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Proposed Medical/Office Building Questioned

10,500-square-foot proposed building considered too big.

A township dentist and her husband received advice on Tuesday from the Planning Board that their proposed 10,500-square-foot medical and office building off North Maple Avenue near the Route 202 intersection might be too large for the property.

Board members expressed a number of other reservations about the application, such as whether the parking lot for the planned building would be too close to the road. Along with the size and scope of the project, Board Member Gwenn Gilmore said she wonders if the building could find sufficient tenants. "We have other office buildings that are not filled," she noted.

The applicants, Basking Ridge residents Dr. Homa Faridnia and her husband, Michael Fathi, will head back to the drawing board before their scheduled Dec. 21 return before the township planners, according to their attorney, Vincent Bisogno.

The dentist, who currently practices in a building at 150 N. Finley Ave., is now the only tenant committed to occupying the proposed building, which would be near the exit 30 access to Interstate 287, according to the applicants.

The application is asking the Planning Board to approve several zoning variances for the building, which is proposed for a 2.5-acre property at 370 N. Maple Ave., just south of Sandra John Interiors. Zoning for the land calls for commercial use on a 5-acre lot.

The application presented on Tuesday would set aside 4,300-square feet for medical use, another 4,300 for office space, and the remainder would be allocated for the lobby and elevator space, Bisogno said. No more than six doctors would be in the building at a time, he said.

A number of board members said they believe the planned parking with 53 spaces, proposed to be 22 feet from the front property line, would be too close and too visible from North Maple Avenue.

"I am OK with seeing a building, but I wouldn't want to see a parking lot," Board Member Richard Huckins said.

Board members also discussed whether the building might be moved back further, as well as other possible modifications to the plan.

Bisogno and Craig Villa, an engineer representing the applicants, said moving the building back would create the need to apply for additional variances, since the building would then be closer to the back property line and more of the land would be covered with a paved driveway.

Bisogno said the applicants have a contract to buy the property based on receiving board approval, and that the new owners have sought to come up with a financially viable plan based on the selling price for the property. The property, although mostly wooded, is occupied by a home that a tree company, Arborkelp, had proposed expanding into a business a number of years ago, he said.

After Bisogno requested the board to make recommendations about what members would consider acceptable, Mayor Scott Spitzer said, "the project is too large for the property."

Spitzer added he doubted the board would approve the plans as initially presented. He said that he, too, is concerned about whether the building would be filled by tenants if constructed.

The building, near I-287, would be located at a gateway to the community, Spitzer said. He said he wouldn't want people entering the township to see a "monolith" of a building located right at the exit.

"It may be that the contract seller is unrealistic in his price," he suggested. "There's no question it's a commercial site, it's a question of scale," Spitzer told the applicants.

Board member Carol Bianchi said she hoped the applicants could come up with a workable plan. "It's a great spot for an office building and it would bolster the local economy," she said.

Greg Toombs October 06, 2010 at 01:33 PM
This is a perfect spot for a commercial ratable. The property is well screened by trees and bushes. The location next to 287 and the exit is unsuitable for a residence. There are no nearby private residence neighbors to object. If the proposed structure is within FAR/lot coverage guidelines then it should be approved. At the stated 2.57 acres, then 15% coverage implies the proposal is less than 2/3rd of the maximum permitted. The economics and rental space should not be the concern of the Planning Board, but the owner's. It seems the Planning Board prefers to keep the current, vacant and decrepit structure in place. Why? Seems to me to be nanny-state control over private property rights and is anti-development.
Linda Sadlouskos October 06, 2010 at 04:06 PM
You can come and make a comment at the Planning Board's Dec. 21 meeting, if the applicant returns on that date, as now scheduled.

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