A Warren County developer is poised to convert a vacant commercial building bordering the Lyndhurst meadows area into a 218-unit residential complex but before he starts work, he must deal with safety concerns raised by the township.
That’s the gist of a May 14 ruling by the newly created Meadowlands Regional Commission in conditionally green-lighting a site suitability application filed by the JG Petrucci Development Co. of Asbury for 120 Chubb Ave.
Petrucci, who previously put up another residential building on Chubb Ave. and who has been designated a residential redeveloper in Maplewood, must still gain approvals for site plan review and zoning certification for the new project, according to his representative Robert Ceberio. The MRC could schedule hearings on those matters by July, Ceberio said.
Before that happens, however, Ceberio said that Petrucci representatives would continue to meet with Lyndhurst officials to present proposals designed to deal with their issues.
Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso, who was among several township commissioners and Board of Education figures to address the MRC earlier this month, listed infrastructure deficiencies such as inadequate street lighting, lack of sidewalks and poor road conditions that, he said, needed to be addressed by the developer.
Lyndhurst Public Safety Commissioner John Montillo and Board of Education President Chris Musto also pressed the developer to deliver on improvements to the area around the sevenacre Chubb Ave. site which runs along Berry’s Creek to the east.
“My primary concern is the safety of the residents,” Montillo said. “There’s no safe passage from roads accessing the site like Orient Way – no sidewalks. I’ve seen mothers pushing strollers with a kid in tow walking up Valley Brook Ave. and, with cars flying by, with sun glare and ice factored in, that’s an accident waiting to happen.” Rutherford Ave. is another sore spot, he said.
“There’s also limited lighting in the area, no recreation facilities for kids and no wastewater pump station,” he added.
Musto agreed that the absence of sidewalks and street lights should be remedied, particularly since “there is a lot of heavy commercial traffic in that area.”
It was in November, Musto said, when he first became aware of the safety threat after he got a letter from a parent from Jersey City who had moved with her child to Chubb Ave. who had to walk her first-grader to Washington School.
“You don’t hit your first sidewalk until you’ve gone a mile from that residence,” Musto said. “The cars go faster because there’s a higher speed limit in that area. And the streets are wider than normal – [Giangeruso pointed out they measure 70 feet wide] – so you have to literally run across the street to avoid the traffic.”
Musto said the “day after I got the letter, I made sure we sent a bus to transport that child as a courtesy. As of now, there are six or seven children from Chubb Ave. we pick up every day.”
There are probably as many as 60 school children who live in the area, Musto said, but “fortunately, a large segment of our children are driven to school by their parents.”
Rest assured, Ceberio told The Observer, that Petrucci “will be working with the township to address these issues. We’ve already had a couple of meetings and we’ll be ready to put out proposals by next month to give a comfort level to Lyndhurst.”
In fact, Ceberio said, “we’ve already made changes to our design plan to allow for site accessibility for fire trucks.”
“There’s also the potential for dealing with pedestrian issues by creating walking and biking lanes, particularly going up Valley Brook Ave., and, potentially, of dealing with school children so we have no moms with strollers in the street,” he said.
Also under consideration is a design change that would provide for a hookup access point “to bring in a generator” so that, in case of a Sandy-like storm there can be power “in the common areas” for lights and cooking, he said.
“One big hurdle we foresee,” Ceberio said, “is whether sidewalks can be placed on Rutherford Ave. since it is a state highway (Rt. 17) and would require DOT (state Department of Transportation) action.” However, Ceberio said the developer would work with the township to try and secure grants to facilitate installation of walking paths “going up the hill.”