More Hearings Ahead For Bloomfield Ave. Project

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DMH2 planner witness J. Michael Petry, developer Dennis Handel, lawyer Alan Trembulak

There were four more hours of testimony last night on the proposal to turn 176 and 200 Bloomfield Avenue into a mixed-use development, and the only thing that is certain is that there are probably another four hours of testimony ahead in December and January.

More than four dozen spectators attended the Board of Adjustment hearing in the Verona Community Center ballroom, many brought out by a flyer and Facebook campaign against the development. The Facebook group now has more than 500 members and had delivered leaflets about the meeting to much of the eastern side of Verona.

Many in the group had assumed that last night would be the final night of testimony on the project, which has been before the board since June. But the lawyers for the development company, DMH2 LLC, seemed unprepared to handle questions raised by two Montclair Avenue residents, Steve Foster and John McEvoy, on trees that would be cut in the so-called buffer zone between the project and that street. The development plan calls for eliminating much of the site’s current slope and some 75 trees, including 12 with trunks measuring at least eight inches in the buffer zone, according to last night’s testimony.

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DMH2 had previously indicated that it would be calling an arborist as one of its witnesses. (Applications to the Board of Adjustment follow a legal process that involves the presentation of testimony by witnesses and the questioning of those witnesses by lawyers and members of the public.) But DMH2’s arborist was not present last night.  Verona does not have ordinances that regulate either construction on steep slopes or the cutting of trees on private property, so the determination of what legally constitutes a wooded buffer appears to hinge on state statute. DMH2 lawyer Alan Trembulak said that its arborist would testify at the next meeting, which has been scheduled for December 13. John Duisenberre, a lawyer for property owners on Montclair Avenue who oppose the development indicated last night that he will also be calling witnesses, which likely would not be able to happen until a January meeting of the zoning body.

Testimony by J. Michael Petry took up the bulk of the evening. Appearing in support of DMH2, the engineer and planner focused his testimony on the variance that would relieve the developer from having to have an equal distribution of usage at the site. As proposed, the development would be about 70% residential and 30% retail. Petry asserted that the plan is “reflective” of the area’s Extended Town Center zoning, which allows for both commercial and residential use. The DMH2 development would, he said, keep the ground-floor commercial usage facing the commercial corridor, Bloomfield Avenue, and the residential usage, two-bedroom rental apartments on the second and third floors, facing the single-family homes on Montclair Avenue. “If you were to balance the uses with second-floor commercial, it would send commercial traffic to the back of the building,” Petry said.

But Petry’s assertions did not appear to sit well with two members of the Board of Adjustment, Chairman John Denton and Lawrence Lundy. “How is 70% residential better,” Lundy asked. “How is more residential than what is in the ordinance somehow in support of the zoning?”

In later questioning by Duisenberre, Petry conceded that needed a component other than ground-floor retail to be financially viable. “The cost of removing the wall on Bloomfield Avenue and take this property down to Bloomfield is substantial,” he said. There is a now a large retaining wall on the property along Bloomfield Avenue that was put in when the road was widened decades ago. In addition to a retail-residential split, a new building on the site could also be split between retail and professional office space.

 

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

29 COMMENTS

  1. If it was such a problematic property to develop, why was it purchased in the first place? As Verona is so interesting financially to the developer, there are a plethora of vacant areas currently on the market available for his purchase that don’t require such development expense.

  2. Verona has several commercial properties that we all might want to see spruced up–from the old Verona Inn site on the eastern end to the iHOP and adjacent lot in the center of town to the Poekel office near the Community Center. None of these are for sale.

    There are, according to public databases, only four Verona commercial properties for sale: the former Brunner dealership across the street from the Richfield Regency, and a building on Depot Street, a property opposite Verona Park and another at the corner of Hillcrest and Bloomfield (see here). All are substantially smaller than the 176-200 Bloomfield lots.

  3. I live in verona for over 30 years and I am sorry to say but this part of verona is ugly and never got any attention from the town. What we all forget is the town CHANGED the books to allow a mix use for this property. Who wants to drive by and see that big ugly wall and tons of garbage dumped and thrown on that property. People have a right to do what they want to their property as long as its within the law. We should be happy that someone is willing to come to this town and develope something on this part of the ave. I wish these people the best of luck.

