New Building Proposed for West Front Street
The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the application after about three hours of testimony and questioning. Attorney Bob Smith and a team of professional experts gave details of the application and responded to points in reports by T&M Associates and Planning Director Bill Nierstedt, along with innumerable “what-ifs” from board members. The session lived up to newly-reelected ZBA Chairman Scott Belin’s promise that every application will be thoroughly vetted during his tenure.
Eleftheriou said he hoped to have legal or accounting offices or perhaps nail or hair salons on the first floor, but said he was open to suggestions. Board members said they did not want to see late-night uses such as pool halls or taverns, in consideration of tenants in the two-bedroom apartments upstairs. But Smith said the size of the retail spaces would preclude many of the uses permitted under the mixed-use zone designation the applicant sought.
The lot is in a medium-density residential zone, but is slated to be re-zoned for mixed retail and residential use when the City Council approves a revised zoning ordinance, possibly as soon as next summer. At present, the neighborhood is in fact a combination of multi-family buildings, restaurants and other business uses.
A recurring question in the discussion was what hours of operation would be imposed on retail tenants. The board finally settled on 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Early on, Belin asked how downstairs noise would be compatible with tenants trying to put children to sleep, but expert planning witness Kevin O’Brien suggested tenants would most likely be couples who would use the second bedrooms as home offices.
The site will have 31 parking spaces, with 16 dedicated for residents.
Among the what-ifs:
What if someone came home sick from work and found their parking space taken? Spaces will be numbered and the lot will be posted with warnings that violators will be towed.
What if someone wanted to see the sky or a back yard? This after O’Brien said there would be negative impact from the project. Belin argued there could be an “esthetic detriment.”
“Some people like to see green. I would be very careful if I say there would be no detriment,” he said.
To an observer not schooled in the fine points of land use law, some of the evening’s more interesting revelations were the proposed use of solar panels, energy-efficient lighting and a plan to pump water from a detention basin to water vegetation on the site. Each apartment will have its own washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator and radiant baseboard gas heating. Common areas will have remotely-monitored surveillance cameras and solar panel-powered utilities. Balconies will provide open space.
Each 13-by-16 square foot master bedroom with a walk-in closet and one other closet, while each 11.5-by-11 square feet bedrooms will have a sliding-door closet.
Eleftheriou projected a fair market rent rate of from $1,100 to $1,400 for the apartments. Once final approvals are granted, he said, he hopes to start construction in the spring. The estimated cost for the new construction is $1.5 to $1.8 million.
At the hearing’s conclusion, board members commented favorably before voting. Melvin Cody said the proposal “brings a lot to the city of Plainfield,” while Robert Scott hailed it as “one less vacant lot” and Alex Ruiz said he was “in favor of filling in the gaps.”
Originally offered as a modern-looking structure, the building was recast with traditional architectural details, which Ruiz said gave it “character.”
Belin called it “an interesting project” before the board voted unanimous approval.