Prospect Street development experts to testify before Zoning Board

Developer seeking variance to build 57-unit rental complex

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Above: Artist’s rendering of the proposed rental development a builder hopes to put up on Prospect Street. The builder is seeking a land use variance from the Zoning Board.

The Glen Rock Zoning Board, at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, March 9, will hear testimony from experts on behalf of a Franklin Lakes developer who is seeking to get a land use variance that will allow him to construct a 57-unit rental complex on Prospect Street.

“I’m optimistic the zoning board will grant the variance for this use,’’ developer Ric Harrison told Banana Tree News in a telephone interview last month.

Harrison applied to the Zoning Board last November, after the Borough Council, in a close vote, decided in September against re-zoning the property to allow construction of an age-restricted housing development on the land. That vote had come after residents in the neighborhood had organized and campaigned against the project. Residents expressed concern about increased noise and traffic that might come with a multi-family complex.

Harrison told BTN he understood the residents’ opposition to the project, but believes the development would be a good thing for the town, which is seeking to add multi-family housing and to meet its state mandate to provide affordable housing. He bought the 2-acre property, set between the Sikh Gurudwara and the Ridgewood Water sewage treatment facility, in 2013, thinking he could build a multi-family development that would help satisfy the town’s obligation to provide affordable housing.

According to Glen Rock Mayor Bruce Packer, the borough’s obligation, under state law, is to provide more than 100 affordable housing units. However, the mayor said could not be more specific because he “cannot discuss any numbers that might relate to a potential settlement between the Borough and Fair Share Housing.”

Given the fact that Glen Rock has little available land for new construction, building that many affordable housing units would be practically impossible, which is why the borough is in negotiations with the state to show the town is trying to do what it can to provide affordable housing and come up with a settlement that will appease the state. The group home under construction on Bradford Street, which would house developmentally challenged adults, counts toward the obligation, Packer said.

Harrison’s development, Glen Park Village, would include eight affordable housing units, and Harrison argues those units would strengthen Glen Rock’s case that it is doing its best to try to meet the state requirement.

Harrison had an engineer testify to the Zoning Board at its January meeting and was planning to have more experts testify at the February meeting, but that meeting was canceled because of the Feb. 9 snowstorm. So Harrison’s experts will be testifying before the board at this meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the borough courthouse and is open to the public.

It is not expected that testimony from Harrison’s experts, as well as the borough’s own experts, will be completed at this meeting. If it is not, then the board will not be able to vote on the variance. Whenever the board does vote, if it decides not to grant the variance, Harrison would be entitled to appeal to the state for a so-called “builder’s remedy,’’ where he would make a case to the state that Glen Rock is not doing all it can to increase the amount of affordable housing in town and that his development would help the borough get closer to meeting its obligation.

Harrison avoided the question of whether he would seek the builder’s remedy if the Zoning Board rules against him.

“I would rather not go there,’’ he told BTN. “Everyone understands that (the builder’s remedy) is always an option. Hopefully, we can work out a plan that will be reasonable and will work for the town and work for us.

“I believe what I’m doing is good for the town,’’ he said. “People are afraid of change, but what always happens is that when the change happens, they discover it doesn’t end up being as bad as they had imagined it would be.’’

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