TOD-N Ordinance Up Tonight
The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.
At last Monday’s agenda session, Planning Director William Nierstedt told the governing body that the TOD-N ordinance reflects Planning Board objectives for the site and that council approval would set standards for development there. The target area includes the former G.O. Keller dry-cleaning site at South and Leland avenues. Nierstedt said the Planning Board has reviewed the ordinance “at least four times,” a comment backed up by the council’s current Planning Board liaison, Councilman William Reid.
But Councilman Cory Storch, who voiced objections to the proposed ordinance in July, asked why it did not cover the south side of South Avenue and properties north past the train tracks of the Raritan Valley Line.
In past talks on transit-oriented development, four zones around two existing and two former train stations were delineated, with half- quarter-mile radii around each.
At the Aug. 11 agenda session, Storch challenged the proposal, saying, “This is really what is called spot zoning,” and called for a “visioning process” to determine what residents want for the neighborhood.
“I advocate that we send this back,” Storch said, suggesting the Planning Board had not dealt with the rest of the zone around the Netherwood train station.
But Reid noted the Planning Board had already spent many hours of discussion on the topic.
Reid, who served as campaign treasurer for Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, was appointed to the council late last year to replace Rayland Van Blake, who became a Union County freeholder. He was also appointed council liaison to the Planning Board in January, replacing Storch. Board members also include the mayor’s confidential aide and one of her bodyguards.
The TOD-N ordinance permits buildings up to five stories high and a density of up to 75 units per acre for mixed use structures. One parking space and one bike rack per unit would be required.
Dennis Cooper of Omni Pointe, an Ohio firm that has presented a conceptual plan for a development in the proposed zone, said Friday the plan calls for a 5-story structure with 224 units and 30,000 square feet of retail space. Cooper said the company is “very hopeful” that construction can begin by March or April. The company does not yet own the G.O. Keller site, but is in negotiations with the owner, he said.
The current density in the neighborhood is 25 units per acre, but the increased height and density is in keeping with transit-oriented development standards that allow for such changes near train stations.
Click here for Plaintalker’s previous post on the proposed ordinance.
At the Aug. 11 meeting, Councilman Rashid Burney also called for more community input into the design of any project in the zone. In public comment, resident Chris Rutherford said he was hearing about a “huge 5-story apartment building coming in” and expressed concern about the impact on traffic and schools in the neighborhood.
“I just feel like we’re kind of out of the loop on what’s going on,” he said.