Zoning Board hopes to complete RPM Development affordable housing hearing


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Lawrence Township residents may finally get a chance to comment on RPM Development LLC’s proposed affordable housing development on Texas Avenue, as the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment plans to wrap up a public hearing on the application at its Feb. 17 meeting.

The township zoning board, whose virtual meeting begins at 7 p.m., expects to conclude the public hearing on the use variance application.

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The meeting is the fourth one since the application was presented to the zoning board in September.

RPM Development LLC wants to build a 70-unit affordable housing rental development on 4.3 acres of land at the rear of the Lawrence Shopping Center, off Texas Avenue. All of the units would be affordable to low- and moderate-income households, with the exception of one unit that would be set aside for the site supervisor.

RPM Development LLC needs a use variance because duplex and multi-family developments are not permitted in the Highway Commercial and R-4 residential zones. Most of the land is zoned Highway Commercial, but there is a sliver of land that is zoned R-4. The density of development – at 17.9 units per acre – exceeds the maximum of 10 units per acre in the R-4 zone.

The proposed development consists of a trio of three-story apartment buildings and six two-story duplexes. The apartment buildings are at the rear of the Lawrence Shopping Center, and the six duplex units are on Texas Avenue.

The 70-unit affordable housing development will help Lawrence Township meet its obligation to provide affordable housing. The township, along with many New Jersey towns, was sued by the Fair Share Housing Center for failing to provide its fair share of affordable housing.

At its Jan. 20 meeting, the zoning board spent more than two hours discussing some of the finer points of the proposed development, parsing over details such as the height of the apartment buildings, the size of the apartments and the overall site aesthetics.

The apartment buildings will be 39 feet tall, which exceeds the 35-foot height limit. The height will not be noticeable from the street, because the land slopes downward by 13 feet from its highest point on Texas Avenue, said Charles Latini, the applicant’s planner.

However, some zoning board members were concerned about the buildings’ height and their aesthetic impact. Zoning Board member Peter Kreme suggested a “balloon” test, in which a balloon or similar object would be suspended at 39 feet to provide a clearer, visual representation.

Since the apartment buildings will face the back wall and loading docks of the Lawrence Shopping Center, it was also suggested that a mural could be painted on the back wall of the shopping center buildings.

Questioned about the size of the apartments, project architect Anthony D’Agosta said they would exceed the minimum square footage required by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, which will provide funding for the development.

The state agency requires one-bedroom apartments to be at least 600 square feet, and to have at least 1,050 square feet for a three-bedroom apartment, D’Agosta said.

But RPM Development LLC’s one-bedroom apartment would be 850 square feet, and its two-bedroom apartments would range between 1,020 square feet and 1,040 square feet. A three-bedroom apartment would be about 1,300 square feet.

Kevin Kavanaugh, RPM Development LLC’s vice president of development, said the units proposed for the Lawrence Township size are “oversized” as compared to what the company typically builds.

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