ZONING/PLANNING BOARD HEARINGS
750 WALNUT AVENUE/HARTZ MOUNTAIN
CRANFORD POP. COULD RISE 8 PERCENT WITH PROPOSED APTS.
By CHRISTINA M. HINKE
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
CRANFORD — Hartz Mountain Industries proposes to increase the township’s population by 8 percent, according to its application to build 905 apartments at 750 Walnut Avenue.
Originally scheduled to be heard by the planning board June 7, Hartz Mountain has requested to move its hearing to Wednesday, July 5. Hartz Mountain wants to rezone the commercial property to build the apartments, along with two swimming pools with two clubhouses. Deputy Mayor Patrick Giblin told The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times, “I suspect it [the application] will take several meetings.”
The Leader/Times filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, and subsequently reviewed the traffic study, architectural plans and site plans for the property. Photos of those can be found at http://www.goleader.com/ news/
Hartz Mountain is proposing a two-phase build out of the property, with five apartment buildings in total, with phase 1 being built by 2019 and phase 2 by 2021. The triangular shaped property abuts the Hyatt Hills Golf Complex to the west, the NJ Transit rail to the north, and comes to a point at Raritan Road to the south, and fronts Walnut Avenue on the east.
Two of the five apartment buildings would be four stories, measuring 54 feet, eight inches high, while three of the buildings would be five stories, consisting of four floors of apartments over a surface-level garage, measuring 66 feet, eight inches high.
In addition to the apartment buildings, the site would include two pools, two clubhouses, parking, new driveways and a new traffic light at Walnut and Behnert Place.
The plan estimates the 905 units would add 1,846 people to the population, increasing the population by 8 percent. As per the 2010 United States Census, the township’s population was 22,625, according to Wikipedia. Since the 2010 U.S. Census, some additional 600 units have either come on board or are proposed: Riverfront at Cranford Station, Woodmont Station, the proposed Birchwood Avenue development, and a development on Walnut Avenue off of South Avenue and another on Centennial Avenue approved this year.
The proposed plan would allocate 15 percent of the 905 units for affordable housing. Market-rate units would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, and affordable-housing units would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Of the market-rate units, 380 would be one-bedroom and 386 would be two-bedroom. Of the affordable-housing units, 28 would be one-bedroom, 82 would be two-bedroom, and 29 would be three-bedroom. The two clubhouses would measure 8,200 and 5,500 square feet. Parking would include 1,723 spaces within two garages as well as surface parking.
The traffic study by Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. says the redevelopment “will not significantly alter surrounding area traffic operations.”
Hartz Mountain also is seeking to make the 30.5-acre parcel an area in need of redevelopment, which could allow for tax breaks to the developer. Hartz Mountain cites that it meets two criteria for such a designation.
Since Bank of America has vacated the premises, and LabCorps intends to close its lab facilities there, Hartz suggests that retrofitting a lab for another use would be costly for a new tenant, and the office building once occupied by Bank of America is out of date, has an odd, outdated layout, and is not located centrally to walkable mixed use locations and transit preferred today for office space.
Originally, Hartz Mountain had attempted to rezone Hyatt Hills, but Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso said Clark would only use that property for recreation use, as it is currently zoned, Mayor Bonaccorso stated in his affordable-housing presentation on March 29.
750 Walnut Avenue is currently owned by H-Cranford Conduit LTD Partnership, which purchased it in 1996, and pays over $1 million in property taxes on the site. State Population Increase records show that H-Cranford Conduit’s Principal is H-Cranford II, Inc. H-Cranford II’s state filings show that Vincent Rubino, Frank Roscitt and Phillip Patton are the listed Principals. Another registered corporation, H-Cranford Limited Partnership, shows Hartz Mountain Industries, Inc. and H-Cranford, Inc. as its Principals. Hartz Mountain Industries is registered with the State of New Jersey as a Foreign Profit Corporation and lists President Gus Milano along with Vice Presidents Frank Roscitt and Curtis Schwartz as Principals. All five related companies registered with the state are deliverable to Phillip Patton, Esq. at the same address in Seacaucus. Hartz Mountain Industries is also listed with the associated name Meadowlands Mall at Seacaucus.