By JULIA BONAVITACOLA
For Union County HAWK
GARWOOD — The planning board in Garwood unanimously approved the application from South Avenue Urban Renewal September 22 that would allow the applicants to redistribute the number of singles and doubles in the apartment complex at the intersection of South and Willow Avenues. The decision comes two months after the original hearing.
Per the application, the desired effect of this approval will be to make several ground-floor apartments facing South Avenue. It also will alter the unit mix by reducing the number of singles and studios and making them into two-bedroom apartments, which would increase the number of two-bedroom apartments by nine.
Christopher Minks, executive vice president-general counsel of Russo Development, told the board that everyone involved in the application took all of the comments made by the planning board at the last hearing in order to improve upon the site plan that they already had. “One of the things that you’ll recall that we discussed was studying the two-bedroom units we were proposing…to see if we could change some of those units to one bedrooms with den,” he said. “We’ve been able to reduce the bedroom count from 10 new bedrooms to eight new bedrooms.”
Mr. Minks said that this setup might be appealing to people who want a home office space but can not afford a two-bedroom apartment. While featuring an extra room for a den space, they are not two-bedroom compliant and will not allow for permanent two-bedroom use.
Mr. Minks displayed the before-and-after floor layouts that were proposed. The planning board, overall, was positive toward the changes made but proposed a couple more before approval.
Mayor Sara Todisco asked the applicants about the number of parking spots, saying that the planning board “generally like[s] more parking” for private and public use. The applicants assured her that the parking lot site plan was essentially the same as previous meetings, where Mayor Todisco had approved the number of parking spots.
William Nierstedt asked the applicants to work with the post office to inform the post office of the changes of numbering in the apartment complex before the approval of the site plan. The applicants had said that they were already working with the post office for this reason.
Mr. Nierstedt also suggested that the planning board write a letter of support for creating a crosswalk closer to the apartment complex in order to reduce the amount of people crossing the street outside of a crosswalk. A letter of this nature would be directed to the county in order for this crosswalk to be approved. Should the crosswalk be approved, the applicants are willing to install a blinking pedestrian beacon, similar to the ones recently installed around the borough of Garwood.
After comments made by the rest of the planning board, a vote was held to approve or deny the request.
Mayor Todisco thanked the applicants for their thorough report. “I went from one place on this application to another place because of the education you gave me and this board and hopefully the public as well,” she said.
Mr. Nierstedt said, “I think you know I’m not a big fan of this particular apartment complex…but I have to keep saying to myself that it’s part of the overall project; both sides of the street come together to form a transit-oriented development. And I think this does.”
No decision was reached on the Paperboard site, a hearing that also was held on September 22.
All planning board meetings set for the rest of the year will be held virtually instead of at Borough Hall. It is unknown if the Garwood Borough YouTube page will still broadcast the meetings.
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