After three hours of discussion in the seventh hearing about the Riverbend Complex, the New Providence Planning Board heard all testimony presented by the developer and closed the hearing to prep for a vote on an approval resolution, in what the board considers to be the last step to the finish line of the project 30 years in the making.
On Tuesday night, the board was presented with testimony from the architect and engineer of the 22-unit building complex proposed for Marion Avenue and South Street that showed changes to the plans to satisfy ordinances and variances set forth in previous meetings.
Architect James Monteforte said he adjusted the height of one of the buildings one and a half feet to fulfill the height ordinance set by the borough, but no other adjustments were made.
The full discussion came after the engineering and planning testimony, presented by Tom Murphy, who indicated changes to the original plan that were meant to satisfy the concerns of the neighbors.
But despite the changes, some neighbors were not satisfied with the changes, and demanded — even though they support the project — that adjustments be made.
The biggest complaint came from Jose Carrasco, who owns the property behind the proposed complex. His concern, echoed by his wife, is that headlights from the parking lot adjacent to his property would shine into the home, adding noise and light to a peaceful neighborhood.
Murphy told him that there was a plan to install an 8-foot stone wall, with 3.5 feet visible, that would block the headlights from entering his property. A wall of trees will also be installed, he said, to as act as a shield for noise and exhaust that may come from the parking lot. Murphy also said the project was adjusted to satisfy lighting ordinances so that lights from the parking lot do not spill over onto their yard.
But Carrasco said the plans should be adjusted by moving the entire complex five feet from the original site to give his property room. If the complex moves, it would require another variance, Murphy said.
The spot the complex is slated for now does not require additional variances.
Neighbors also pushed the board for answers about a timeline if the project is approved for construction.
The development, which includes four affordable housing units, was first proposed in 1988, and applications were considered in 1995 and 2003.
Since the original proposal, the five lots in question have been vacant, overgrown and abused, said neighbor Robert Rosa, who questioned if the site is environmentally clean enough to build on.
Board officials said they have received an independent report indicating the site is clean.
There will be a timeline written into the building contract, said board attorney William Robertson, so that the construction will be kept on a schedule.
Robertson will be formulating the resolution, including stipulations of variances indicated by the board including measures suggested to appease Carrasco, which will be presented for a vote on May 8.
Members of the planning board, including Mayor J. Brooke Hern, said he is in favor of the project — though not perfect — and believes that the residents of New Providence can benefit from the complex.
Bartholomew Sheehan Jr., lawyer for the applicant, agreed to cooperate with the board's demands for the project, including working with neighbors to maintain their properties if damaged during the construction phase.
"This is a clean plan," he said. "We've cooperated with the board and eliminated variances where we could, and this project has an inherent benefit for the borough of New Providence."