The Fair Lawn planning board’s unanimous approval Monday night of the Landmark Daly Field development was something of a false conclusion, say neighbors of the site as well as borough officials.
The over 40 conditions imposed on the plan will be the subject of lengthy negotiations with the Borough Council, and concerned residents plan to stick around for their enforcement.
The next step for the developer, as Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski reported the night after the planning board approval, will be to work with the council to fulfill the conditions of the approval.
“The applicant is obligated to come to this council and use its best efforts to persuade us to consider certain types of items,” he said, referring to such things as lighted crosswalks and speed bumps, which were attached to the approval to mitigate potential traffic problems caused by the high-density development.
Exactly how the borough and developer share the costs will have to be negotiated, and no clear timetable has emerged for that process. “They’ve got a ways to go,” Trawinski added.
The most significant condition, and perhaps the largest hurdle the developer faces in moving its plan toward construction, is the one dealing with its affordable housing units.
In the current plan, the 33 units are clustered together near the back of the property. Landmark is required by law to distribute their affordable units through the property “to the extent feasible,” but previously argued before the planning board that further integration in this case would be too costly. The board approved the development only under the condition that Landmark bring them a concept plan that does more to integrate the units.
“Their proposal was simply a question of making more money by doing it this way, and the responsibility of the planning board is not to be concerned with the profits of a developer, but to see that the people in the town, the people who buy or rent those units, are getting a fair shake,” said Ron Coll, a vocal member of Neighbors to Save Daly Field, the grassroots group that has opposed the development.
Landmark had won special consideration for their plan in court by demonstrating that their site would help Fair Lawn meet its statutory affordable housing obligations, and Neighbors attorney Joel Rosen says that their initial failure to implement their own affordable housing obligations effectively should have led to the rejection of their plan.
“[The planning board] nevertheless approved the plan provided they do that, which is kind of the tail wagging the dog,” he told Patch. “They should have had an integrated plan and then approved it.”
The board will finalize its resolution of approval, and the attached conditions, at a meeting next month—and any involved party will have 45 days to file an appeal. Rosen said that as of now no decision has been made on the pursuit of an appeal, as the extent of changes to the plan entailed by the affordable housing condition will bring the process into what he called “uncharted territory.”
“You don’t usually see an approval with a whopper of a condition that in essence requires a further amendment to the site,” Rosen said.
Landmark’s attorney has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
While borough officials wait to see Landmark’s new plan for integrating the affordable units in the development, negotiations with the council and the possibility of an appeal could lengthen the preconstruction process for the developer.
And in any case, Neighbors to Save Daly Field will be holding the project to the conditions they fought for.
Member Michael Roney said that though the group is saddened by the approval, they will not go away. “We plan to take part in ongoing proceedings and will hold Landmark’s feet to the fire for as long as it takes to minimize this development’s impact on the town.”