By TALIA WIENER
wiener@montclairlocal.news

Members of the Montclair Township Planning Board and owners of a neighboring property say they’ve got questions and concerns about a plan to build a three-story, 750-unit storage facility on Grove Street. 

The proposed CubeSmart building at 103 Grove St. would have a 21,790-square-foot footprint, with three stories and a cellar. The exterior would be a combination of brick and a ribbed metal siding. Applicant 103 Grove LLC came to the Planning Board Jan. 24 and is slated to return Feb. 28 to continue its hearing.

The currently vacant lot is situated between BrassWorks at 105 Grove St. — owned by local developer Bob Silver  — and New Jersey Transit railroad tracks. The property previously housed an oil company, operating out of several buildings on the lot, proposal engineer J. Michael Petry said at the Jan. 24 meeting. 

Behind the proposed 82,600-square-foot building is 49 Claremont Ave., a small shopping center with a CVS, Subway and kids hair salon Pigtails & Crewcuts, owned by Rail Link LLC. Rail Link submitted a formal objection to the proposal and was represented by attorney Jay Delaney of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper at the Jan. 24 meeting.

The proposal includes three variance requests — for a decrease in the required rear-yard setback (the space between the back of the building and the back property line), for an increase in building height and for a decrease in required parking spaces.

While the zoning requirement is a 20-foot rear yard setback, the proposal features only 5 feet between the proposed facility and the Rail Link property line. And the reasoning for the variance request was unclear in presentations by Petry and proposal architect James Dankovich, Planning Board Chairman John Wynn said at the meeting. 

He said he worried that if the building were allowed to back up to the CVS parking lot, it could later be redeveloped into something where that minimized setback would have a more significant impact, Wynn said. Board members asked if the building size and number of storage units could be reduced. 

“Putting this building so close to the property line is going to limit what that other property can do,” Wynn said. 

The back of a proposed storage facility would sit five feet away 49 Claremont Ave. — a small shopping center with a CVS, Subway and kids hair salon. The center’s owner, Rail Link LLC, is objecting to the proposal. (MONTCLAIR TOWNSHIP PLANNING BOARD)
The back of a proposed storage facility would sit five feet away 49 Claremont Ave. — a small shopping center with a CVS, Subway and kids hair salon. The center’s owner, Rail Link LLC, is objecting to the proposal. (MONTCLAIR TOWNSHIP PLANNING BOARD)
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But given the irregular shape of the plot, roughly a triangle, the building is not oversized, the applicant’s attorney Richard Schkolnick said at the meeting. And while the building could always be made smaller, that’s not in the requirements the proposal must meet, he said. 

“We hear the concerns,” Schkolnick said. “We’re going to make our arguments and our proofs and hopefully you’ll accept those.”

The second variance request, a maximum building height increase from 35 feet to 38.3 feet, is set to make room for the building’s sprinkler system, Dankovich said at the meeting. That’s with a “butterflied” building roof, built with multiple high and low points to minimize height while also making space for a drainage system, he said.

But board members wanted to know if there was any way to reduce the heights of each floor, and asked for more details on the sprinkler system requirements and building measurements. 

Traffic engineer Nick Verderese argued the parking variance would be justified by the storage facility’s expected low traffic. Normally, 83 spaces would be required for warehouse use, but the application proposed just 12.

Storage facilities are “as low a traffic generator as you can get per square foot,” Verderese said. 

Traffic data presented by Verderese showed that during peak morning hours, there are about four to five visits per hour to a storage facility of similar size, with about six visits per hour during the afternoon peak hours. Weekends, the busiest times at storage facilities, saw about 12 visits per hour at most. 

The 12 proposed parking spaces, two of which are larger spaces designed for moving trucks, are more than sufficient, Verderese said. Tractor-trailers will not be permitted on the lot. 

Easements with Silver and NJ Transit would allow for Grove Street driveway access to the facility, though a portion of the space is still being worked out with NJ Transit, according to Schkolnick. 

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the size of the lot as 82,600 square feet; that is the size of the proposed building.