Back on the tax rolls – Girl Scouts headquarters sold to doctor
COURTESY PLANNING DEPARTMENT
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The Girl Scouts building on Valley Road will get another life and be put back on the tax rolls as well.
Dr. Joseph Bellapianta, one of the members of 120 Valley LLC, is in the process of purchasing the quarter-acre property at 120 Valley Road to create a medical and regular office.
The planning board voted to approve Bellapianta’s application on Oct. 21.
Along with offices in Paramus and Belleville, he currently leases an office at Mountainside, but that space is being transformed into a cancer center.
The 5,764-square-foot Girl Scouts building, built in 1958, and the quarter-acre property it sits on, is assessed at $1,597,300, down from the 2017 assessment of $1,719,500. Adjacent land uses include a medical office and multi-family residential building. The property is in a garden apartment and office building zone.
The nonprofit Girls Scouts of America has occupied the space since 1969 and still owns the property, according to tax records. Tom Trautner, attorney for the applicant, said the sale of the property is currently under contract.
Natasha Hemming, CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, said the organization was approached last year by 120 Valley LLC to purchase the building.The board of trustees came to the conclusion that operation costs to keep up with a building that is underutilized were putting a financial strain on funds that could be used for other programming. The building housed some administration, offered programming space and contained a small retail shop.
Hemmings said the organization is searching for multiple smaller spaces to branch out throughout Essex and Hudson counties and are looking in Jersey City, Newark and Elizabeth. They will have a ribbon-cutting at a new space in Irvington in a few weeks, she said.
Tax office officials would not release the approximate taxes based on the most recent assessment, but real estate website propertyshark.com has the taxes listed at $49,420.
The applicant proposes to change the use of 4,270 square feet of space within the building from general office use to medical office use. The use change will increase the number of parking spaces required on the property and requires a parking variance, as the applicant is proposing 29 parking spaces where 48 are required. There are currently 30 spaces in the rear of the property, one of which is not approved as it is located in front of a dumpster. Entrance to the practice would also be in the rear.
Bellapianta, a solo practitioner, said he is not looking to expand his practice. His brother, the other member of the LLC and owner of Camber Real Estate, plans to have offices on the second floor. Another portion of the building would be leased to a future tenant.
He said his practice would typically need seven spots for his staff, and he sees four to six patients an hour, requiring about 13 spaces at peak times. He currently has office hours in Montclair on Tuesday and Thursdays, and will not have weekend hours. Staff would be on site five days a week. The real estate office would require about two spaces.
The applicant’s planner testified that 23 parking spaces would be needed, where 29 is proposed.
No changes would be made to the facade of the building.
The paved area at the northwest corner of the property and the paved patio along the north side of the building will be replaced with a lawn and plantings, which will reduce the impervious, or concrete and blacktop, coverage on the site. The maximum impervious coverage is 70 percent, where it is currently at 80.93 percent.
The applicant will reconfigure the two handicapped parking spots to provide van-accessible handicapped parking at eight feet wide each.
The applicant proposes to install three signs, a 16-by-65-inch wall sign on the front of the building advertising the medical office, a 26-by-20-inch directory sign, and 18-by-29-inch vinyl lettering on the glass door.
Three waivers are required for the application for parking and the signs. They will be required to submit an analysis of the lighting plan to comply with the township’s new lighting code.
William Tierney of neighboring Tierney’s Tavern, the only member of the public to speak, said he first thought to oppose the application due to the parking variance needed, but after hearing the testimony, he said he “welcomed them to the neighborhood.”