As Oakland grapples with housing demand, the recent Planning Board meeting saw intense discussions about the final major site plan approval of a pivotal residential development. Led by North Jersey Acquisitions LLC, this project will serve to alleviate critical housing pressures, but concerns about safety, infrastructure, and environmental considerations dominated the conversation.
Located on a 38.88-acre property on McCoy Road, this project stems from a court-approved settlement related to the borough’s affordable housing plan. The adoption of a zoning ordinance, R-82, has paved the way for up to 200 residential units, with 40 earmarked as affordable housing units. As Oakland gears up to support this endeavor with infrastructural advancements, such as water and sewer services extensions from neighboring Franklin Lakes, the primary question has become the project’s completeness in these areas.
The proposal’s sewer hookup caused a major stir. While professionals were torn over its implications on the application’s completeness, the Department of Environmental Protection’s recent approval of the wastewater management plan on August 7th provided some clarity.
Veolia, the water supply company chosen for the project, commits to independently oversee the facilities. Assurances were provided to separate this new endeavor from Oakland’s existing water system, alleviating some public concerns.
But safety remains paramount. The project’s dual boulevard design raised eyebrows, with questions about its ability to ensure resident safety, especially during emergencies. While concerns about obstructions, like locked gates or fallen trees, were voiced, the broader discussion underscores the importance of adapting old standards to new realities.
Equally concerning for the board was the absence of elevators in the three-story building proposed within the development. However, assurances were provided about the ground floor units being ADA-accessible.
Fire safety became another focal point. The distinction between sprinkler installations in affordable units versus market rate units drew criticism. While representatives stressed sticking to the uniform construction code, many advocate for a higher safety standard across the board.
Public concerns also centered on construction noise disruptions to a neighboring school and the challenges posed by construction traffic. As Joe Ryan, a resident, highlighted, the sheer logistics of transporting vast volumes of dirt presents considerable disruptions to the community.
Despite these challenges, the potential of this development to address Oakland’s pressing housing needs was not understated. While debates are intense and diverse, the community’s engagement underscores a collective desire to find the best solution.