The Planning Board unanimously approved a major site plan and parking exceptions for Meridia Water’s Edge after about two hours of testimony Tuesday night.
Pompton Plains-based Capodagli Property Company proposed 108 units in a five-story building. Of the 108 units, 52 will be two-bedrooms, 38 one-bedrooms with an office, and 18 one-bedrooms. The ground floor will house a majority of the parking, 87 parking spaces.
An agreement to use 21 parking spaces (for a total 108 spaces) in the adjacent lot will be negotiated with the Rahway River Condo Association, which owns the building housing the library, along with office space on the upper floors. There are about 160 parking spaces overall in the library lot. Planning Board member Thomas Caverly described it as “the most underused lot in the city,” other than maybe two city trailers on occasion.
Parking demand for a similar project in a suburban setting would require closer to two parking spaces per unit, or more than 200 spaces for 108 units, according to testimony from Capodagli’s witnesses. Given the project’s proximity to the train station, Planning Board member William Hering asked how that might affect parking demand, and how many tenants might be expected to not own a vehicle. Traffic engineer Jay Troutman cited some NJ Transit publications that indicate, in general, a reduction of vehicle ownership of anywhere from 25 to 40 percent. It’s unclear what tenants who might have two cars would have to do for parking.
Troutman testified that there is more than adequate roadway capacity to handle traffic in and out of the facility, even accounting for office space above the library. The office space is the biggest unknown, but Troutman said even if that is at full occupancy at some point in the future, there’s a “good synergy” between the peak hours of the office space, library and residential units. The office space currently is partially occupied.
Planning Board Chairman Jeff Robinson questioned why the developer did not seek to build a LEED-certified project, an issue raised when City Council approved the Water’s Edge in October. Engineer Pat McClellan said the project would get some LEED points for being in an already developed area with high density and the criteria rely on building design itself and other site planning practices. The planning strategy, he added, is “LEED inspired.”
Architect Yogesh Mistry said current energy codes have come a long way and even basic codes now meet many LEED standards, such as upgraded insulation, water-conserving toilets, energy-efficient appliances and lighting, which will be featured at Water’s Edge. Walkability to transportation and retail also factor into LEED standards.
The only public comment during the hearing came from Carl Schulz, principal owner of the neighboring Center Circle sports complex. He asked how potential issues might be resolved equitably should they arise, specifically about parking, vehicular access to the property, and noise, among other things.
Schulz and his Realtor met with city officials and the developer in September about several issues but to date he said he hadn’t received any clarification. (The 3.5-acre property at 1255 Main St is for sale, with an asking price of $5.45 million.) Schulz’s attorney raised some similar issues in an August letter to the Redevelopment Agency.
When the property for the library was sold, Schulz said the intent was for limited vehicular use to the library and recreation center during non-business hours. “Is my Main Street entrance the de facto entrance” to this project for heavy machinery, equipment and eventually residents, he asked. A joint parking agreement with the city allows the complex to use the library lot for overflow, which could affect his business since some special events can attract more than 300 people. He estimated there are less than 100 spaces in the Center Circle parking lots.
Center Circle is open weekdays from 5 p.m. to about midnight, with the peak weekend season running from November to March and the hours of operation more like 8 a.m. to midnight.Noise also has been an issue in the past with the neigboring Rahway Plaza apartments, until it was resolved in 2005.
Capodagli’s attorney, John DeNoia, addressed Schulz’s concerns. Noise will be a non-issue if the Center Circle remains within the city code, and the development is only take 21 parking spaces in the library lot, “not a plethora.” He expects some issues will “take some shaking out” in the beginning, but once operating, most any issues will be minor.
Hering described Water’s Edge as a good application that fits a transit-oriented community. “We’ve put up a parking deck, 18-story hotel. Everyone seems to be getting along, there are more people downtown, we’re getting things started again. The application carries the mission of redevelopment, an the easement stands on its own.”
Under an agreement approved by the Redevelopment Agency this summer, Capodagli will purchase the 0.75-acre property for $1 million — less the firm’s cost to get rid of soil that had been on the site since construction of the library was completed about a decade ago. The City Council is expected to vote on a 10-year PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) for the project at its meeting on Dec.