By JACQUELINE DURETT
EDISON — The Amboy Avenue redevelopment plan is moving closer to its final form. John Barree of Heyer, Gruel & Associates gave an update at the July 18 Planning Board meeting.
The purpose of his presentation was to gain the Planning Board’s approval that the plan aligns with the master plan. That vote was required for the plan to move to the Township Council for a review and public hearing. The plan covers both residential and commercial.
The plan does not dictate what developments will exist in the Clara Barton neighborhood — it gives recommendations for zoning and design as well as for ways to keep the area as walkable and accessible as possible.
While Barree’s firm is preparing the plan at the request of the township, Barree’s presentation was not without significant questions from the Planning Board. The firm is still recommending creating an overlay zone, where developers could either use the existing zoning standards or instead use ones that the firm developed.
However, board Vice Chairman Dennis Pipala said he had concerns about developers being able to choose whichever zoning standard they wanted.
Barree pointed out that the overlay standards are intended to be attractive to developers and give them flexibility.
“Any time you have an overlay zone, you have that possibility,” Barree said of Dipala’s concerns about inconsistencies.
Barree said the firm could revise the plan if that is what Edison wanted, but the guidance the firm received was to develop an overlay zone. He said the firm could revise the plan to create a single set of zoning standards, but those standards would replace what the township currently has.
“[It] would be the only zoning permissible then,” Barree said.
Pipala said he wanted the council to look at that issue closely.
Barree also covered a continued concern throughout the redevelopment process — parking.
“We understand that parking is a major concern in the area,” Barree said, adding that his firm was making a recommendation to update the parking standards, including disallowing front-yard parking, which could inhibit walkability. He said there were more opportunities for creating new parking on the south side of the area, but said in the plan are recommendations to also look at shared parking arrangements with existing businesses. The firm also recommends increasing fees if a developer needs a variance because he or she is deficient in the amount of required parking spaces.
Pipala said the firm may have to address the wording in the plan regarding those fees since the current verbiage could limit the board’s ability to deny an application that did not have sufficient parking. Barree concurred that limiting the board’s authority in that capacity was not the intent.
Also in regards to the plan, board member Mark Danielle said the board had received comments from an anonymous resident who expressed concerns about the amount of additional residential units that could be built in the area. The resident estimated about 400, which was not disputed by council. The resident also recommended that officials look at an additional route to exit the south side of the neighborhood without having to use Amboy Avenue, which is prone to significant traffic.
Barree said there are options in regards to entrance and exit access from the south side, although all would likely involve using Amboy Avenue to some degree. However, he said there are unclear land-ownership issues, and it is possible the township would have to look into eminent domain to solve them.
Danielle praised the clarity of information contained in the resident’s letter and encouraged the resident to share his or her thoughts with the council, as the hearing on the redevelopment plan did not require a public hearing.