River Edge Land Use Board Addresses Variances and Renovations, Bids Farewell to Veteran Member Jim Arakelian

In a recent meeting, the River Edge Land Use Board tackled a series of property applications concerning variances for lot coverage and the reorganization of the board for the upcoming year. The meeting was particularly notable for the retirement announcement of Jim Arakelian, who has significantly contributed to the town’s development. The board also discussed applications for residential renovations, including projects on Windsor Road and Ler Terrace, which sought variances for lot coverage and accessory building sizes. The meeting saw the swearing-in of new members, the unanimous reappointment of board professionals, and addressed the ongoing issue of over-improving properties with a proposal to reserve a percentage of lot coverage for certain improvements.

Jim Arakelian, a respected and long-standing member of the River Edge Land Use Board, announced his retirement, citing his recent appointment as vice president of the Bergen Board of Realtors and his desire to spend more time with his family, particularly his grandchildren. Arakelian’s colleagues lauded his leadership and mentorship during his tenure on the board. Mayor Thomas R. Papaleo and other members expressed their gratitude for Arakelian’s dedication, with Mayor Papaleo acknowledging Arakelian’s influence as chairperson and his substantial contributions to the community. Arakelian’s departure sparked reflections on the growth and success of the board over the years.

The meeting proceeded with the swearing-in of Mayor Papaleo, Councilman Glass, and Eileen Boland, solidifying their roles on the board. Following this, Chris Caslin was unanimously elected as the new chair of the board for 2024, with Richard Mehrman serving as vice chair and Ryan Gibbons as the board secretary. The board also reappointed their professionals for the year, with Clear, JaCoby Alfer Jacobs LLC continuing as the municipal land use board attorney, Burgess Associates as the board planner, and Costa Engineering Corporation as the board engineer.

Deliberation ensued over several property applications, most notably at Ler Terrace and Windsor Road, where homeowners sought variances for lot coverage and the size of accessory structures. The Ler Terrace application, involving a homeowner and engineer Jeff Hower, presented a scaled-back proposal for backyard improvements, including a hardscape plan seeking three variances. Despite the scaled-back nature, the board debated the proposed increase in lot coverage, which exceeded the town’s threshold, and the size of the planned pergola, questioning whether the improvements were excessive for the property size. The board expressed concerns about the implications of the fence encroaching into the borough right-of-way and potential stormwater management issues.

The Windsor Road application involved a comprehensive renovation plan presented by homeowner Jenny Cetta and architect Michael Capo. The plan included expanding the kitchen, adding a pantry and mudroom, reconfiguring existing stairs, and making exterior improvements. Board members were particularly concerned with ensuring compliance with the borough’s 30-foot height requirement and setback regulations.

Another application that prompted extensive discussion was for a property in the southern part of town, which experienced regular flooding. Mayor Papaleo and Councilman Glass voiced concerns over a proposed 40% lot coverage on an oversized lot, the potential impact of the construction on the neighborhood, and compliance with water management regulations. The board emphasized the importance of making site improvements, such as relocating a fence and addressing stormwater management measures, and the need for the applicant to revise their proposal to address these concerns.

The board also discussed the change in ownership of the Green Papaya restaurant on Kinderkamack Road. The ownership transition itself would not lead to any significant physical changes to the building or interior, but the board raised concerns about the need for dumpster screening, parking space striping, and compliance with ADA requirements. Councilman Glass highlighted the need for building appearance improvements. The board debated whether these recommendations should be mandated or suggested, ultimately deciding to carry the application to the next meeting for further review.

In addition to specific applications, the board addressed the broader issue of over-improving properties. Ryan Gibbons raised concerns about builders excessively developing properties and suggested that the ordinance be amended to reserve a percentage of the improved lot coverage for rear or side improvements. The board agreed to discuss this proposal in future meetings.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Thomas R. Papaleo
Land Use Board Officials:
Councilman Glass, Chris Caslin, Richard Mehrman, Eileen Boland, James Arakelian, Ryan Gibbons, Michael Krey, Bruce Feffer, Colin Busteed, Tom Behrens (Borough Planner), Robert Costa (Engineer), Marina Stinely, Esquire (Land Use Attorney), Ed Alter (Land Use Clerk)

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