The Matawan Borough Planning and Zoning Board discussed rezoning a piece of property on the southeast corner of Broad Street and Route 34 at their meeting Monday night.
The property, which includes and shares a border with , is currently split into two zones. The area of the property closest to Route 34, where Walgreen's is located, is zoned for Highway Improvement. The property that sits vacant between the municipal building and Walgreen's is zoned for industrial use.
This is not the first time that the board has considered rezoning the property. In November 2011, the board heard a presentation based on an August 2011 study from John Maczuga, the vice president and manager of planning for T&M Associates.
The board at that time hoped to designate the entire property for highway improvement, in order to allow more businesses into town. However, Maczuga recommended that the board not rezone. Based on his study, he found that designating the vacant property for highway improvement would be unsuccessful because of its distance from Route 34 and the current economic climate.
The board, which contains new members as of its 2012 reorganization meeting, asked Maczuga to again present his findings and answer questions about the report at the Feb. 6 meeting.
"Pure retail or commercial business office type uses are not likely to be in huge demand to be developed on the site," Maczuga said.
He suggested that the board take advantage of the property's location. With single family homes across the street, the Henry Hudson Trail behind it, Walgreen's on one side, the municipal building on the other and it's proximity to the train station, Maczuga believes the property should be zoned for mixed use development.
A mixed use development requires that each building have a certain percentage designated for commercial use.
The board received a sample ordinance, which they have the ability to amend to their own specifications. It allowed for a three story, 45-foot tall building with 10-foot setbacks from property lines and with 10% of the building reserved for commercial use.
The board was tentative to designate the land for mixed use development. Concerns over shared parking, open space, property setbacks, more residents and potentially more children in the borough were reminiscent of the obstacles faced .
Ken Cassidy, the chairman of the board, is against shared parking. He does not want the amount of parking needed underestimated due to the assumption that customers will be there during the day and residents will be there during the night.
"I don't like shared parking because if there is a restaurant or bar open, then people will park on the street and we'll have another problem," Cassidy said.
If the property is designated for mixed use, Mayor Paul Buccellato said he would like to see a parking structure created below ground, in order to allow more for more parking in an otherwise limited space.
Maczuga was doubtful about below grade parking, reminding the board that parking structures are very expensive and are typically avoided during these types of projects for that reason.
Robert Montfort, a member of the board, shared parking concerns but was also worried about there being adequate open space.
"That was my biggest concern, that we make more and more of these places without any open space, just asphalt," Montfort said. "The [builder] is going to come in to make money."
The board is not required to design a mixed use development, Maczuga explained, in order to rezone it. However, since they have to design an ordinance which has to be passed by the borough council, they do have the opportunity to shape building requirements.
By providing specific building requirements, such as number of units, building setbacks, area needed for open space and percentage used for business, they can grant variances on a case by case basis. The board has to be careful though and make sure that the requirements still allow for a building that is structurally possible.
Another concern brought up by Buccellato is that there is a water retention basin somewhere underground that collects storm water for the area to reduce flooding. It is possible to build on top of it, but it has to be accessible for regular maintenance, Buccellato noted. The exact location of the basin was not known at the meeting.
"I'm not opposed to this ordinance, but I just think that I need more information to make an intelligent decision," Buccellato said.
The board requested more details concerning the land and more information as to whether larger setbacks and other changes to the ordinance are reasonable.
The Planning and Zoning Board will meet on March 19 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building to discuss the rezoning further.
If they choose to approve the ordinance at the March 19 meeting, it will then be sent to the borough council for review.