Lawrence Township residents will have a chance to comment on RPM Development LLC’s proposed affordable housing development on Texas Avenue, adjacent to the Lawrence Shopping Center, at the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment’s special meeting April 28.
The zoning board agreed to hold the April 28 special meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., after the applicant was sent back to the drawing board to prepare another set of revised plans for the development.
All of the apartments will be affordable to low- and moderate-income households. It will help Lawrence Township to meet its obligation to provide its fair share of affordable housing as a result of a lawsuit filed against it – and several other towns – by the nonprofit Fair Share Housing Center.
The initial application called for 70 apartments in a combination of three multi-story apartment buildings and six duplex buildings on a 4.3-acre lot on Texas Avenue. Of the 70 units, one was to be set aside for the onsite building superintendent.
After several meetings on the application in front of the zoning board, RPM Development tweaked the plan and dropped 16 apartments from the 70 apartments originally proposed for the affordable housing development, resulting in a 54-unit development.
The reduction in the number of units – from 70 apartments to 54 apartments – was made in response to comments offered by zoning board members and the public at the board’s March 10 meeting.
The revised plan for 54 rental apartments was reviewed by the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment at its March 17 meeting. The plan eliminated one of the three apartment buildings that contained 12 apartments, and lopped off four apartments on the third floor of another apartment building.
Eliminating the third apartment building, which was the smallest of the three multi-story buildings, resulted in a triangular-shaped open space area. But at least one zoning board member was critical of the plan and said he did not see any re-use of the space where the building had been planned.
The development is basically asphalt, concrete and buildings, zoning board member Peter Kremer said at the March 17 meeting. It is still 54 units on two acres of buildable land, and it has not been reconfigured to improve the livability of the site, he said.
Recreational amenities are limited to a playground an a dog park, and an open space area where the small apartment building had been sited, Kremer told the applicant.
And zoning board member Charles Lavine was critical of the decision to build the development at the rear of the Lawrence Shopping Center, overlooking the loading docks for the stores.
After three hours’ of testimony at the March 17 meeting, zoning board chairman Christina Hultholm suggested that RPM Development LLC “take a step back” and reconsider its site plan. The board and the applicant agreed to continue the public hearing to April 28.
The application is in front of the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment because RPM Development LLC needs a use variance. Duplex and multi-family housing is not permitted in the Highway Commercial and Residential-4 zones. Most of the parcel is zoned Highway Commercial, and a sliver of it is zoned R-4.
A variance is needed because the density of the development – 17.9 units per acre – exceeds the maximum density of 10 units per acre in the R-4 zone. The revised plan had a density of 12.6 units per acre.