Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hearing Wednesday On South Avenue Four-Story

A South Avenue body shop owner wants to demolish his building and put up a four-story building with 64 two-bedroom units.

In a city report on the application, staff members note that the building would be taller than any now on South Avenue and is not a permitted use in a block zoned for industrial purposes only.

"This proposal will have an extraordinary impact for the neighborhood and for the community at large," the report states.

A public hearing on the application is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday (July 5, 2006) at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

Among other findings:

- Thirty percent of the units will be short of the required 1,000 square feet for two-bedroom apartments.

- The applicant, Maxim Development LLC, needs 128 parking spaces, but proposes only 102, including 52 surface spaces and 55 in an underground lot.

- The current density on South Avenue is 13.3 dwelling units per acre and the applicant proposes 47 units per acre.

- There is no allowance for back yard space at ground level, nor are any balconies or decks proposed for upper units. The city land use rules require 3,200 square feet of private rear yard space for the 16 ground-level units and 3,072 for the above-ground units.

On the other hand, the proposal does meet the city's goal of transit-friendly planning, because it is a quarter-mile from the Netherwood train station, the report said. As many as 128 people could live in the building if it is approved.

Although the report appears to be "largely negative," staff said it could be positive if the zoning board makes an effort to identify and address all the negative impacts throughout the public hearing process.

Besides the proposal for the 800 block of South Avenue, Maxim is also proposing a 40-unit building in the 900 block. , owner of the body shop, was introduced during Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' 100-day report April 28 as the developer of the South Avenue sites. The applications first came to the Planning Board, but were then referred to the Zoning Board.

--Bernice Paglia


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