have said the hearings will give residents an opportunity to provide input as planning officials tweak the draft. Grassroots group Citizens for a Better Ridgewood already outlined some preliminary concerns in a letter to the planning board this week.
Specific requirements for new zones that include the sites where four applicants have proposed multifamily residential developments were not discussed in detail Tuesday night. But 43 units per acre and a height range of 45-55 feet were characteristics floated in discussions between board members and planner Blais Brancheau as he began work on the draft last month.
CBR's letter highlighted concerns with the density of the proposal, which rises far above the 12 unit per acre limit of current downtown zoning.
The extent to which officials will be able to tweak the density if they move forward remains unclear, however. Brancheau has said that high density may be required to meet the village’s affordable housing obligations to the state.
CBR’s attorney, John Lamb, previously represented Concerned Residents of Ridgewood, a group opposing the Valley Hospital expansion, in a lawsuit of the board and hospital three years ago.
In addition to questioning previous testimony on the traffic and school impact of the proposed developments in his letter on behalf of CBR, Lamb criticized the process through which property owners are permitted by ordinance to apply for master plan amendments to rezone based on proposals for individual sites, a critique that has also been made in hearings on the Valley expansion.
“If housing development is left unrestrained, Ridgewood will be left with a housing density similar to some of the more urban cities in Bergen County, like Fort Lee, Hackensack and Englewood, and with it will come the accompanying problems of overcrowding and congestion,” Lamb wrote.
According to a survey conducted by CBR, the density of the proposed housing reaches a level of intensity seen only in ten of the county’s 72 municipalities.
One of the applicants sprung quickly to the defense Tuesday, issuing its own written response to the CBR submission.
The developer proposing the Enclave, which would be constructed on Maple Avenue, wrote that CBR was being “intellectually dishonest or reckless in its characterizations of the impact of the proposed developments.” The statement said officials should dismiss the group’s letter, characterizing it as an attempt to “politicize” the planning process with “innuendo, misinformation and tactics intended to create hysteria.”
It argued that the group’s comparisons of density between towns was largely meaningless, because it did not account for the total number of added residential units. In other municipalities, the developer’s response stated, the higher density zones represent larger areas of construction than those proposed in Ridgewood.
The written response also asserted that testimony already introduced has been based on standard accepted models, and that CBR has no grounds to dispute the expert findings.
Still, experts are likely to come before the board again to repeat testimony during public hearing, Gail Price, the board's attorney, and Tom Wells, the attorney representing developers behind both the Dayton and Chestnut Village, suggested Tuesday night.
Amy Bourque, the president of CBR, said that the group was waiting to review details of the draft amendment before making a decision on how it will proceed during the process, such as cross-examining witnesses or providing their own experts.“We hired legal counsel in early spring because we felt it was necessary to have legal advice on land use issues, as none of us are experts and don’t pretend to be,” she said.
Some of the proposed developments have been before the board for more than two years, and officials have expressed an eagerness to move forward with reopen it to public discussion. The process has been slowed somewhat by regular hearings on the proposed Valley Hospital expansion.
On Tuesday night an introductory hearing was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5, with testimony to begin Dec. 3.