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Fanwood Planning Board Approves Home Businesses; Discusses Master Plan

By SUZETTE STALKER Specially Written for The Times

Only one of two scheduled applications was heard July 23 during an hour-long meeting of the Fanwood Planning Board, after Chairman Gregory S. Cummings announced at the outset that the second appeal had been postponed until the board’s next meeting on Wednesday, August 27. The major part of last week’s meeting dealt with the borough’s Master Plan, as well as a proposed merger of the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment.

Kathleen Daniele of La Grande Avenue received the board’s approval for conditional use of her home for a cruise travel business. Although she is affiliated with a travel agency, Mrs. Daniele said this would be a separate venture. She reported that 80 percent of her business would be done over the telephone and the remainder by mail, adding that there would be no need for clients to come to her home. Mrs. Daniele also stated that there would be no need for a business sign on her property.

The board postponed a public hearing on an application by Ernest Fantini of Edison for an amended subdivision and site plan to develop a piece of property which he owns on Fifth Avenue. The applicant, who board representatives said had not completed his obligation to notify neighbors of the appeal in time for last week’s meeting, lost an earlier bid in April to develop an adjacent lot.

Mr. Fantini was granted a subdivision in 1985 which would have allowed him to build two homes. He recently sought to alter the agreement, however, by increasing the total lot coverage and frontage for a new home, and by proposing to construct a new driveway to open onto Fifth Street rather than onto La Grande Avenue, as was stipulated in the original plan. The board cited safety concerns regarding the driveway among its reasons for denying Mr. Fantini his previous appeal.

During a separate discussion concerning revisions to the Master Plan, Edward Sargent, a member of both the Planning Board and the Fanwood Volunteer Rescue Squad, urged that the updated plan include a provision addressing the impact certain future large-scale development projects could have on the ability of the Rescue Squad and the Fanwood Volunteer Fire Department to respond to emergency situations.

Mr. Sargent cited as examples the Chelsea at Fanwood, an assisted living facility on the former site of the Mansion Hotel, and Children’s Specialized Hospital, both on South Avenue. He explained that these facilities comprise multiple individual units occupied by handicapped or elderly individuals, making transportation or evacuation procedures particularly difficult.

The board member noted the assisted living facility also has created an increase in the number of calls to the rescue squad, at the same time that the squad is having difficulty covering all its shifts. Another problem, he observed, is that some members of the squad are older people themselves and that transporting a large person down from one of the Chelsea’s upper floors could cause an additional strain.

Board members subsequently discussed Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly’s recommendation that the Planning Board and Board of Adjustment be combined. Under the new format, the Board of Adjustment would be phased out and the Planning Board would assume the duties and responsibilities of the former. The Mayor, who also serves on the Planning Board, nevertheless conceded that it is a topic "which will have to be discussed at greater length" before any action is taken.

Mayor Connelly explained that there are often not enough volunteers for a quorum on both boards, and that merging the two would also reduce the costs associated with maintaining the dual boards. Board Secretary Ruth Page confirmed that the number of applications heard by the Planning Board has dwindled over the past five years.

Councilwoman Karen M. Schurtz, who also sits on the Planning Board, said she has discussed the proposal with Mayor Michael Tripodi of Kenilworth, which combined its own Planning and Zoning Boards. She is also researching the matter through New Jersey Planning Officials, an organization of which Fanwood is a member. Mrs. Schurtz said "it may not be necessary" to increase the number of meetings to accommodate the new system.

Board attorney Robert Mega, however, said that when the same arrangement was tried in Clark, it created "a haphazard time for the secretary" because public hearings were being held during agenda sessions in order to compensate for the absence of a second board. He remarked that the township, which he described as being similar to Fanwood in terms of its appeals caseload, eventually reverted to its former system of separate boards.

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TheWestfield Leader.
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10/25/97.

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