  4. Believe me, Carol, I try almost every month to find out. The family that owns the IHOP site now (the Holmes family sold it several years back) also owns the very large building occupied by Learning Express and the vacant lot next to Twin Method dry cleaners. They also own a property on Montrose, and essentially donated the house to the Verona Fire Department two years ago so that the VFD could train as the house was burned to the ground. Clearing that house potentially gave the property another exit off Bloomfield Avenue. The lot behind the IHOP already has an exit onto South Prospect.

    Because so many MyVeronaNJ.com readers have expressed frustration with the condition of the IHOP property, I have repeatedly reached out to the family to talk about their plans for all this, to no avail. No plans have been filed with the Building Department. The IHOP lost a few shingles and other architectural elements during Hurricane Sandy, so hopefully some attention will be paid to the site soon.

    The Poekel property near the Community Center may also bear watching now. Its owner, Charles Poekel Sr., died on November 7 at age 97. The township of Verona owns the properties on either side of the Poekel lot–the former Service League site to the east and the old railroad right-of-way that abuts Linn Drive.

  5. Ron, I drive by the site daily. There is not tons of garbage. There is a beautiful farm house located at the top of the hill in a wooded area. Along the wall grow lush forsythia and virginia creeper. Both are attractive and native plants. This part of town is not ugly. I am sure you have insulted many homeowners and businesses in that area with your comment. If he followed the modernized zoning laws with his intentions, then none of this would have to be discussed.

  6. Ron
    “as long as it’s within the law”
    Clearly the developer is not within the verona zoning ordinance, assuming that is the law you were referring to, or this application would not be before the BoA. The law you are referring to, after several years of meetings and debate, was recently revised and adopted last August 2011. What that tells me is that competent town employees and residents took time and modernized the ordinances to fit current needs and safety standards. The revisions should also help reduce the amount of variances needed on any given project. This developer is currently seeking 7 variances and in my opinion needs 4 more.
    Do you think that is to many?
    Tell me do you think that a 26 foot, 15 foot or 10 foot retaining wall is safe?
    Do you think the 3 foot fence behind it will stop any 7 to 13-14-15 year old from trying to get close to it and just maybe falling over? OH! and if that happens do you think they will walk away?
    The 6 foot maximum Ordinance pertaining to walls and all other ordinances are there for a reason. That reason is to protect you, your family, your neighbors and all other residents in town!
    I’m not against building but I am against overbuilding.

  7. Jack, well said (as always).

    Ron, granted, Bloomfield Ave. is a commercial road and will continue to be developed. However, what is being proposed at this site is entirely inappropriate in terms of both size and intended use. Sure, something will be built there, but months of intense rock blasting and excavating… sidestepping of ordinances intended to safeguard the community… construction of massive walls… Do you not see that this is clearly trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. And for what, just so some deep pocketed businessman who has ZERO connection or concern for the town can pad his bank account?

    Oh, and as far as our section of town being ugly… I happen to take pride in my house, my property and my neighborhood. I also happen to know that my neighbors feel the same way, which is exactly why we’re fighting this ugly monstrosity!

  8. Ethan, given that there have been six months of hearings so far and two more to come before the Board of Adjustment, this does not seem to be a case of side-stepping ordinances. There are, however, aspects of the project that are not within the purview of the board: The blasting in particular is regulated by state and federal code, not Verona.

  9. side·step [sahyd-step] Show IPA verb, side·stepped, side·step·ping.
    verb (used without object)
    1.
    to step to one side.
    2.
    to evade or avoid a decision, problem, or the like.

    Lets break down the #2 part of this definition of “side stepping”

    #2 “To Evade”
    Not asking for the Variance for putting Retaining walls within the setbacks of the property because they believe that a 26′ retaining wall is not a structure. How is it that someone that is a licensed engineering, architect and planner in the State of New Jersey doesn’t think that a 26′ wall is not a structure.

    Zoning Ordinance 150-7.2 A
    “NO ACCESSORY STRUCTURE OR USE SHALL BE LOCATED WITHIN ANY REQUIRED SETBACK OR CLOSER THAN FIVE FEET TO ANY LOT LINE. SAID REQUIREMENTS SHALL NOT APPLY TO RETAINING AND DECORATIVE WALLS AND FENCES, PROVIDED SAME DO NOT EXCEED SEVEN FEET IN HEIGHT.”

