to be presented to the BOT, likely in the beginning of February, for referral to the Planning Board for formal planning review
  • There are two remaining issues being addressed:
    • First, the project does not have enough parking, despite the town offering to reduce resident parking from the 1.4:1 ratio required by our zoning to 1:1 (so only one parking space per apartment); the developer is trying to reach agreements with other building owners in the area to secure access to additional spaces which are needed particularly for the planned 10,000 square feet of retail space we have asked the developer to include in the project
    • Second, we are seeking additional givebacks from the developer and need to agree what these will be:
      • our financial analysis of the project has been completed and we believe that the proposed plan (which includes a 5 year tax abatement along with much higher density and greater height than is allowed by zoning) will provide the developer with a higher rate of return than they require in order to proceed with the project
      • Our analysis has given us guidance on how much additional expense the project can carry and still be profitable
      • Sheena asked for a meeting with members of the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association to review possible funding requests to the developer, and to consider other ways in which we might change the developer agreement to recapture the excess value that is currently built into the project for the developer
  • SO is currently drafting a redevelopment plan for the site that will re-zone it to match as closely as possible the agreed building plans

Lustbader Redevelopment Project (VP Collum & Phil Abramson)

  • VP Collum said that she has told the developer over and over that the project will not proceed unless the height is under 52 feet, they reduce the number of apartments and add retail on Vose Avenue – but she also noted that the Development Committee has not been as categorical on these issue as she has been
  • Applicant’s architect is working on changes to the proposed design based on feedback from last month’s meeting:  eliminate retail space that opened onto the courtyard, add retail on Vose, redesign the 75 car public parking deck) and will present next month.  But no one expects they are working to reduce the height or density.  
  • A member of the Development Committee pointed out that no projects being brought forward (including this one) bear any resemblance to our zoning, making our zoning laws meaningless and lead developers to ignore zoning laws when they are deciding how much they can pay for development sites and what they propose to build.  He also noted the Village also basically ignores current zoning and instead simply evaluates each project that is presented to them on a one off basis
  • He further said he believes in “Contextual Zoning” but that with our willingness to negotiate each project on its own we have lost the sense of the context within which the buildings are being proposed and also lost leverage in our negotiations with developers

Student Housing (VP Collum)

  • VP Collum informed the meeting that to help provide housing for SHU undergraduates who want to live off campus, she and Phil have found a developer interested in building a private dormitory in South Orange
  • They have introduced this developer to SHU and participated in joint meetings
  • The developer has signed a contract for a property on Valley Street
  • The developer was hoping to sign a master lease for the building with Seton Hall but Seton Hall is not willing to do that
  • But SHU is willing to promote the building to their students if it is built to their dormitory specifications, including safety requirements
  • The building would conform to SHU dorm standards, contain dormitory quad rooms/suites, and be served by the Seton Hall Jitney
  • The Village has discussed agreeing to a much lower parking requirement for the building in exchange for Seton Hall making campus parking spaces available to the students
  • A member of the public pointed out that dormitories are not a permitted use anywhere in South Orange except on the Seton Hall campus, and that the proposed building would have all the features of a dormitory and therefore only be permitted on the Seton Hall campus
  • VP Collum said the proposed building would be classified as an apartment building and not a dormitory and would therefore be a permitted use in that zone

Hotel Feasibility Study (VP Collum)

  • Two developers are working on proposals for hotels in South Orange
  • Both are experienced developers with high quality hotel chains behind them
  • Looking for 100 rooms, plus a bar / restaurant and event space (with a liquor license)
  • One developer has signed a contract for a property on Valley

 Planning Board Updates

Orange Lawn Tennis Club

  • Cleared Planning Board and so construction can begin  in a few months

Village Hall Redevelopment

  • On the Planning Board agenda for February to further discuss parking issues

 Any Other Business

Parking

In response to questions from members of the public about significant parking issues associated with the proposed Lustbader project and the Village Hall conversion to a restaurant, and how these issues will impact existing businesses in the area, it was agreed to convene a working group meeting to discuss ways improve parking in that area.  This meeting will take place in the next few weeks and include the following people: Sheena Collum, Bob Zuckerman (SO Village Center Alliance), Mark Hartwyk (Parking Authority), Mark Murphy (Music School business owner), Stuart Wainberg (property owner/developer).

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