Two small apartment buildings will be built near Verona Park under plans approved by the Verona Board of Adjustment on Thursday night.
The complex will be developed by Mark De Mattheis, a 1983 graduate of Verona High School who has been in multi-family and commercial real estate for the past 25 years. Those roots showed during the presentation to the Board: De Mattheis stressed that, prior to the hearing, he had had many discussions about the plan with town officials and neighboring residents, several of whom attended the hearing to show their support for it.
“I put together a project that works for the town and works for the residents,” De Mattheis said of the buildings, which will be built on the former Brunner auto dealership lots next to similarly low-rise apartments. “I’m not looking to put something in the area that’s not in the area.”
De Mattheis’ company, De Mattheis Investments LLC, sought the approval of 20 variances to build one building at 435 Bloomfield Avenue and another at 449 Bloomfield Avenue. Those included so-called D variances because the lots had been zoned commercial, which would have allowed a development with ground-floor retail and apartments above, but not a purely residential project. De Mattheis also needed lesser variances to cover some issues related to parking at the sites.
The two buildings will contain just 20 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments, with parking tucked in on the ground floor. They will sit close to Bloomfield Avenue, with a 20-foot-wide space for trees and grass in back next to the single-family homes on Verona Place. The apartments will range in size from 765 square feet for a one-bedroom to as much as 1,165 square feet for a two-bedroom unit. The project’s planner, John McDonough, said he believed that the apartments would appeal more to working professionals and empty nesters rather than families with children. (The buildings will be in the Brookdale district, which has the smallest elementary school population in Verona.) Each unit will have its own washer and dryer. The outside of the building will be brick and masonry, and there will be a small roof-top deck for residents.
Both lots are now completely paved, so the addition of the landscaped buffer should keep water runoff away from the nearby homes. Inez Walsh, who lives at 16 Verona Place right behind the former Brunner site, told the Board of Adjustment that she relies on several pumps now to keep her basement dry. Walsh, who has lived in the home since 1958, had several questions for De Mattheis about his plans, but ultimately had a clear message of support for the Board. “I lived through the Brunner business,” she said, “and I’d be more than happy to see this construction at the corner.”
Maureen Tracy, who lives at 12 Verona Place, addressed the Board to make sure it knew of her lawsuit against the lots’ former owner for damage allegedly done to her home when the auto dealership was demolished. But she was in favor of the new construction as well. “I love what you are doing,” she said to De Mattheis. “I think it will definitely add value to our street.” De Mattheis agreed to a pre-construction inspection of Tracy’s home to note its existing condition.
The Board was unanimous in its approval of the development, which, like the approval of a new Afterglow section estate in November, happened after just one meeting. Both projects offered a sharp contrast to the proposed mixed-used development near Everett Field, which the Board rejected in March 2013. The developer of that project, Dennis Handel, was in the audience at both the De Mattheis and estate hearings; his current plan for 176-200 Bloomfield Avenue, which has met with substantial opposition from neighboring residents, is now before the Verona Planning Board.
De Mattheis said after the hearing that he does not yet have a precise start date for his project, but that he is looking to begin as soon as possible.