By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

Following almost year of hearings, the planning board has approved Montclair Acquisition Partners LLC’s request to remove a car stacking system that’s been deemed unsafe, and replace it with parking spaces and a mostly valeted system at the Orange Road Garage.

The deck and its lift-and-stack system, which the board approved in 2017, were expected to accommodate 614 cars, with 123 valeted and 116 on the lifts. In January, the developer’s attorney, Tom Trautner, told the board that the lift system — which had already been installed — could not be utilized due to engineering problems and has been deemed unsafe. MAP is now in litigation against the company that installed it, Trautner said. 

The developer’s parking expert told the board that the garage could park up to 694 vehicles in the case of a special event, valeting up to 426 vehicles and lining cars up, up to nine vehicles deep. 

But throughout the application process, board members and the planning board’s parking expert had been concerned that the garage would not be able to accommodate the demand, especially in the case of a special event at the MC Hotel. The garage is expected to accommodate parking for hotel guests, Valley & Bloom residents, Board of Education administrators, office users, retail employees and the general public. Board members also had concerns a mostly valeted system could create longer waiting periods for car retrievals.

Also at issue has been an easement granted in 2017 to the developer of up to 20 inches in spots into the municipal right of way, in order to accommodate the stacking system. Board members in previous hearings had questioned if the facade should be torn down and moved back since the stacking system was no longer an option. The developer said the $1 million that it would cost to remove the facade would be a hardship on top of the $5.4 million MAP had already spent on the buildout.

At an April 12 planning board meeting, the board tasked the developer’s attorney, board attorney Arthur Neiss and board consultant Gerry Giosa to draft an agreement creating penalties if garage users are not accommodated — for instance, if drivers suffered excessively long retrieval times, or if not enough valets were present.

The board rejected that proposed resolution. Chairman John Wynn instead added six conditions to the application that must be met by the developer. The conditions will apply to any future owner if MAP decides to sell.

  • The garage can not close or deny public access unless it reaches capacity. 
  • One valet attendant will be required for every 35 cars parked on fourth and sixth floors. Those two floors have the combined capacity for 279 potential valeted parking spaces. 
  • The hotel must have its own valet staff for parking on the fifth floor, and may not use other floors within the garage unless the fifth floor is full.  
  • The township has the right to make on-site observations and to conduct parking counts without any notice.
  • The owner must maintain detailed hour-by-hour records of garage-occupancy levels and use of valet attendants, which will be submitted to the planning department on a quarterly basis for seven years.
  • The developer must create a change in the concrete pattern from the sidewalk to delineate the driveway to alert pedestrians of ingoing and outcoming vehicles. 

If the conditions are not met, the town can seek legal recourse in municipal court, Trautner said.

Board members Keith Brodock, Carmel Loughman, Wynn and Daniel Gilmer voted for the application. Carole Willis, Councilwoman Robin Schlager and Mayor Sean Spiller abstained. Newly appointed members Jeff Jacobson and Michael Graham could not vote because they had not been on the board throughout earlier hearings. Anthony Ianuale recused himself from all hearings.

The Orange Road Garage redevelopment originally dates back to 2012 when The Gateway Redevelopment Area was created by the township and Pinnacle Cos. partnered with MAP Urban Renewal to refurbish the parking deck. According to township records, the township created the Orange Road Parking Plaza in 1948 and made a subsequent 1967 purchase of what is now Centro Verde Way for access from Valley Road, combining the lots and declaring it a redevelopment area. The town leased the land to DCH Auto Group who built a smaller deck in 2004, with Montclair retaining exclusive rights to 78 spaces, historically used by the neighboring Board of Education office, for $1. 

Subsequently, MAP, replaced by LCOR, developed the hotel parcel and the Valley & Bloom development.