Throughout autumn, members of the River Edge Council and Planning Board debated the benefits of allowing a zoning change ordinance to proceed which would allow duplexes on Park Avenue. On Monday night, as the proposed change was to be voted on, residents from the little side street gave impassioned pleas for postponement. By unanimous approval, they got their wish as the governing body abandoned the proposal but with a warning that it would be resurrected in 2013.
"If you are going to propose a rezoning, which I think is being done in piecemeal and not to the benefit of all of Park Avenue, why not allow this to benefit all," Jose Saladin said. "Why limit the scope to the eastern side and not have it benefit the western side as well. At the end of hte day, this will benefit the developer and Park Avenue residents will be saddled with increased traffic, increased use of our services and reasonably assume families with more children in our school system."
Housing developer Joseph Caleca was initially approved to construct a pair of single-family homes on Park Avenue but following the borough's recent reassessment found himself facing the prospect of building houses that he would be unable to sell afterwards. The recent assessment for two newly constructed single family homes on Park Avenue, priced at $650,000 would come in hand with a $20,000 tax bill.
"I've been working in River Edge for over 10 years, renovating and constructing homes on Madison and Fifth Avenues," Caleca said. "These are modest single family homes. I had approved plans and permits, complete and paid for to construct two single family homes. When I walked into the tax assessor's office, I discovered Iw ould have two houses that I could never sell with $20,000 taxes."
At that point, Caleca and attorney Thomas Barrett requested the council be open to the idea of rezoning Park Avenue to allow for the duplexes. He proposed utiliting the 7500-square-foot property, comprised of two lots, to feature a pair of two-and-a-half story duplexes with each side of the duplex including a one car garages.
"Due to the revaluation and assessment shifting from the land to improvements, the estimated taxes for a single family home are near $20,000 per home," Barrett said. "The duplexes could be marketed for $400,000 which would generate $14,000 in taxes per home, $28,000 per lot."
According to the ordinance the buildings would have a maximum height of 30 feet from the ground to the roofline, be limited to two and a half stories and the garage would count as a single story. The duplexes could only be located on a property of approximately 7,500 square feet with a lot width of 70 feet and lot depth of 100 feet.
Additional, any construction would include a 16-foot driveway for each half of a duplex, a 30-foot front yard, 20-foot rear yard and a 10-foot side yard on each side.
"At this stage of the game, I'm looking to build something affordable, sellable, get the job done and move on with my life," Caleca said. "These duplexes would not take up one ince more than a single family home. I could stick a shovel in the ground tomorrow for the single family homes I'm approved for, but they will not sell. I'm forfeiting all of my signed, sealed plans to salvage what I have."
And while residents understood that the reassessment forced Caleca to change his plans, many were still adamant that they did not want duplexes on their street or appreciated being notified by the borough just before last weekend.
"I could live with a single family house across from me," Karl Hartman said. "But finding out a few days before, was not an effective job to let us know and certainly more people would be here if we were told earlier. I moved from Queens to here for the schools but also because it's a beautiful town and when you start to do this kind of things, it'll being to look more like Queens."
According to Borough Attorney Sam Cereste, a notice was published in The Record on Dec. 6, ten days prior to Monday evenings meeting and individual notices were sent out to homeowners that live within 200-feet that same time. He also put the onus on residents to be aware of decisions and discussions that take place by the governing body.
"In this instance, I always love for people to come to our meetings, be a part of hte experience and know what is going on," councilman Alphonse Bartelloni said. "Just not when it effects them directly as our meetings usually have the same four people in the audience. There was an article in the Town News and on the Patch, our agendas are posted online and we're video recording our meetings."
In the end, the council unanimously agreed to table the proposed ordinance, effectively killing it for 2012 but promised that it would be reintroduced in January 2013. At that point, the entire process would have to be repeated with a first introduction and second public hearing to allow Park Avenue residents additional time to research the ordinance and Caleca's duplex renderings.
If the ordinance was approved in 2013, Caleca still needs Planning Board approval of his site plan before he could begin construction.