    #2 “To avoid a DECISION”
    Removing the variance for leaving the wooded buffer. How is it that the variance for the wooded buffer is now off the table? It’s on the application but the attorney for the applicant said it is no longer needed……….”Side stepping” the obvious because he knows the board sees it as wooded along with everyone else in town.

    NOTE: I can add 3 other Variances needed to the “EVADE” part.

  10. does anyone in town actually understand where this mcevoy is coming from and what is his agenda he talks at length and bad mouths the developers planner “mr mcevoy you hired a planner that works for anyone with a check book” Also mr mcevoy i googled your name and WHAT A SURP RISE your in the construction business are you sure that your vindictiveness is because you did not get the site work for the job or is because you have every intention of running for office in verona on the back of this developer Mr Mcevoy there are residents in town for over 20 years who WANT the rateable from this project WHY DONT YOU KNOCK IT OFF

  11. I agree with Sarah and her very first point. I also understand what Virginia has explained about what is and isn’t for sale. While the available spaces are smaller, and the empty spaces are not “for sale” it would really be great if we, as a town, worked to encourage building owners to either fix what they own or sell it and then move on. Isn’t there some kind of statute of limitations on empty buildings??? If not- there should be.
    I’m all for growth- it’s required for change and forward movement. However, I do feel that there are existing parts of town that need to be cared for prior to starting a brand new project of this magnitude, regardless of its location. If we fix what we’ve got, then perhaps the whole town can benefit from people in the surrounding towns coming to Verona to shop or eat.

  12. Karen,

    Thanks for your views. I’ll let Jack explain his business, his long connection to Verona and his reasons for opposing the DMH2 development. But I want to remind everyone that the comment space on MyVeronaNJ.com is meant to be a place for constructive dialogue about the issues that face Verona. A constructive dialog means a civil tone. So it would be great if you could avoid typing in all caps on the next round, since that looks, on the Internet, like shouting.

    By the way, if you are concerned about the impact of the lack of ratables, you might want to be at the next Town Council meeting on Dec. 17. There should be a discussion of municipal salaries that night.

  13. Ms. Black-

    With the money you save from the tremendous rateables from this project, you should donate that savings to the poor lady whose house foundation will crack and need repair. I’m sure a house that old can sustain demolition nearby for an extended period of time. Great, now we’re putting rateables over peoples welfare. God Bless America.

  14. Thank you for explaining the mystery of the former IHOP building (though the mystery is itself a mystery). I’ve been trying to figure that one out for a long time.
    There’s so much vacant land in Verona with terrific potential. It’s a pity.

  15. There is a reason why no one has bought or leased the vacant properties In town and that is what someone pointed out so clearly – they are horrible, they are not what new business are looking for and they don’t want to pay for an old building. Some of you talk about blasting, I didn’t see all of you at the meetings when they presented and approved the other project on my side of town when they blasted for months and months !!!!

    Also, keep fighting and if it gets denied im sure the owner will cuts the sewer pipe that’s on his property without an easement. then I hope they serve all of you your own special assessment to run a new pipe.

    See the problem is the 2 people that are fighting this are not telling everyone the truth about the consequences of there actions and the money will cost residents.

  16. i attended the zoning board meeting on 12-13-12 regarding the developement of 200 bloomfied ave and personnally i was appalled at the treatment of the board the aplicant and his professionals by a handful of people who dont care about the whole town of verona just their street mr jack mcevoy and his wife jessica`pearson seem to be the ringleaders ok jack heres a question for you the rateable for the whole town for a building like this would be 250000k +or- mr mcevoy would prefer the developer to build 4 single family homes this has the potential of housing 4 schoolage childre per home at 12000 per child to be educated for 13 years lets do the math jack that 192000 per year x 13 years or 2496000 what a surprise jack the town has now turned a huge winner into a mega loser thanks to jack and jessica you will never get my vote or the votes of my friends who have all lived here for 20+ years if your reason for doing this is to obtain public office in verona not happening

  17. This is a classic case of politics! I was handed the secret package that instructs the public what to say and how to clog up the meeting. The problem is its full of lies and wrong information. You should be ashamed of your self. What is even more surprising is that while you are leading misinformed people around the property you are walking by walls that over over 13 feet tall. High enough for someone to all from and serious hurt themselves. The button line is all your points have no basis, in other parts of town they got variances for the same blasting, walls and other things and were granted. I didn’t see you or your posse at those meetings . So in your letter you chastise this developer for not caring about verona but I didn’t see you make fb pages and hand out propaganda to stop them!!!!! approved!!!!!!!!!

