Bloomfield Avenue Development Project Denied by Zoning Board
Residents cheer after unanimous vote defeats application after 9 months of hearings.
After months of meetings, testimony, discussion and study, the Verona Zoning Board unanimously voted to deny a controversial Bloomfield Avenue mixed retail and residential development after a 4½-hour meeting Thursday night.
Zoning Board Chairman John Denton told the board there was “no justification to grant a mixed-use variance.”
The proposed development, brought forth by Sparta-based developer DMH2 LLC, would have housed one floor of retail stores with two floors of residential apartments.
A recently passed Verona Township Council ordinance required any mixed-use development be evenly divided between commercial and residential units.
Since the developer’s application called for a building which was split 30 percent retail and 70 percent residential, the DMH2 LLC sought a variance from the board.
The developer's attorney, Alan Trembulak, and John Dusinberre, the attorney for the opposition could not agree on the number of variances the proposed development would need. Ultimately the mixed-use variance alone was enough to stop the application from receiving approval.
Denton said the board must weigh the negative criteria and ask themselves if the application could be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and not impair the intent and purposes of the zone plan.
“If you grant the deviation it results in a larger project which exacerbates the ordinances that are needed,” said Denton.
The board also discussed whether the development would be appropriate for the area.
In response to resident’s claims the project didn't fit in their residential area, Trembulak said you have to look to the front on Bloomfield Avenue and not to the houses in the back as to what is appropriate.
“Across the street you have the DeCozen car dealership, the firehouse, car wash, Annin flag, which is a five story commercial, industrial building,” he said. “This is the neighborhood we are proposing to put a new modern three-story mixed-use building.”
The board agreed with Trembulak about the nature of the surrounding businesses in the area, but also said approval of the application was not consistent with the area to have a building that is two-thirds residential in an area that is zoned to be commercial.
“There has to be some justification for the deviation and the only one that is given is that it’s more residential, but that flies in the face of the planners when they adopted the zone plan,” said Denton.
The board then voted to reject the application. In the end, board member Michael Zichelli, who seemed to be in favor of the application throughout most of the hearings, stood with the majority and voted against the application.
Applause and cheers rang out from the 40 or so members of the public in attendance when the board announced the decision.
“I am so happy it is resolved with a positive outcome,” said resident Lars Sternas, who opposed the project.
Mary Purcell, whose property is just two feet from the proposed property and had previously come before the board to testify against the application, said she was overwhelmed and relieved when they reached their decision.
“I am so happy to be part of this community,” said neighbor Kim Schafer. “People from all around town really look out for each other.”
Zoning Board Attorney Robert Gaccione said the applicant now has the ability to revise and resubmit an application or appeal to the Essex County Superior Court.
After the meeting Trembulak said he would “consider all our options.”
The board will vote on a resolution to officially deny the application at the next regularly scheduled meeting.