Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Will It Fit? Millburn Mulls Developer's Pitch

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Will It Fit? Millburn Mulls Developer's Pitch

Article excerpt

Millburn has a slate of options for handling development on the site of an abandoned service station in Short Hills, where a developer intends to build a four-story apartment building and medical facility.

As the Township Committee weighs keeping the suburban neighborhood's existing zoning or determining whether it qualifies as an area needing rehabilitation, residents are making it clear they disapprove of the Short Hills-based Silverman Group's plans for its property at the corner of Chatham and Woodland roads.

A standing-room-only crowd of residents turned out for the Township Committee session on Feb. 6, to question the anticipated development as an attorney for the municipality warned about the pitfalls of mishandling a developer's application.

"There is very little flexibility when a developer comes in as a matter of right under existing zoning, or when the developer comes in and gets a variance," said Joseph J. Maraziti Jr., an attorney for the township.

The Silverman Group's plans presented to the committee in January 2017 call for a 62-unit apartment building with 10,000 square feet of office space for Summit Medical Group on the first floor. The 62 units mark a reduction from 82 units initially proposed.

Formal plans have not been filed with the municipality, Millburn officials said on Feb. 6.

But following a 200-unit apartment building approved for Canoe Brook Road in 2016, which Mack-Cali Realty Corp. is building, residents fear unwanted development could compromise the character of the upscale suburb.

"Mack-Cali seemed to sneak up on most people," said Undercliff Road resident Cari Strassberg, recalling that significant opposition to the project surfaced after the Planning Board approved the project.

"There are 200 apartments that are going to be on Canoe Brook Road, and there are going to be more Hartshorn [School] students that we need to educate."

Possibilities for regulating development at the site of a former gas station at Woodland and Chatham roads in Millburn include the following, according to Maraziti.

Keep the existing zoning

Rezone the area

Determine if the location qualifies as an "area in need of rehabilitation" under state law

Each option carries risks, he said.

If the municipality keeps the existing zoning, then The Silverman Group can apply for a variance to the existing zoning, said Maraziti. The developer would have to prove before Millburn's Zoning Board of Adjustment that the development would bring what the law describes as "an inherently beneficial use," he said.

"You have to prove the project will have a positive impact on the community," Maraziti said. "You also, as an applicant, have to establish the negative criteria — that it would not create a detriment to the public good."

If the municipality rezones the area, then it could be attacked in court for "spot zoning," should a judge determine the zoning was designed to benefit a private purpose such as one developer, Maraziti said. …

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