By Tina Pappas
for Montclair Local

A lengthy hearing on a proposed apartment building at 256 Park St. resulted in postponement of the application.

Residents raised concerns about aesthetics and increased traffic problems arising from the 11 apartment and retail development. The meeting ran past midnight prompting board members to resume testimony on July 9.

Park redevelopment
Elizabeth Dolan, traffic engineer, presented a traffic testimony on a proposed mixed-use building located at 256 Park St. at the June 11 Planning Board meeting.

Developers Brian Mazzei and Michael Nirchio received some criticism of their project throughout the June 11 meeting, after site attorney Alan Trembulak presented the variance application on the 36-foot high building proposed for Watchung Plaza.

The applicant seeks three variances:
• Permit 27 off-street parking spaces, where the existing requirement is 33.
• Permit no on-site loading spaces, where the existing requirement is one loading space for the property.
• Permit the new building to be set back four feet from a side property line, where the existing requirement is six feet.

Site architect Paul Sionas presented several revisions for the building’s site plan as a result of comments and issues expressed at the prior board meeting. Some items on the revised plan include adding cast stone and brickwork at the residential entrance with light fixtures on either side. Windows would be adorned with cast stone lintels and cast stone sills. The residential entrance will also have light fixtures on either side and a trash enclosure. Brick will also replace the stucco finish on the south wall of the trash enclosure, bike room, tenant storage room and lower section of the rear stairway. Plantings will now be Essex County native species.

Resident Jay Turner said the building needed to look more uniform to blend in with Watchung Plaza’s historic aesthetics and questioned why the building’s entire facade wasn’t in brick to match the front. Board chair John Wynn said keeping the entire building with one facade would cause it to look too much like a factory.

Sionas replied that it would not be an added cost to make the entire building the same look.

Traffic engineer Elizabeth Dolan presented testimony on studies recently conducted for peak, weekday traffic times. Studies focused on Feb. 14 between 7 to 9 a.m. and on March 1 between 4 and 6 p.m., in order to determine traffic impact. The study concluded the development would not increase existing traffic due to trips generated by tenants and the first-floor retail business, she said.

Dolan did predict some backup traffic patterns that will continue to occur on the street when entering the driveway and a residential neighboring driveway.

Board member Carmel Loughman expressed concerns with motorists pulling out of the driveways and their need to view pedestrians. She suggested putting up mirrors. Dolan agreed and said that the neighboring property to the south, which has a zero foot setback, is also a legitimate concern. Board President John Wynn suggested a blinking light option to alert deaf pedestrians and a beeping sound to alert blind pedestrians near the driveway.

“A mirror might be a good idea because we’re never going to change that setback,” said Dolan.

Traffic studies are typically done during weekday, evening peak hours, which is the highest traffic volume hour. Wynn suggested a weekend traffic analysis when residents are doing their Saturday shopping chores.

“A development that will generate 100 or more trips, within an hour or more, is defined in the state code by Institute of Traffic Safety Engineers as significant. This development is less than 20 trips in an hour,” said Dolan. “What happens on Saturday is going to be comparable to what happens on a weekday evening.”

Residents said there were reoccurring accidents in the area and felt the building would worsen the impact on traffic flow.