The construction of market-rate and affordable housing on the Spectrum360 property will be back before the Town Council on Monday night after the Verona Planning Board voted last week that the site could be designated an area in need of redevelopment.
The board heard almost two hours of testimony in a special meeting on Tuesday, August 13. There are eight different criteria under which a property can be found in need of redevelopment, including if the buildings on it are substandard or unsafe. Only one of the eight criteria needs to be met for planning officials to make a designation. Town officials do not condemn the property, as they would in an eminent domain action, but can gain control over certain aspects of the redevelopment project so that it does not adversely affect the town.
The Spectrum 360 redevelopment has been through several twists and turns since Spectrum 360, a facility once known as The Children’s Institute that educates young people on the autism spectrum, decided it would relocate from the corner of Sunset and Bloomfield Avenues. Last October, the Town Council reached a settlement with the private school enabling it sell its property to a developer along with an approved plan to build 300 apartments, 20% of which would be affordable housing. But the plan fell apart in late January when the Verona Planning Board could not agree on a criteria for redevelopment.
In May, the Council reached a new settlement with Spectrum360 for 200 market-rate one- and two-bedroom units at the site. But that settlement, which was almost immediately challenged by a group of Afterglow-area residents, was predicated on a new, favorable hearing in front of the Planning Board. Over several hours of testimony at its July 25 and August 13 meetings, the Board heard extensive explanations of why the Spectrum360 building, which once was laboratories and offices for Hoffmann-La Roche, could not be converted into other uses.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, Planning Board alternate Al DeOld made arguments in favor of four of the eight criteria that seemed to have swayed the other members. He also noted that the designation would give Spectrum360 the means to build a facility that meets its current needs while giving Verona $6.25 million to finance the construction of affordable housing on the former Cameco property. “Declaring this property as an area in need of redevelopment,” DeOld said, “is a win for the town, a win for the Afterglow residents, a win for the developer and a win for the students and the school as they will then have a new and up-to-date facility.”
You can watch the full Planning Board meeting in the video below. The Town Council meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Council chambers in Town Hall.