Land Use Board Grants Reconsideration for Controversial Development Project

In a recent virtual gathering of the River Edge Land Use Board, a contentious development project that had initially been denied was granted a fresh consideration after much debate. The decision marked a significant turning point in what has been a protracted discussion about the project’s compliance with local zoning ordinances.

The contentious issue was an application from Dark Star Development LLC, requesting a reconsideration for a proposed project at 335 Johnson Avenue. Dark Star’s counsel, Mr. Sarlo, submitted the request on the grounds that the board had made errors in fact and law during their initial review, specifically regarding the proposed building’s height and the condition of repaving Johnson Avenue.

During the initial review, the proposed development’s height had been a contentious point. The project required a building height of 35 feet, but the developers had sought permission for a height of 52 feet which included the height of a parapet. Sarlo argued that the actual building height, not counting the parapet and rooftop structures (as per town ordinance), was only 45.25 feet. This detail could have led to a misunderstanding among board members about the actual variance being sought.

The matter of repaving Johnson Avenue was another focal point of the debate. Sarlo argued that the refusal to repave the avenue should not have been a reason for denying the site plan, citing a precedent case with Dunkin Donuts. He further argued that the board could only require the developer to pay a proportionate share of that cost, framing the repaving as an off-track improvement.

Despite these arguments, one board member expressed doubt about whether the application had been considered on its merits, or if confusion about the variance had skewed the board’s initial judgment.

Supporting Sarlo’s request for reconsideration, Mr. Feffer said, “I think that there was enough confusion about this height issue…I think we need to give it another look and have everybody weigh in given this clarification of the information, so I would support reconsideration.”

While the board members clarified that the meeting was to decide on the reconsideration request rather than discussing the project’s merits, they did voice concerns about the developer’s claims. There were questions about whether issues around parking, setbacks, and landscaping were indeed considered in the initial decision.

The board’s discussion concluded with a motion to grant Sarlo’s request for reconsideration, which passed by a vote of 4 to 2. The board will include Sarlo in the agenda for their meeting on July 26th and requested the submission of any relevant documents beforehand. This decision signals a renewed chance for Dark Star Development to present their case and potentially rectify the contested issues that led to the initial denial.

In the same meeting, the Board also unanimously approved a resolution granting site plan approval and a food handler’s license for Chrisley’s Candle Candies LLC, located at 812 Kinderkamack Road.

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