Developers have scaled back a proposal to remake the Sealfons tract with 52 upscale apartment units and 28,000 square feet of retail, stretching along three fronts of the Ridgewood downtown.
Appearing before the planning board on Jan. 7, John Saraceno's project is included as part of the board's decision to amend the Master Plan, likely creating an overlay zone(s) in the downtown. The board's study also incorporates three other developments – Ridgewood Station, Chestnut Village and The Dayton.
Like the other new development proposals, primary issues include the possible impact of children on the school system, increases in traffic, questions of density and the amount of parking offered.
Running along Maple Avenue from Franklin to East Ridgewood at 49.5 feet, applicant planner Joseph Burgis said they project a total of six public school children living in the development. Total occupancy is projected at 105 residents.
"Projects of this type do not generate a lot of public school attendees," Burgis said, citing studies from the Rutgers Center for Urban Policy. "The numbers seem to be consistent across the board whether we look at that here in Ridgewood or in Summit...and a number of other sites."
Plans would see a partial demolition of the hodge podge of properties running along Maple Ave. The Sealfons building itself – what previously housed Pompanoosuc Mills and the Rugged Bear – would remain. The adjacent building, currently housing Hallmark Flooring, would be removed and new apartments erected in its place.
"The dimension change was too drastic," Burgis said of the original design. "It was too big on Maple Ave. so we stepped the building back [and] it's now four stories on Maple. They're both 4-story structures."
Burgis testified that the proposal complemented the Master Plan objectives by offering multi-family housing. To boot, the residents might spend as much as $350,000 annually in Ridgewood, he added.
Parking is likely to be an issue that continues throughout the hearings. The current use holds 76 spots, although ordinance requires 182. What's proposed doesn't address the shortfall entirely.
Burgis said a total of 133 spots would be offered up, 56 for residents of the Enclave.
Vehicular traffic along the three frontages is among the worst in Ridgewood. It remains to be seen how a proposal of the scale will impact transit times. Entrances/exits would be along both Maple Avenue and Franklin Avenue. Because both are county roads, the county will also need to sign off on the development.
Burgis testified that nearly 20 percent of Ridgewood residents commute via public transportation, pointing out that the development is 2,000 feet from the train station and 1,300 feet from the bus stop. That should limit traffic, he said.
Density of the building is currently slated at 132 percent in floor-to-area ratio (FAR). It remains above the level stated in the ordinance but is below some neighboring properties, Burgis told the board.
In a perfect world, the one-story Brake-O-Rama on Franklin and Maple would have been included in the development for uniformity's sake, Saraceno, the developer, said. But the owner refused to sell.
"Today he operates a business, in the future he's probably a landlord."
The planning board could vote on amending the Master Plan in as little as a month. Should overlay zones be created, an ordinance would kick up to the council for consideration. If the council says yes, the developments would need to return to the planning board for site plan approval.