Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Senior Center Approvals Expected

Senior center plans are expected to advance with two City Council votes Wednesday (Nov. 22, 2006).

The council meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

An ordinance permitting a senior center to be built in mixed use and central business district zones is up for a hearing and final passage. In addition, a resolution up for a vote would give the developer, Dornoch Plainfield LLC, approval to submit an application to the city for “implementation of a senior center.”

Dornoch has already submitted plans for the senior center and three stories of condos above it. The Planning Board is expected to review the plans on Dec. 7. If the plans are approved, the next milestone is issuance of a building permit, Dornoch partner Glen Fishman said.

As they have at every juncture since Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs showcased the proposal in July, Fishman and his associates and experts came out in force to Monday’s agenda session. As the council’s executive session ran overtime, the development team whiled away an hour in the rotunda along with a large crowd of real estate brokers, merchants, city staffers and even a group of young football players.

“If everything goes well, we hope to be in the ground in late winter or early spring,” Fishman said while waiting.

Fishman plans to finance the $15 million project himself, at no cost to the city.

The project will need various other approvals, from Union County, the state Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, he said.

But the next big hurdle will be Planning Board approval.

The developer is asking for fewer parking spaces than required for the 63 two-bedroom condos, as well as a variance to have no landscaped parking lot islands where eight are required. At an earlier Planning Board meeting where the zoning change was approved, seniors who have waited years for their own center clamored to have it built, regardless of parking issues.

--Bernice Paglia


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