Peter Steck may have driven a stake into the heart of the proposed mixed-use development at 176 and 200 Bloomfield Avenue.
Steck, a licensed planner from Maplewood, asserted in testimony to the Verona Board of Adjustment last night that DMH2 LLC miscalculated the gross square footage of the proposed development near Everett Field by not including the access corridor surrounding the first-floor retail space. Steck had been retained by Jack McEvoy and Jessica Pearson, who live on Montclair Avenue behind the project.
By Steck’s calculation, the gross square footage of the project is actually 9,221 and not 7,000 as had been presented by DMH2. At that higher square footage, the project would require far more parking spaces than planned by DMH2. Under Verona law, the number of parking spaces for retail businesses is dictated by the gross square footage of a building; there should also be two parking spaces per apartment for residents. Under existing laws, Steck asserted that the project should have 75 spaces, not the 63 now on the drawing board.
Parking has already been a challenge for the project, which has been before the Board of Adjustment since last June. DMH2 put roughly half the 63 spaces it planned in front for customers of the retail tenants, and the rest up a sloping driveway in back for the residents of the 14 two-bedroom apartments. The loading dock for the retail businesses was shoehorned into the front parking lot, next to an L-shaped corridor that would allow businesses to bring in their goods, and let new residents move in their belongings. The long corridor was apparently not counted in the square footage originally presented.
The gross square footage and parking space assertion were among 19 challenges raised by Steck during his testimony, ranging from the location of dumpsters and mechanical equipment, to its lack of buffers and green space. “Where is something living here,” Steck asked during his testimony. “Where is the green space? There is nothing beneficial in terms of green space for the people who will be living here.”
Alan Trembulak, a lawyer for DMH2, countered Steck on several of his points, but seemed to have no ready answer for the discrepancy in the gross square footage calculation. And so the case will go on. “As a result of what I have been presented tonight it raises a multitude of other issues,” Trembulak said. “I think I need some additional time to digest this additional information.”
If the Board of Adjustment agrees with Steck’s assertions, DMH2, which has sought five variances to build the project, could be compelled to seek additional variances. The developer might also have to submit amended plans.
All parties will be back before the board on March 14, 7:30 p.m.