Developer downsizes plans for Elm Street housing and office space development
By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The developer of a proposed housing and office building on Elm Street has come up with plans to downsize the project, in response to backlash from Planning Board members concerned with its size.
The new plans will be presented at a Planning Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 7.
AD Holdings proposes demolishing the existing building at 10 Elm St., which now houses Bynderian Floor Coverings and Smith Boring Auto Parts, as well as a rear garage. Originally, the developer presented plans to construct a new five-story mixed-use building with a lobby and parking on the first floor, a 1,100-square-foot office on the second floor and 22 dwelling units — four of which would be classified as affordable housing.
The applicant was seeking variances for parking.
In the Planning Board’s third hearing on the project on Jan. 10, some members opposed the density of the project, even before the application was done being heard. Robin Schlager, the Township Council’s liaison on the board, called the building “very large” and “over the top.”
Two residents called into the meeting, also concerned with the density in the area, which is mostly one and two-family homes. Gregor Clark, who resides at 18 Gates Ave. in a one-family home behind the apartment building at 24 Elm St. (next to 10 Elm St.), charged the board with finding a balance between development and preserving the interests of the neighborhood.
But this week, the developer submitted new plans with the planning department, downsizing the project to four-stories — and now just 20 units of housing, along with the office space. Instead of eight two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units first proposed, the plan now includes seven two-bedrooms and 13 three-bedrooms. The number of affordable units would remain at four. The fourth story would also start 12 feet back from the front of the third floor.
The new proposal asks for 41 physical parking spaces. Five of those would be set aside for electric vehicles — which, under Montclair’s zoning rules, allows the developer to claim credit for another five spaces, as though there were 46 in total. That meets the required amount for the number of bedrooms in the 20 units, and the changes do away with the need for a parking variance.
Eight originally proposed tandem spaces, which would have required a variance, have been removed.
Montclair’s master plan prescribes a maximum height for the area of four stories. But the property is in the C-1 Central Business Zone, which allows six stories for apartment, retail and office developments. Planner Janice Talley has conceded that the master plan and the C-1 zoning are inconsistent.
The project met the maximum density limit of 55 dwelling units per acre. But former Planning Board member Martin Schwartz told the board in January that in 2018, as part of the board’s suggestions for changes to the master plan and zoning, the area was targeted as an area in need of stricter density and height restrictions — to adhere to the neighborhood scale as it exists now.
He said the Township Council never went through with the board’s suggestions.
The project, if approved, would be just off of Grove Street and Bloomfield Avenue. And the area currently houses the Charles H. Bullock School, an Exxon gas station and the two-story Arbor Gate apartment building.
At the last meeting, architect Paul Sionas estimated that the project at 22 units would house at least 58 people, but that was based on an assumption of one person for each bedroom, and did not account for couples or others who might share bedrooms. Using Sionas’s same calculation, the revised plan would now allow for at least 53 residents.
As of Friday, Feb. 4, the planning department did not have a rendering of the building as now proposed.