It was originally pitched as large apartments geared to empty-nesters who want to age in place and need or want the extra room. Now, the Planning Board, at a meeting Monday, has approved a Township Council proposal to instead allow short-term rental units at MC Residences, located in the Orange Road Redevelopment Area.
The building, currently under construction as part of the Montclair Center Gateway Redevelopment, was originally approved to hold 40 rental apartments, four of which will be affordable housing units.
By a vote of 6-1, the majority of Planning Board members agreed that there was no reason to deny the transformation of the building from apartments to a boutique, executive-level, extended-stay hotel. Board member Anthony Ianuale voted against the proposal.
The Council’s proposed ordinance requires the previously approved affordable housing units to remain, even as the rest of the building becomes a hotel. The township defines a short-stay rental as up to 30 days.
But concurrent with this approval, board members agreed that the municipality should create broader legislation regulating short-term rental units, which include Airbnb rentals, within Montclair.
The Township Council introduced an ordinance amending the Montclair Center Gateway Phase 1 Redevelopment Plan in July. Now that the Planning Board has given a green light to the legislation, the Council will schedule the proposed ordinance for a public hearing and final vote.
“Aren’t they looking at this piecemeal?” Board member Carmel Loughman asked township Director of Planning Janice Talley about the Council. “Shouldn’t the Council be looking at this overall?”
Talley reminded board members that short-term rentals are permitted within Montclair. And “this proposal ensures they pay the hotel occupancy tax,” she said. She told the board that the Montclair Housing Commission is already working to “draft a comprehensive ordinance” regulating short-term rentals and recommending that the number of affordable housing units in this building increase 20 percent from the current 10 percent. If that were to be approved, the affordable housing requirement for this building would double to eight units from four.
It makes sense to allow the change at this specific property since it is adjacent to a hotel already, said Board member Carole Willis. But, she added, she was reluctant to allow this sort of hotel without the Planning Board taking a close look and creating legislation.
Talley recommended that the board’s zoning subcommittee work with the housing commission to come up with suitable legislation.
The proposal transforms the 36 market-rate rental apartments into short-term furnished corporate/executive rental units. The property is at the site of the former DCH car dealership at the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Orange Road.
The Pinnacle Companies, with its joint venture partners, is developing this parcel. The building will be operated by Marriott, which manages the adjacent hotel, the MC. While short-term rentals are not prohibited in the township, Marriott required a formal approval and change in the redevelopment plan for the hotel group to proceed.
In other action, the board scheduled a discussion on the revised Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment Plan for their Sept. 18 meeting.