Montclair zoning board, Plofker tangle on Grove, Walnut application
By ERIN ROLL
Developer Steven Plofker's plan to build a new two-story office building at the corner of Grove Street and Walnut Street took a few more steps forward Wednesday night.
Montclair's Zoning Board of Adjustment granted two of the three variances that Plofker had been seeking for the project. The next step will be for Plofker and his associates to present a detailed site plan to the board for review.
The board generally favored the plan, a revision of one previously presented originally in October. Plofker is seeking to have a two-story, L-shaped building built on the site, currently home to an Enterprise Rent-A-Car and an auto body repair facility.
Board member Joseph Fleischer did raise concerns about how parking would be set up, and the board did deny a variance to permit office space on the first floor.
The first floor is to be primarily retail space, while the second floor will have about 6,000 square feet of office space.
“We’ve presented this theme of holding the corner, holding the corner of Grove and Walnut, to avoid a conflict with pedestrians,” said architect Paul Sionas. “I think it’s a good application and we’ve improved on it since last month."
Fleischer was critical of the idea to put some of the building's parking spaces at the front of the property. “To me, on that street, at that intersection, front yard parking is not something I can support, and certainly not parking in the front of the building,” Fleischer said.
He said that there were several safety risks, including an interruption of the traffic flow on Grove Street, and an inability for drivers to circle around and get out of the parking lot without having to back into the driveway.
“To put a wall of buildings along Grove Street...I don’t even know how to rent it,” Plofker said. “I’m going to force people to park in the back and walk around the front, it’s kind of a fake entrance.”
Traffic engineer Craig Peregoy said during his testimony that the new building would be a better fit for the area than the existing tenants were. “Every [current] use on that site is automobile-related,” he said. “And that to me doesn’t make sense, especially when you’re close to the train station.”
Bob Silver, who owns a piece of property on Grove Street just to the south of the site in question, voiced his support for the project. “It’s a huge improvement over what exists today and what has probably been there for 50 years.” He said that the car wash on the property leads to dangerous traffic backups, particularly over the train tracks.
Additionally, he said that car usage in the area was declining as more people chose to walk or bike to the train station.
Also on the agenda at Wednesday night's meeting was a continuing discussion of the proposed townhouses for a piece of property owned by First Congregational Church. Assistant Township Planner Graham Petto said Thursday that the board did not take any action related to the townhouses, due to the lack of a quorum. The townhouses will next come up for discussion on Jan. 24.