Dennis Handel has filed a new plan for a mixed-use development at 176-200 Bloomfield Avenue that is predicated on the idea that it needs no variances from Verona’s Planning Board. Both of the previous two plans submitted by Handel’s DMH2 LLC needed variances and those applications were rejected by the Verona Board of Adjustment and Planning Board in March 2013 and August 2014, respectively.
The new plan is similar to the “concept” plan that DMH2’s representatives showed off in March, and described as being “more intrusive” than the plan that the Planning Board was considering. It is for a 9,800-square-foot, three-story building with ground-floor commercial space, six apartments on the third floor and a second floor with both commercial space and apartments. The three apartments on the second floor would share a corridor with the commercial space. The two-bedroom, two-bath apartments range in size from 883 square feet to 985 square feet. The new plan moves the loading dock to the rear of the building, almost directly under the kitchen window of the Westview Road home of Mary Purcell.
DMH2’s plan would, once again significantly alter the lots, which photos taken from the perimeter (above) show to be heavily wooded. Seventy-four trees would be removed, including the large copper beech near Westview Road; only 10 of the lots’ current trees would remain. The stormwater management plan for the new application repeats the previous plan’s original assertion that the lots, which total 1.56 acres, consist of 1.47 acres of “lawn and sparse vegetation”– and not trees. During its presentation of the second plan DMH2 asserted for months that the lots were largely open space before switching, in July, to the completely opposite opinion.
The assessment isn’t academic. The nature of the vegetation on a site affects how it will handle rain and snow storms, when precipitation has to filter from the surface into the ground. Heavily wooded sites–like 176 and 200 Bloomfield Avenue in their present condition–absorb much more stormwater than a paved surface, like a large parking lot or a site with very limited vegetation, as the DMH2 sites would be after development. In addition to removing almost all existing trees, the new DMH2 would remove virtually all of the soil and rock on the site.
DMH2 will be going in front of the Planning Board on October 2 with some changes to its team. (UPDATE: DMH2 is postponing its presentation until the October 23 Planning Board meeting.) J. Michael Petry will be back as engineer, but the developer has a new architect, Joseph M. Donato of River Edge, N.J., and a new lawyer, Paul Jemas, who replaces Alan Trembulak. Jemas once was the mayor of Caldwell and has been the borough attorney in Roseland. After the Planning Board voted against the plan in August, and Handel used profanity in response to a question from this reporter ( “Take a walk asshole,” Handel snapped. “Write that down in your biased report”), Trembulak attempted to calm his client down.
In its new hearing, the Planning Board could determine that the new plan does, in fact need variances. Michael Foley, a Planning Board alternate who voted against the last plan, said at the August meeting that it was “hard to imagine” a project on the lots not needing a variance.
If the Board says that the new plan does not need any variances, it becomes what is known as a “by right” application. (Many of the plans to alter Verona’s homes that come before the Board are deemed “by right” applications.) The Board must still approve a “by right” plan. It can ask for changes, but the applicant does not have to agree to them. DMH2 would then have to pass review by the Essex County Planning Board, and the Hudson-Essex -Passaic Soil Conservation District. It would need building permits from the Verona Building Department and, probably have to go before the Town Council because the site’s excavation runs counter to Verona’s soil removal ordinance.
The meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m., will also hear an application by Mark DeMattheis to have the lots at 435 and 449 Bloomfield Avenue near Verona Park declared a so-called area in need of redevelopment. This designation, which would need to be approved by the Town Council, would allow DeMattheis’ lots to be taxed under terms more favorable to the town. In January, DeMattheis won approval by the Board of Adjustment to build a small apartment building on each of the lots.
Keep Verona clean and green no more building new living quarters,keep it a sleepy litter town!not near the ballfield !
Why can’t Verona let green, wooded spaces be just that? The town is already way too over developed. This guy should take an area that needs redevelopment and stick his apartments there!