Hearings Begin for 75 New Apartments on South Avenue

For The Leader/Times

CRANFORD – The zoning board of adjustment met on Monday night to review the application ZBA-20-003 from Cranford Harrison Developers LLC to build new luxury apartments at 24 South Avenue West.

Project manager Alex Pavlovsky called the project “transformational” and said they have been working on it for more than a year. “It will create over 200 construction jobs, much-needed housing opportunities for new residents,” as well as “adding over $300,000 annual new property taxes and the cleaning of the contamination,” he said. Mr. Pavlovsky said he believes the only negative impact would be regarding “the parking and the traffic.”

The building, in operation since 1937, is a large, underutilized industrial structure on the main street in the township, close to the train station, that has “serious environmental contamination issues,” in the words of Mr. Pavlovsky.

The project aims to demolish the existing building and construct a mixed-use building featuring apartments with ground-floor retail space. It would include 75 residential units, comprising of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The total cost will be approximately $20 million with $3 million going toward the environmental cleaning, according to Mr. Pavlovsky.

Vice chair Ronald Marotta asked about the exact location of the contamination. Mr. Pavlovsky explained that, as a result of the site’s industrial use over the years, the contamination currently is in the soil and possibly in the groundwater.

“There is also some potential migration outside,” Mr. Pavlovsky said. “And that’s why we need to execute the redevelopment and perform the irradiation to avoid it immigrating too far.”
Following this answer, Mr. Marotta expressed concern about the non-required cleaning of the site agreement that Cranford Harrison Developers LLC had with the prior operator before transferring the property title. Mr. Pavlovsky said “the last owner wasn’t in a position to do it” and that they decided “to take the responsibility of it.”

Rob Gascoigne, the environmental engineering consultant, explained that the chemicals involved in the contamination are TCE and PCE, which are halocarbons commonly used as industrial solvents. Mr. Gascoigne noted that they need to start cleaning as soon as possible to avoid spreading the toxins. When it comes to protecting the residential zone close to the building, Mr. Gascoigne said that the residents close to it “have been evaluated” and “they will be evaluated again” to proceed safely.

After the board communicated its concern regarding spread of the contamination, zoning board attorney Mark Rothman expressed the possibility of using the board’s own environmental experts to follow the cleaning process.

The applicant has requested several variances regarding use, density, building height, the front yard setback and parking requirement.

Brian Murphy, project engineer and planner, presented the variance requesting 76 of the required 142 required parking spots. The project outlines two parking spots for the general public, seven for zipcards and 67 for individual cars.

Mr. Marotta questioned the minimal parking in relation to the number of potential occupants. Mr. Pavlovsky said that “the target renter will be young millennials, who are not dependent on the car.” He also remarked that “one single zipcar takes the place of 13 private cars,” in support of this request.

In the end, the board acknowledged it did not have time to deliver any actions after hearing all the testimony from the company’s witnesses. Thus, Christine Daly, who chairs the board, decided to continue with the application hearing on Monday, April 12.

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