Thursday, April 3, 2014

Zoning, Planning Boards Hear TOD Cases

A Zoning Board applicant seeking to locate a "national retailer" on South Avenue found his goal frustrated Wednesday by lack of a certificate of occupancy for a previous retail use..

Richard Dunn gave the board detailed evidence of the prior retail use at the site, but the only certificate of occupancy on file was for a welding company when the property was in an industrial zone. Retail uses are now permitted  there under the new Transit-Oriented Development Netherwood (TOD-N) zoning, so the "certification of non-conformity" that Dunn wanted was not needed. After much discussion, the board agreed to dismiss the case, but Dunn said the need now to take the case to the Planning Board for site plan approval would push a decision past his client's May 1 deadline for resolution.

An automotive store, Hyper Harry's, formerly occupied the site at 829-925 South Avenue, which Dunn said had been vacant for several years and was now "an eyesore." Dunn declined to name the retailer now interested in the site, but said the client was alternatively looking at locating in Scotch Plains or Fanwood.

"There really isn't anything we can do,"  Board Chairman D. Scott Belin said after the board mulled the legalities.

In 2006, a proposal to build 64 condos on the site was hailed as the first major transit-oriented development in the city, but the Zoning Board rejected the case after board members and residents disputed experts’ testimony on its viability.

At the time, the former administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was proposing four "transit villages," two around the downtown and Netherwood train stations and two around the sites of the defunct Grant and Clinton stations. The TOD-N zoning did not take effect until last year and the city only received "Transit Village" designation last week.

In another land use matter, the Planning Board is expected to hear an application tonight (April 3, 2014) to convert the former Gregory's Music Store at Grove and West Front streets to retail use on the first floor and three apartments on each of three upper floors. The vacant building, most recently used as offices for the Tri-County Red Cross, is in the new Transit-Oriented Development Downtown (TOD-D) zone. The meeting is 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.



  1. ... I think I keep reading the article wrong.... or was he there because prior to the TOD he was requested to be there?
    If anyone had googled it they would have seen the business information / reviews / etc all on the internet ... I'm just saying ....

    --- I am no fan of businesses dictating terms, but this city throws around "special" meetings as easily as a street walker snaps her gum ( and probably with slightly less class ) that maybe there should be one in this case... Because this city didn't have a Certificate of Occupancy for this former business ( how long was Park Madison without one...oh and by the way... still not having completed the requirements to get one it ) doesn't mean it wasn't there and operating with consent.
    I'm all for the rules...and truly I am .. but I think the grain of salt every once and awhile is simply admitting there are so many levels of incompetence that have existed freely for years in this city and actually been encouraged to grow that sometimes things will need to be tweaked to make the future work...

  2. So, I am confused. If the certificate was not needed, what was there left to do?

    It appears that this shows how far back the mismanagement of the city goes.

    And, I think that there should be emergency meetings allowed for planning and zoning. What's the problem with meeting ahead of time if it is required?

    Let's get on with it and start moving instead of same-o same-o!

  3. Before the pundits chirp in - it is important to note that the Board, it's Chairman, it's Legal Counsel and the Director of the Planning Division tried ardently to assist the applicant in moving his project forward.

    As the testimony concluded board member Mary Burgwinkle suggested to the Applicant that he seek the assistance of the City's new Economic Development team. I hope Mr. Dunn will take her advise.

    1. No.. my comment was directed toward Bernice, as I didn't understand what the issue was... ( You don't have it, but you don't need it ..... ??? ) So they were assisting with what Jim ??? Those are just some questions I had.

    2. Thank you, Jim. It is important that all sides weigh in. Plainfield is poised to take off, and any sign that there might be obstruction, or that things are being conducted in the old way (which means no reason nor logic) strikes a cord in the heart of this Plainfield citizen.

      It is heartening to know that all the players on Plainfield's side are doing the right thing, and even going above and beyond.

      My thought is that perhaps word has not gotten out that Plainfield cannot be rolled over as it once had.

      Also, a question - is Richard Dunn related to Malcolm Dunn?

      Thanks again, Jim, for adding clarification.

    3. @Rob, my initial "pundits" comment was made prior to any published comments by Bernice - so it was not directed at anyone in particular.

      As far as "you don't have it, but you don't need it" - well that pretty much sums it up. Any further questions should be directed to the head of the Planning Division.

      I only commented on this blog subject because I felt it was important that the residents know that the board wanted to help the applicant make something happen. In a joint meeting of the different land use boards recently the Mayor advocated for us to do just that - when we can, and when it's good for Plainfield. Personally I take that advise seriously, even though the Zoning Board of Adjustment in it's quasi-judicial capacity is somewhat autonomous by statue, we can still exhibit Plainfield as a reasonable place to do business.

    4. thank you for the info and clarification Jim !