On March 30, I blogged "Give Them Hell from Avenel, Again!" Well, at last night's Woodbridge Township Zoning Board's hearing on a 'variance' request submitted by HBR, LLC., the Board heard a lot from the developer and its representatives. The Board, and the developer, also heard a lot from the community, especial the single family owners that would be negatively impacted by the proposed three story, 29, 2 bedroom unit apartment complex.
Before going further into the story, readers should be please to know the Zoning Board of Adjustment was both proactive and interactive on this developer's variance request. For as much time as I have spent in the council's chambers over the past several years, I have never been more impressed with what I heard and saw in that chamber, as I was last night. The Board Chairman, Bernard A. McLaughlin, was outstanding in the way he conducted the hearing. While interjecting his own questions and commentary, during the developer's presentation of the variance application, Mr. Laughlin, made it clear he truly had the welfare of the good folks of Avenel, and the township as well, on his mind. His demeanor called to mind the gift of a true Irish diplomat, that being: The art of telling someone to go to hell, and having them look forward to the trip.
Other members of the Board also showed their interest in this matter, and they too asked excellent questions about the alleged benefits of the development.
So why so much opposition to the project? Undoubtedly, the fact the developer wants to squeeze 29, two bedroom apartments on a piece of property that is less than one acre, 37,500 sq.ft. to be exact, has a lot to do with it. The property is zoned R6, which is to say the zoning code allows for six (6) single family homes (max) to be built on a property of that size. Then there is the issue of the apartment complex needing to be three (3) stories high in order to accommodate the 29 apartment units. The complex would provided 58 on-site parking space, most of which would be under part of the second floor apartment units. Given the developer's assertions about the complex being designed and marketed for younger individuals, it isn't too difficult to imagine lots of cars having to find 'visitor' parking on neighborhood streets. Of course concerns were also expressed about increased traffic, the impact on the school system and, perhaps most importantly, the impact such a project would have on home values in the immediate area. Many from the Avenel community articulated such concerns to the Board and the developer, with great effect.
After a short break in the proceedings, the developer agreed to reconsider his variance, and the Board granted them a future hearing date, that being, April 24, 2014, at 7 PM. However, if the developer plans to make significant modifications to complex's design, the revised plans will require further review by the township's TRC (technical review committee), which may cause the entire matter to go beyond the proposed April 24 hearing date. One has to wonder why the TRC ever allowed this project to get this far in the first place?
In summary, there are those that feel the only real beneficiaries of this project, if it were allowed to go forward, would be the lawyers, real estate broker(s) and the developer promoting it. If there is any real benefit to the residents of Avenel or the township in this project, it sure was not obvious from last night's discussions! Further follow up by the community on this proposed development is needed. Perhaps, even more "Hell from Avenel' over the project will be required, and rightfully so!