Important Zoning Board meeting – Recap

10/18/06 Update:

Tonight the Hoboken Zoning Board heard the developers case to build on land the Hoboken Master Plan has designated as park property; The small triangle of land directly across the street from SkyClub.

Thanks in large part to the cross examination of the developers experts by a lawyer hired by the Southwest Park Coalition the developers facing certain defeat whitdrew their request for huge zoning variances. BURN!

The game may not be over but the people won this round!

9/20/06:
Read the update and recap HERE, or click below the photo.

9/19/06:
From our friends at the Southwest Parks Coalition, they are inviting whomever can attend to tonights Zoning Board meeting regarding the Southwest Redevelopment project. If you can show up for an hour or so, it would be VERY helpful to support the cause. The more people that stand up to the overdevelopment of our town (which in turn just contributes to the flooding, power, and other infrastructure problems), the better.

From their website: http://www.hobokenspc.org/

WHEN
Tuesday September 19, 2006 @ 7.00 PM

WHERE
City Hall Basement Conference Room, 94 Washington ST

WHAT
Block 11 is the large triangle block directly across the street from Sky Club and Harrison Ct.

In the Master Plan this block has been identified as park land. The City Council has already agreed to study this property for potential park space.

But if the variance is granted for a developer, we lose that land.

WHY ATTEND
You don’t have to speak at the meeting, your presence makes a statement in favor of parks.

spc-park2.jpg

Recap

I could be off on some of my facts and data, so please feel free to chime in. This is just my take as I know it, and I’ll offer up some opinions and some of the potential issues at hand. This was my first Zoning Board Meeting.

The meeting is held in the basement of City Hall, right across from the violations windows. It began with a full house, plus standees outside the door.

The meeting room was unprofessional and unkempt. They had cardboard boxes filled with new Hon office furniture filling the room (is that even a wise allocation of taxpayer money? Aren’t there cheaper alternatives? But that’s another story). It made for difficult navigation as well as presentation. Of course, the public had mismatched and uncomfortable hand-me-down chairs from some 60’s classroom.

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The main issue tonight was a zoning hearing for a property on 100-108 Paterson Road, which is the triangle in between Harrison St. and Marshall Drive directly across the street from The Sky Club. It’s where the current Indian Taxi HQ is along with the Triangle Car Wash. I didn’t catch whether they had the entire triangle, or just a large portion of it. Can someone confirm?

Mr. Spector, the lawyer for the developer (not even sure who the developer was) brought up two witnesses. The Architect (name escapes me), who described to the board the design and layout of the structure, and answered questions about curb cuts, parking spot layout and why the developer chose the configuration of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units. Additionally, he spoke about how the six-story design, with the recessed top floor would not bother residents or appear unsightly (since this area is currently zoned for no more than 4 stories), etc. He brought a display of the CAD rendering of the building. He claimed it met the historic requirements by its unique design. They also asked about the safety issues with the garages and associated parking warning light. Other questions regarding traffic volume and how Paterson Road is one of the outlets in and out of Hoboken were touched upon. Several experts (such as their traffic analyst) were not present.

He also brought up his urban planner, Ms. Gregory, who discussed what C and D variances they’d need in order to build a “profitable” housing unit, since they wanted to override current zoning regulations such as a required yard, depth from curb, and percentage of lot fill. They wanted to develop the property up to 96% of the lot size, but zoning laws currently only allow 60 or 65%. She indicated it wouldn’t be worthwhile to follow those laws since the building would essentially be useless. She also compared the Skyclub and Harrison Court unit density per acre compared to their proposal, saying it was “less dense”, and it’s design would not be out of place in that area. She had a display board with various photos taken from the surrounding area.

Because the hot button topic was City Zoning in relation to the Southwest Development Project, Ms. Gregory also had some other interesting statements along the way. For instance, one iteration of the proposed park plans calls for the re-structuring and removal of Paterson Road completely, to make room for the park(s). She said, and I paraphrase: “It’s unlikely that the removal of Paterson Road will ever happen”. When asked why, she replied “common sense”. Additonally, she cited all the variances and just the ability to build residential buildings on that lot because “The Southwest Redevelopment Plan in just a concept. Not yet policy”. Another thing of note she said was when questioned about traffic and safety about the proposed building. She responded “Would having a park there change any of the traffic concerns?”. Again this was all paraphrased and may not be verbatim to what she said.

Questions from the public were allowed after each “witness”.

