With council chambers packed to capacity by Park Avenue residents, the River Edge Mayor and Council introduced a proposed zoning change ordinance to allow duplexes along the eastern side of the street.
The ordinance, approved 4-2 with Councilmen Ed Mignone and Alphonse Bartelloni casting the nay votes, will now head to the Planning Board for reivew in March.
"There are a lot of larger issues down there," Mignone said. "We have seven of 12 affected property owners speak out against this. Mr. Caleca had every right to come here and request a zoning change. He presented a good plan. If we can't convince you this is the right to do, we shouldn't tell you we're doing this for your own good."
Developer Joseph Caleca was initially approved to construct a pair of five-bedroom single-family homes on Park Avenue but following the borough's 2012 reassessment found himself facing the prospect of building houses that he would be unable to sell afterwards. The recent assessment for two newly constructed five-bedroom single family homes on Park Avenue, priced at $650,000 would come in hand with a $20,000 tax bill. He proposed utilizing 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.
The ordinance, which would affect the eastern side of Park Avenue from Gates Avenue to Lincoln Avenue, was abandoned at the end of 2012 to allow residents more time to review the proposal.
"I objected to the proposed zoning change in December," Jose Saladin said. "I bought my house directly across the street knowing the train was there. I put a lot of money into my house and am under water. I owe more on my mortgage than my house is valued at. I live on the western side of Park Avenue, rezone all of Park Avenue and the perpendicular streets. What's good for the goose is good for the gander."
Other Park Avenue residents cited concerns over changes to their neighborhood and the potential for increased traffic on the side streets and more children in the school district. Some were also worried that if the duplexes could not sell in the current market, they would then be converted in to rental housing.
"There has been an inability to sell new housing stock in town over the last few years," Washington Avenue resident Patricia Bradley said. "The Crossroads Project for highend condos could not sell and were turned into rentals. If you put high density housing stock on the market there is a real possiblity they will not sell."
"The developer brought this property and received approval for two houses and now based on what he won't get for them he wants to try this," Jim Miller of Park Avenue added. "We're a single family neighborhood and we have some rentals moving in the area. We're concerned that the duplexes will not sell and become rentals. Rental people are not the same as homeowners."
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.
"I've had the good fortune of working with Joe (Caleca) as his realtor," Liz Davis said as part of her response to resident's concerns over the duplexes bringing in additional school children. "I want to emphasize one important part, he owns the land and something will be built. Prior to buying the two lots, they were on the market for three years. There are two options. The duplexes which would be styled toward commuting professionals and priced within the range of single family homes or single family homes that would encourage families with children to move to town. Families can buy a single family home under $400,000 now and many years ago that was not an option. It's extremely unlikely that buyers with families would choose these units over single family homes."
The River Edge Planning Board will review the proposed zoning change to allow duplexes on Park Avenue during its March meeting. A final public hearing before the Mayor and Council would take place sometime in April.