When the Montclair Township Council passed an ordinance on first reading at its February 4th meeting increasing the permitted linear width of a hotel that could be built as part of the CentroVerde project – from 175 feet to 245 feet – there was a fear that it could lead to a building taller than the proposed eight-story building with a rooftop bar. When the Montclair Planning Board’s monthly regular meeting on February 10th began, with the council referral for the ordinance on the agenda along with Michael Pavel’s application to add a second floor to the old Charlie Brown’s restaurant, a long night appeared to be in store.
But the meeting was over in less than forty-five minutes. The Planning Board accepted the logic for amending the hotel plan to allow a wider building, and Pavel’s failure to provide parking information for his project led his application to be postponed until March. A minor site plan subdividing a lot on Douglas Road was also quickly approved.
Planning Director Janice Talley used a slide presentation to explain the reason for increasing the linear width of the hotel by 70 feet. She noted that when the hotel, originally planned for the corner of Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue, was moved to the corner of Orange Road and Bloomfield Avenue and the maximum linear width along Orange Road was settled at 175 feet, it turned out that 245 feet–not 175 feet–was the full length of the property along Orange Road. Amending the plan to permit 245 feet in the hotel’s linear width, she said, would allow the entire property to be developed for use as a hotel, whereas the previously allowed 175-foot dimension would allow only part of the property to be developed. Keeping the linear width at 175 feet, she said, would only allow Pinnacle to develop a little more than half the site, and such a limitation would make a hotel unfeasible.
“I know that [the development company] Pinnacle is working on their plans to build a hotel,” Talley told the board as Pinnacle CEO Brian Stolar sat in the gallery. “But they cannot proceed with their plans until this is addressed.” She said that a use variance to allow the hotel to have a width measuring 245 feet along Orange Road cannot be granted with the redevelopment plan already in place–a permitted maximum width of 245 feet has to included as part of the original plan.
The questions from the board mostly pertained to how the amended width would change the plans for the hotel and the area around it going forward. Board member Paul Rabinovitch asked if it would change the size of the proposed plaza along the corner of Orange Road and Bloomfield Avenue. Talley said it would not, saying that the plaza would remain 30 feet long along each street from the corner of both streets. The 245-foot measurement for the use is from the property line, which is farther down from the corner.
Board member Martin Schwartz, who has asked tough questions about many of CentroVerde’s planned elements, asked if any square footage was contemplated based on the original linear width when the plan was written, or if there was a count of the number of hotel rooms anticipated. Talley answered no to both questions. She also explained to Mayor Robert Jackson that it would not change the bulk of the building.
“The footprint of the building stays the same,” Talley said.
Board Chairman John Wynn noted that when the plan for a hotel was approved, the Planning Board looked at the pictures and the drawings for what Stolar’s company was proposing. They focused on the footprint of an eight-story building without looking at measurements.
“I think we relied on the measurement that we were given,” he said. “I think that what this amounts to is an indication that that measurement was wrong, they mismeasured. It’s a typographical error, in essence. So we’re not looking to change the bulk of the building, we’re not looking to change the footprint . . . we’re not looking to change anything else about what we approved, we’re just looking to change the measurement, so that it reflects the actual measurement from the corner to the end of the building, as the footprint has shown, on the plans that we looked at and approved.”
The final design for the hotel, which is to conform to the redevelopment plan, has yet to be submitted. But the Planning Board’s recommendation of the change to the maximum linear width, which clears the path for the council to give final approval to the ordinance, left Stolar relieved and ready to go forward. Having been passed unanimously on first reading, the ordinance is in all certainty to be given final approval by the council.
Luther Flurry of the Montclair Business Improvement District, one of the few people who attended the meeting, said afterward that he expects the hotel to be a quality building that would be a great benefit to Montclair Center.