The Mayor and Council voted to authorize Phillips Preiss and Grygiel, LLC (the appointed Zoning Board planner in the United Water property hearings) to proceed with a rezoning study of the 13-acre United Water property during Monday night's work session.
The United Water property is currently zoned Residential A, which is for single family homes, but New Milford Redevelopment Associates has filed an application with the Zoning Board seeking variances to build:
- 70,500 sq. ft. supermarket
- 4300 sq. ft. bank with two drive-thru lanes
- Four-story 221 unit multi-family housing complex, that will include an affordable housing component, a 428-space multi-level parking garage and a pool
The borough's previous planner, Dennis Kirwan LLC, prepared a rezoning study of the property that was presented to the Mayor and Council during its June 27, 2011 meeting. The recommended that the site be zoned commercial, but with a special ordinance that would put specific parameters on its future use. However, during Monday's meeting, Mayor Ann Subrizi said that the Kirwan study did not go far enough and a more comprehensive report is needed.
Specifically, Subrizi wants the study to address the location of New Milford's affordable housing requirement under COAH (Council On Affordable Housing) that the Master Plan rests solely on the United Water property.
Subrizi wants the planner to determine if there is any other part of town where this affordable housing obligation can be met.
Councilwoman Hedy Grant questioned whether the action of the Mayor and Council to authorize a rezoning study would be permitted since New Milford Redevelopment Associates has an application currently pending before the Zoning Board.
Subrizi responded that the Mayor and Council can either do nothing and let the application proceed before the Zoning Board, or rezone the property and come to a "less intensive use" of the property that will be better for the town.
"I need the planner to say we can fulfill COAH elsewhere or we can rezone [the property] for a less intensive use," Subrizi said.
The resolution specifies that the planner should undertake an examination of all the elements of rezoning that property and produce data that the Mayor and Council can consider in deciding whether to change the zoning.
Subrizi said, "I want to know if it is even possible to move our COAH obligation elsewhere."
Borough Attorney Mark Madaio said that the authorization of a rezoning study does not affect the application currently before the Zoning Board.
"If the Mayor and Council rezone the property, the applicant may like it," Madaio said. "If not, they'll continue the way they're going because they're already seeking variances for non-compliant use."
Because Councilman Austin Ashley retained counsel to represent him in his objection to the development of the United Water property by New Milford Redevelopment Associates, he recused himself from voting on this resolution. Councilwoman Hedy Grant asked Madaio if Ashley can vote on the resolution authorizing the rezoning study since it is not about the actual property itself, but on a study to be done by a planner.
Madaio said that it is within the scope of Ashley's legal options to recuse himself from voting on the matter.
With Ashley's recusal, the council voted unanimously to authorize a rezoning study by the planner, Phillips Preiss and Grygiel, LLC, at a cost not to exceed $5000, an amount that can be covered by money already allocated to the Planning Board's professional services line in the budget.
However, Madaio said that he had relayed to New Milford Redevelopment Associates the Mayor and Council's interest in the developer putting more money aside to cover the cost of this study. As of Monday's meeting, Madaio had not heard a response from them.
The next meeting of the Mayor and Counci will be on Wednesday, May 30.