Michael Rubin, the lawyer representing several members of the SPC (Southwest Parks Coalition), came up and got into a feverish questioning session with Ms. Gregory. Much of his questioning revolved around challenging why this development needed to be six stories, and whether they could build a four story building. As the developer’s team had mentioned earlier, it would not be a profitable endeavor for them, and if the variances are not granted, they’d have a tough time designing it, let alone building it. He also cited Resolution 06-492, which the City Council passed in June or July, which called for a complete re-analysis of the SW development project and that Hoboken is in desperate need for more parks. At this time, the session took a break while the developer’s took time to read and plan a defense for this Resolution they were unaware of.

Other members of the public came up and posed various questions such as the added volume to traffic (which got disregarded because they said 16 units would not cause significant impact), added parking woes (which they said wouldn’t be impacted because the proposed indoor spots exceeded city requirements. I disagree, what happens when those tenants have visitors?), plus flooding and sewage came up more than once, indicating that if retaining walls are built for this location, it will just force the flood water elsewhere. Apparently these were moot questions, since the board indicated that someone from the sewer authority OK’d it.

Hoboken411’s take:

I’m not an expert at these city ordinances, or what is the latest and greatest plan or concept for the southwest area of town. I’ve seen one from the Master Plan, and another recently from the SPC. Not sure if the removal of Paterson Road is still an open option.

But being a newcomer to this, it allowed me see the whole thing with a (somewhat) clear mind.

Here’s what I do know.

  1. There is The Hoboken Master Plan which outlines requirements, shows maps and the necessity for parks in the SW area of town.
  2. The City Ordinance was passed reinforcing this need, and to give time to the planner/analyst to re-evaluate the Master Plan and come up with new or updated proposals, specifically including the lot in question today

My question is, why is this Zoning Board meeting even happening for this lot? Shouldn’t ALL requests to build, modify or develop in the SW part of town be HALTED until a formal decision is made?

Or is this just a delay tactic for the priviledged members of Hoboken to let these loopholes in the government process continue so their property values in that area will increase?

Because this particular lot is actually in the proposed park area, that would just decrease the potential amount of land to build the park. And knowing Hoboken, if this variance gets approved, that just paves the way for more variances, sets precedences, and would throw the whole plan out of whack.

I don’t know. Maybe Ms. Gregory was on to something when she indicated that it’s “unlikely” that this park plan will ever happen. Hey, this is Hoboken, how often do these things really come true? Maybe this is just a waste of all of our time, and they should just build build build until Hoboken sinks into the Hudson.

Here’s some photo analysis of the site.

For starters, click the thumbnail of the SW Master Plan map to see a bigger image and know what we’re talking about here:
swmasterplanconceptmap.jpg

Here is the section in question enlarged and rotated for detail. The highlighted area is the lot in question. Notice how it’s where a proposed park is supposed to be:
swmasterplanconceptmap-hightlighted.jpg

Lastly, here’s a aerial view from Google Earth:

swgoogleearth.jpg

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7 Comments on "Important Zoning Board meeting – Recap"


whewwhewwhew
Member
10 years 6 days ago

HON Office furniture for these people? Are they kidding. What happened to Staples?
It would be sickening to see where all the money actually goes. 411 you must get a detailed Budget and highlight this for 2007.
The master plan is worth the paper it is written on. They spend all that money to draft the plan, and it has time and time again been ignored. Why not just level Hoboken and make one giant 50,000 Unit, Square Mile highrise. If we are going to get screwed we might as well all be under the same roof.

westy
Member
10 years 6 days ago

Lots of people packed the room last night.
I was disapointed that no elected officials attended the meeting.

Mr.Campos the councilperson from that area and
Mayor Roberts keep making all kinds of promises about parks but they never seem to lead to anything getting done.

westy
Member
10 years 7 days ago

I think that it is a proposal not an exact plan. It is much better than what the city or anyone else has proposed which is nothing.

When I look at the plan there is lots of open space…a lawn on an incline makes a good sledding hill in the snow.
What could be better back drop for a park than the Palisades ?

OK, the water park sounds a bit ambitious but a few sprinklers could be called a water park.

I hope they get the Zoning Board to listen.

rapperd
Member
10 years 7 days ago

Why can’t they just open it up, plant a few trees and make some ballparks? I mean, that drawing has a ‘sledding hill’, and a ‘water park’?? Come on, let’s be realistic here… I think that the idea is a little over the top for the space, anyways… Just having some grass that the stupid mayor doesn’t ban playing sports on would be nice…

whewwhewwhew
Member
10 years 7 days ago

That spot is the worst place for a park. It butts up against the cliff, and does not have that open feel to it. Let them put more condo’s there and take another spot for a park. Crossing the dangerous street to access the park would be treacherous for kids as well.

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