Two hours of testimony Wednesday were not enough to resolve Zoning Board questions on a 19-unit new building on South Avenue, so the application will continue on Sept. 7.
The applicant, 1369-1403 South Avenue LLC, intends to build on the former site of a plant nursery next to the Dairy Queen. Four retail spaces are proposed (in blue on image above}and the plan calls for 26 parking stalls, 12 at the rear and 14 under the structure at ground level. Seven spaces are allotted for the stores and the rest for the eight 1-bedroom and 11 2-bedroom units.
Architect James Guerra describes the design.
Because the design will not allow PMUA trucks to access the rear, the developer proposed an indoor trash chute to be emptied by a superintendent and placed in large PMUA carts at the curb on collection days.
Regarding parking, the applicant tried but failed to get permission from the Dairy Queen and Fine Fare to allow any use of their lots. There is no parking on South Avenue.
In public comment, Dairy Queen owner Donna Albanese said, "Wow - where are the cars going to park? In my lot!"
Albanese said an Islamic Community Center that opened nearby asked to use her lot for parking when the center holds large events and it also uses two nearby vacant lots with someone directing traffic. The vacant lots are part of a site designated for future construction of 212 rental units.
But she said 95 percent of her customers drive to the Dairy Queen and a new coffee shop that just signed a lease to open next door will also need her lot.
"Parking is already a big problem in Plainfield," she said.
The proposed development is just outside the Transit-Oriented Development zone around the Netherwood train station. Planner John McDonough called it "transit-targeted," meaning it would be appealing to tenants who will not likely have cars, but will largely rely on public transit to get around. If the project was within the TOD-N zone, the parking requirement would be zero, he said.
Also in public comment, Ron Scott Bey said, "I think that's a lot of building for a small space."
On parking, he said, "My experience has been two bedrooms, two cars."
Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez also commented, noting the parking problem but saying, "The reality is, we have an empty lot."
He said the project had already undergone multiple reviews by the Planning Division's Technical Review Committee and urged the board to render a decision.
But when members were polled, Charles McRae said the building was too big for the space and he could envision "blue and green cans overflowing with garbage" out front. Rich Sudol also had similar views.
"Trash is definitely an issue," he said, and called parking "a constant issue."
Robert Graham also mentioned trash and parking.
Mary Burgwinkle said as a 34-year resident she was thrilled to have someone interested in investing, but the design left her with a "feeling of claustrophobia." Regarding trash, she questioned how recycling would be handled. Jim Spear spoke of a need for compromises, but said apartment complexes need to conform to parking requirements. He felt the trash issue was "secondary."
Alex Ruiz said, "Parking is key," and also felt garbage could bring rats and odors. But he said, "There's always a way to fix this."
With that, the board agreed to adjourn the case to September 7. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.