The revised plan for the Upper Montclair CVS parking lot
The revised plan for the Upper Montclair CVS parking lot

Given all of the redevelopment projects in Montclair in various stages, the Montclair Planning Board meeting of June 8 was a relatively minor affair. A team representing CVS returned to show their revisions of their plan to reconfigure the parking lot at the pharmacy chain’s Upper Montclair location on Valley Road to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provide adequate handicapped parking.  The plan, which was approved unanimously with conditions (board members Rich McMahon, Carole Willis, Stephen Rooney and Martin Schwartz were all absent), had faced tough questioning from the board at its April 27 meeting due to lack of attention to improving the lot overall with, among other things, better lighting and paving improvements.

Douglas Grysko, a engineer from the Toms River engineering firm Dynamic Engineering, presented his newly revised plan to the Planning Board, showing how he was able to provide 58 parking spaces – two more than required by the township ordinance for a building of the Upper Montclair CVS’s size – plus having the potholes repaired and the lot seal-coated.  Grysko’s revised plan also included an additional landscape island along the lot entrance at Cooper Avenue, three new lighting poles, a reconfigured landscape island along Valley road to provide a more delineated approach for cars exiting the lot, and Belgian-block curbing.

Several board members, who had pushed for the improvements to be included with the ADA-complaint redesign of the lot, pushed even further.  Jason DeSalvo said that he wanted to see more of an effort to be compliant with the requirement for 5 percent of the lot to be landscaped islands, and counsel Craig Giametti said that the plan was to follow CVS standards for parking, and he felt they had added as much as they could.  Several members of the board, including Chairman John Wynn, made suggestions for more landscaping to come closer to compliance.

The suggestions that were accepted were an additional landscaping island to be added in the southwestern corner of the lot, with the southeastern corner squared off to create another landscaping area along the lot’s border.  The original plan had placed a diagonally opposed space, creating an asphalt dead space board Vice Chairman Lanny Kurzweil said looked like a “reverse Pac-Man.”  Board member Peg Seip recalled that the suggestion that the islands could be designed to absorb rainwater runoff, but Planning Director Janice Talley noted that the water would have to be allowed to seep between the Belgian-block curbing.  Grysko added that the Belgian-block curbing would have to be recessed and that runoff could erode the soil in the islands, and Kurzweil agreed that it could cause problems with erosion and make maintenance of the islands difficult.

In the end, the board stipulated conditions of approval that did not include a reference to rainwater absorption but did include terms that had CVS promise to meet with board engineer Thomas Watkinson to ensure that the pothole repair and seal coating are done to the township’s satisfaction, repair the broken sidewalks, and add landscaping island to the southwestern and southeastern corners, with the space lost by the landscaping in the latter corner possibly moved directly behind the building.  With those conditions, the plan was approved.  CVS had been concerned only with ADA compliance, but the township had insisted on the additional improvements to be made along with the ADA-friendly changes.

Another developer offered up a proposal to demolish the old Drew Funeral Home on Claremont Avenue and Grove Street and subdivide the rectangular lot Michael Koep of Greythorne Development and counsel David Owen presented a concept plan to build three two-family houses in the Victorian style, with two of them taking advantage of the plateau in the property to have two of the houses feature subterranean garages, the garages in all houses hidden from the street.  Owen said that the two lots along Grove Street (the third lot would be on the corner) would likely need a variance to allow for a property width of less than 60 feet, with the intention of maintaining the existing setback of the old funeral home.   The plan also anticipates the need for a height variance to allow for a 36-foot, 9-inch height for the corner lot.

The board members had a few suggestions.  Kurzweil suggested narrowing the driveways closer to the streets to give the illusion of the driveways being of single-car width from the front, and Koep said it was worthy of consideration.  Wynn said that he and his colleagues would like the houses to look like they had been part of the original development of Grove Street to provide a rhythm to the frontages, in order to keep the recessed driveways for the proposed dwellings from sticking out too much.  He commended Koep for his choice of a Victorianesque architectural style.

“As long as the design is handled properly, you can probably work around that,” Wynn said of the driveways.  Koep said he anticipated front walkways to integrate the designs into the look of the neighborhood, and Wynn suggested that front porches would also help.

The proposal was not an actual application but a hypothetical proposal brought before the board for feedback.  There may be two two-family houses and one single-family house in the final plan presented for applications, as opposed to three two-family-houses ; the factor of how much affordable housing would be required would be based on the final plan.