Monday, July 24, 2006

Zoning Board Continues South Avenue Hearing

The Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a special meeting Wednesday (July 27, 2006) to continue hearing an application to build a four-story, 64-unit structure on South Avenue.

The meeting is 7 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

Sal Carfaro, applying for the variance as Maxim Development Group, plans to demolish his auto body shop at 803 South Avenue to put up the building with an eye to attracting commuters. The Netherwood train station is nearby and a Manhattan bus connection is across the street from the proposed building.

Carfaro needs approvals to put the residential building in a light industrial zone, to have less than the required amount of parking and to permit some undersized units. Maxim proposes 107 parking spaces, some in an underground garage, but zoning rules call for 128 spaces. Thirty percent of the two-bedroom units fail to meet the minimum living space requirement and there is not enough back yard or balcony space allowed in the plans.

Based on the project’s proximity to the train station, the developer is hoping the board will accept “transit village” allowances that allow greater density and less parking for residential buildings near transportation hubs.

At a July 5 meeting, site engineer Victor E. Vinegra said new studies show urban residents need fewer cars than traditional zoning formulas call for.

On its web site, Maxim Development Group cites “unprecedented support” for the Plainfield project. The group is also redeveloping the historic Capitol Theater in New London, Conn.

Since Maxim unveiled its plans for the building and possibly a similar second one on South Avenue, another developer has proposed a new senior center topped by 63 two-bedroom units. Dornoch Holdings gave a slide show at the Senior Center on July 11. However, the company has not yet filed any applications to land use boards. That building would have only 100 parking spaces, a bit short of the two-car spaces per two-bedroom rule.

Although developers are invoking the transit village rules that allow for greater density near public transportation hubs, the city at present has no state-designated transit villages. At an April meeting, city officials said they wanted to have four transit villages, two around existing train stations and two more at sites where stations were closed many years ago. The multi-agency task force that uses stringent criteria to name transit villages began in 1998. As of last year, 16 municipalities had received the designation.

--Bernice Paglia


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