goleader.com - Union County, NJ Newspapers 97sep11

scotch plains nj

Scotch Plains Council Reviews Proposal To Build Senior Citizen Housing Complex

By JEANNE WHITNEY Specially Written for The Times

While the Scotch Plains Township Council considered Tuesday whether to designate 11.7 acres of property for redevelopment under the state’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, a handful of area residents raised objections to a proposal for senior citizen housing at the site.

The council said it would hold off on a vote for the possible rezoning of the property, located just off Jerusalem Road at Broadway near the Westfield border, until its next regular meeting on Tuesday, September 23.

Nearly two-thirds of the collection of 24 lots making up the proposed redevelopment site is owned by the township, while the remainder is owned by private investors known as Broadway Associates, of which Westfield attorney James B. Flynn is a principle partner.

Broadway Associates has indicated an interest in buying the property from the township. A year ago, estimates put the value of the township property in excess of $1 million.

According to professional planner Susan C. Kimball, the collection of vacant or abandoned lots meets standards for redevelopment under state law in that the sites have been vacant more than 10 years and contain dilapidated structures.

Furthermore, the site, on the whole, has a "unique topography" with "poor or remote access" that makes it unlikely it would be privately developed, she said. Ms. Kimball added that redevelopment of the site is consistent with the township’s Master Plan.

According to officials, the township Planning Board began looking at the area for redevelopment zoning in 1994. Since the mid-1980s, the area has been zoned for low-to-moderate income housing following the Mount Laurel court decision, according to council members.

Several residents of nearby Johnson Street and Waverly and Emil Places rejected the notion of any development of neighboring properties. Mr. Flynn responded that the site plan for redevelopment showed no structures closer than 100 feet to any property line.

A 250-unit complex with underground parking is proposed for the partially wooded and hilly site. One hundred and sixty-five of those units would be for seniors’ "assisted living," according to Mr. Flynn, while the remainder would be primarily one-bedroom apartments.

A separate medical facility and seniors’ day care center may be at the site as well, he said. He was not able to provide estimated costs for the units.

Mr. Flynn said building coverage of the nearly 12 acres would be between 14 and 22 percent. Some proposed buildings are higher than two stories and the main entrance to the complex would be from the Madison Avenue side, he said.

Other residents claimed increased traffic and storm water runoff would be a problem with development of the lots. Resident Sally Rowland called the site "a swamp."

Mayor Irene T. Schmidt said these issues would be "addressed in depth" throughout the planning process.

Councilman William F. McClintock, Jr. pointed out that he had never seen a project like this go through the township approval process without changes.

Councilman Martin Marks assured residents that the proposed senior citizen complex was not a done deal.

"This (proposed rezoning) just starts the process of looking into the project. However, all the residents of Scotch Plains own this property, and it may not be fair to leave empty, blighted lots in the township," he said.

One area resident asked why upscale houses couldn’t be built on the sites instead of the proposed senior citizen complex.

Councilman Robert E. Johnston responded, "It hasn’t happened in 25 years. No one came forward to buy the lots."

Mr. Flynn cited "demographics" that indicated a need for senior citizen housing in Scotch Plains.

"There is definitely a need for this type of facility in Union County," he added. "My group is ready to go forward with the project. I think it’ll be good for the township and the neighborhood."

On a separate matter, the council said it was considering purchasing the 6.5-acre site of the former Scotch Plains Zoo on Raritan Road for the township and turning it into a park.

Councilman McClintock said an historical - perhaps Revolutionary War era -building was located on the site.

The council passed a resolution to hire a Somerville firm for $1,750 to appraise the value of the zoo lot. Mr. McClintock noted that the township would benefit from a park in that area.

In other business, the council agreed to designate 14 parking spaces in the area around the Southside fire house for "emergency personnel" only. Police Chief Thomas O’Brien endorsed the measure as well, according to officials.

The council agreed to requirements for contractors hired to do restoration work on the historic Osborn Cannonball House at the Village Green. The township will replace the leaky roof and repair other parts of the museum.

The township will not take bids for repairs on the pre-Revolutionary War house because of the specialized nature of the work, officials said.

The council did approve a bid of $89,261 for a new front end loader truck from Jesco Inc., of South Plainfield. The township originally estimated it would need to spend $120,000 for the vehicle.

The council also approved a bid for $17,012 for a Katolight portable emergency generator from Emergency Systems Service Co., Inc., of Quakertown, Pennsylvania. The generator will be used at the township sewer pumping stations while system upgrading work is being done over the year.

The council okayed Scapeabilities, a Scotch Plains landscaping company, to dress up a water detention basin in the Shirewood subdivision. The $720,000 cost will be split between the township and Shirewood residents.

Councilman Johnston said it appears the site was left unfinished by subdivision developers.

The township recognized 12-year-old Stephanie Green for her key role in the Central Jersey Hawks national basketball championship. The Terrill Middle School seventh grader said her team had a perfect 17-0 record for wins, beating Oklahoma and Los Angeles for the title at recent playoffs in Minnesota.

The Scotch Plains Junior Woman’s Club was recognized by the council for 50 years of good works and membership in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Copyright 1997
TheWestfield Leader
Send your comments to:
Revised: September 14, 1997.