It will be another month before Zoning Board of Adjustment members vote on a granting a use variance for a proposed 252-unit Pleasant Plains apartment complex.
Though it appeared all of the testimony in the ongoing hearing would wrap up in time for a vote Thursday night, several prior applications took up the majority of the meeting time. Up against the clock, board members decided to allow township planner Jay Lynch to present his opinion on the complex in September.
Proposed at the southeast corner of Route 9 and Whitty Road, hearings for the complex have been a staple of Zoning Board of Adjustment meetings for the past several months.
“I don’t want to jump the gun and miss things that might be of importance to the board,” Lynch said.
“I absolutely understand, we have no problem with that,” said applicant attorney John Paul Doyle. “We owe it to the board to have a well-reasoned decision.”
The plans for the complex calls for 12 buildings with 21 units each, and 20 percent will be affordable housing as required by the state, the applicant has said. A variance is needed because the area's zoning rules require that developments include half residential and half commercial use.
Last month, the applicant told board members that they submitted a new plan that eliminates Dugan Lane access to the site after residents and board members expressed concerns with area traffic.
At Thursday’s meeting, the site’s topography—which has large dug-out areas—was discussed by professional planner Christine Mazzaro. She said that the site is ideal for the complex since it doesn’t need the “substantial” grading a large commercial operation would.
Last month, commercial properties expert Michael Gartenberg testified that he has tried for years to find a retail tenant for the land “unfortunately, with very little success.”
He said that current economic conditions are not conducive to finding such a use for the site.
The area’s need for multifamily housing and economic conditions make it an unattractive site for commercial development. Granting a variance, Mazzaro said, wouldn't be detrimental to the community and would bring some positives to the area.
“I think it would be a much less compelling argument if it wasn’t a constrained site,” she said. “I think this is a sensible project that would have less of an impact than some other uses in this zone.”
Resident Nels Luthman questioned Thursday whether the applicant considered other areas for development that wouldn’t require a variance.
“We do not have an obligation to look at other properties,” Mazzaro said, though noting that there may be other potentially suitable sites locally.
If the variance is approved by board members, the applicant still requires site plan approval for the project.
Aside from the zoning variance, the complex complies with the township ordinance for a development of this type, according to the applicant. The plan is to leave 30 percent forested land on the property untouched and add 600 new trees.The application hearing continues on Sept. 26 in town hall, when Lynch gives his report and the public is invited to comment on the project. Board members will then vote on granting the variance.