The Montclair Planning Board held off on a vote Monday which would have allowed CentroVerde developers to proceed with an eight-story, mixed-use building in Montclair Center in exchange for a park.
LCOR Senior Vice President Jim Driscoll and CEO and President of The Pinnacle Properties Brian Stolar returned to the board after they were asked two weeks ago to make revisions to their redevelopment plan for a property at Bloomfield Avenue and Valley Road.
The developers did as the Planning Board asked, presenting a new design for an eight-story building at the intersection, two stories higher than originally approved. This is one of three buildings proposed for the site, which may include a hotel.
The revised wedding-cake design includes larger setbacks on the fifth, seventh and eighth floors, totaling more than 18 feet. In addition, the top two levels would be constructed of more glass to create what the developers called a lighter and airier effect.
The rights for the additional two stories would be traded for the construction of a park in the parking lot across the street from the site.
But the Planning Board was not convinced this was a fair trade-off.
“After all these conversations we’ve been having I’m assuming that this is as good as it gets,” Planning Board Chairman John Wynn told the developers. “I have mixed feelings about it right now, and I would like to sit down and take some time with this.”
Several board members also expressed their reservations, asking for more details about the additional 40 units proposed for the top two levels and a revised look for the west-facing side of the building, the only side not tiered in the current design.
Planning Board member Martin Schwartz asked what impact would replacing the parking lot with a park have on nearby businesses.
Stolar responded by saying while some shoppers would prefer to park more closely, the businesses should benefit from the added foot traffic created by the park. He said CentroVerde would offer valet parking to shoppers at the existing parking deck.
Paul Rabinovitch, a member of the Planning Board, suggested creating parking for shoppers on the nearby Board of Education property, an idea that went over well with Schwartz.
Carol Willis questioned why the town would give up the air rights above the six story building in exchange for a park.
“We don’t want to develop the air space,” Willis said. “What are we gaining other than the price of the trees?”
Janice Talley, Director of Planning and Community Development for the township, responded to Willis, “That is exactly what the board is being asked to consider.”
Wynn responded, that the exchange is an incentive and not a Transfer of Development Rights, or TDR, as some have said.
“What is the town getting? It’s getting funds. Instead of reaching to the municipal coffers to develop the land it already owns it is getting funds.”
Planning Board Attorney Arthur Neiss said approving the exchange would not set a precedent for future development.
“This is a redevelopment zone — the zoning in the town is really unapplicable to it," Neiss said. "No one can say, they did it so we want it.”
Neiss said the board’s role is to decide, “Is this good planning? Is this a good use of this place? That’s what you are charged with. Forget all the other stuff.”
The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21.