  18. Karen Black I really do not think that you were even at the meeting because I NEVER ONCE disrespected the applicant, the applicants attorney or the board. If you attended any of the other meetings, that have been going on since may, You would know that we are fighting it for the reason that you are arguing against us for. Did you know that in one of the past meetings the applicants people stated that there could be 28 school aged children in the building. YES 28 and that is no lie. OK are you on my side now?
    So redo numbers 28 @ 12k per child is $336,000 and 13 years makes it $ 4,368,000.
    Redo at 20 children @ 12K per child is $ 240,000 and 13 years makes it $ 3,120,000
    I will tell you this the building proposed before the board will have at least 14 school aged children in it (14 2 bedroom apartments) so that $ 250K you talk about is gone. Is it a rateable now?
    I would really like to know the origin of the 4 homes on the property idea & how 4 children per household numbers came up? That was NEVER once talked about in any of the meetings but it would be a wonderful idea.
    I was born in Verona and lived in Verona ALL MY LIFE!!! I don’t think that even makes a diff even if you have lived in Verona for 1 year.
    PUBLIC OFFICE???? Thanks for the idea.
    Your first post is so contradictory, it is funny. You’re saying that I am opposing the application because I didn’t get the site work, and yet, I am going to then run for office with the backing of the builder? Makes no sense.
    Karen if you would like to sit and discuss the project with me and hear the reasons I am fighting the project I would be more that willing to do so.

  19. Hey Ron What is “the secret package”? I think you have just proven not just my point but all others that oppose this project. The height of the walls is precisely the problem. The dangerous 13 foot wall you talk about is only half the height of the proposed walls that are going up at the rear of the property. Behind those walls they are only putting up a 3 foot fence. Will that protect kids?
    So you are saying you dislike blasting and extremely high retaining walls!!! Great!! so you are with us?
    What blasting on the other side of town are you talking about?
    The points you make aren’t even based on facts. I will make the same offer to you as I have to others… I would love to sit and discuss the FACTS about this if you like.

  20. Secret Package? I never got one. Four houses? Jack prefers that? The developer’s expert stated 28 children could live in the complex; that was many meetings ago. Are you sure Karen and Ron that you were at the correct meeting? Yes, Ron, 13 foot walls are dangerous as you point out. A wall that is 26 feet tall is even more dangerous. Thanks!

  21. good morning jack just for the record lets get the wording correct on the back of the developer can you stop distorting i cant discuss my opinions with a person whos opinion is blinded by an obsessive disorder to develope a town in his own likeness wake up jack when you take your equipment you are in the site work business correct do you care whos backyard your ripping up of course not does your planner work both sides of the street of course he does thanks jack your making are zoning board look ridiculous you and your band of mercineries have hired pros to make board and VERONA lool bad thanks again

  22. good morning virginia did you tell jack no capital letters it looks like yelling come on virginia is this an unbiased page

  23. Yes I did Karen. But much of what is going on here is beginning to not look like constructive dialog–on both sides of the table.

    Development will happen in Verona, and community input is needed on it, whether that is volunteering to serve on the Planning Board or Board of Adjustment, or being a regular presence at those hearings and Town Council meetings.

    The public can also influence development by working with the Verona Environmental Commission. The VEC has tried several times over the past few years to get support for a steep slope ordinance and a measure regulating the cutting of trees on private property. The presence of either one on Verona’s books would have affected the course of this development as well.

    Democracy needs informed, active and constructive participation.

  24. Wow ! I think we are getting a little too nasty here… Jack you do not need to defend yourself . If every one was at these meetings they would know the truth of impact and will have their own opinion . maybe we should have the blasting experts meeting notes published …
    Karen since you have so much to say, save it for the meetings or how about request transcripts of all the meetings. everyone has been respectful. enough already …

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