East Broad Street project receives final approval from Hopewell Borough Planning Board

ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

The Hopewell Borough Planning Board has approved the proposed 71 E. Broad St. commercial and residential project after application delays, pushback from business owners and residents, and revisions to the site plan.

The planning board approved the preliminary and final site plan for the project located at 71 E. Broad St. at a virtual meeting on June 2.

Board Chair Peter Macholdt, and board members Jackie Perri, Shelby Tewell, Lou Young, Marylou Ferrara vote “yes” to approve the application.

Board members Robert Donaldson and Brad Lyon were the dissenting “no” votes.

The project originally had been planned to include location space for two restaurants inside the former automobile service station building of Castoro & Company Inc. The plan to include those spaces would later be revised and would no longer convert building space for that use, instead the applicant would convert building space for the two-story structure into apartments, retail and professional spaces.

“What we have done is continue to modify the project before you and be responsive to what the site demands, and certainly some of the comments we have heard from the neighbors and other interested parties,” said Gary Forshner, attorney representing the applicant. “We have modified the mix of uses at this point in time, as well as eliminated the outdoor seating. Both the rooftop seating and the at-grade seating that had been originally proposed.”

The applicant is proposing four residential units on the second floor of the two-story structure and the first floor will be all commercial. The first floor includes two retail and professional spaces, one professional space and a garage space.

“We are still proposing the same first floor area. In the same garage, we still have the six garage parking spaces,” said Mike Gallagher, project manager. “We are still proposing the same small addition at the front of the building along East Broad Street. By and large the layout from what the board has previously seen is unchanged.”

The applicant is still planning to demolish a portion of the existing building in renovating the building for its new uses. The total gross floor area for the commercial spaces and apartments is 10,184 square feet.

On the first floor of the revised project the two retail and professional spaces total 3,011 square feet, 1,349 square foot garage, and 400 square feet of professional space.

“The great bulk of this building is the existing footprint of the industrial garage right now. We anticipate at least three tenants on the first floor, because you have 5,500 square feet of usable space there and you have a 2,000 square foot limit per tenant,” said Ralph Finelli, applicant’s architect. “The proposed addition along East Broad Street houses the lobby, so it is the common entrance for the commercial uses on the first floor, as well as the residential uses on the second floor.”

For the four residential apartments on the second floor, two apartment spaces will each be 1,092 square feet and the other two are each would be 975 square feet, according to application documents.

“Each of these units are two bedrooms, open plan for kitchen, dining and living,” Finelli said.

A two-story atrium will remain in the proposed project and the site will have a total of 38 parking spaces to accommodate employee, customer, resident and ADA parking.

The applicant variance approvals included approval for a D-variance for the apartment use, as the borough ordinance limits dwellings to three apartments (applicant proposes four apartments), C-variance for the existing front yard setback along Maple Street, a variance on maximum lot coverage (40% permitted in B/R zone) with the applicant proposing 83%, a bulk variance for providing 9×18 parking spaces with a minimum two-foot overhang, and a parking setback from the property line.

Top issues raised at the four-hour public hearing focused on impervious coverage and a phase two lot by residents and some planning board members regarding the application.

During the hearing, Lyon said a concern for her was the configuration of the project site with so many unknowns and known information about development on Block 31, Lots 1, 2 and 19. The lots are at the intersection of East Broad Street and Maple Street.

“I think a large part of the problem that we are having and that the public is having is in the application itself. This application is for Block 31, lots one, two and 19,” Lyon said. “This application we are discussing actually includes Lot 19, so it seems to me that we should either have an application for Block 31, lot one alone, where the developers can use the all the space they have there or that we get a development application for lots one, two, and 19 in which case we would have to see the whole plan as we would in a redevelopment application. It is too confusing.”

Forshner responded by saying that lot 19 did not have to part of the application in any form.

“When we came before you, we included the three lots because that is ultimately what is expected to be developed,” he said. “Lot 19 is going to be segregated from the balance of this property and can be a totally separate application for the future depending on what ends up being proposed there. Lots one and two are only being merged because the board requested that we consider a merge the lots. That is something that was request of us that we said we would be willing to do.”

The planning board’s approval of the commercial retail and apartment project is phase one of what is anticipated to be a two phased approach in developing lots along East Broad Street, next to the project at 71 East Broad St. Currently, there is no phase two and there is not an application for a phase two project before the board.