Zoning Board approves senior housing

With virtually the same application presented in January that raised concerns about neighborhood parking, a senior housing facility was approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment last month.

The proposal, which calls for a 51-unit, four-story complex on Esterbrook Avenue as part of the St. Mary’s Church property, gained unanimous approval. Once construction begins, it’s expected to take about a year.

Representatives of Domus Corporation, an arm of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, offered the lot at nearby St. Mark’s Church (which last year merged with St. Mary’s to form Divine Mercy Parish) on Hamilton Street for use as overflow parking, if necessary. There also was some discussion or suggestion about possibly removing a playground on St. Mary’s property to make room for additional spaces. The 87 existing spaces at St. Mary’s will be reconfigured to create 104 spaces — 27 designated for senior housing and another 77 for church, school and rectory activities. Projections indicated a demand for 22 spaces for the 51-unit housing facility.

During the January meeting, commissioners and some local residents expressed concerns about parking at the site spilling into the neighborhood. David Shopshire, an engineer for Domus, testified last month that the lot at St. Mary’s will have “more than sufficient excess capacity” to accommodate parking demand for the complex during Saturday and Sunday church services, according to minutes of the March 21 meeting. [Note: I couldn’t attend the meeting and waited to post about this until I secured a copy of the minutes].

The redesigned parking will accommodate all residents of the proposed building and the majority of the current one-site church parking demand, he said, and there is sufficient parking available along adjacent streets to accommodate parking for Friday evening prayer groups, which is peak demand. Several residents testified as they did in January that the neighborhood would bear the brunt of overflow parking while other residents testified that parking is very rarely an issue at the church.