September 24, 2018 | ° F

City reviews apartment building plans

The New Brunswick zoning board reviewed the site plan for a three-story, 34-apartment building located on the corner of Sicard and Senior Streets where four properties currently sit.

Citizens packed the Council Chambers at City Hall Monday night to argue for or against the building, which is intended for student housing.

The 4-3 vote approved the site plan and variances regarding height restrictions, setbacks and other zoning ordinances but did not approve the D-variances, which require at least five votes for approval. Because the D-variances, regarding use, height, and floor to area ratio, were not approved, the applicant's project will not move forward.

Chris Ward spoke on behalf of Sicard Housing LLC, the company developing the project.

"Cities and universities are encouraging smart development that minimizes impact on surrounding communities [to get] students out of one or two family homes and moving them into well-designed, high-density units right next to the campus," Ward said.

Paul Phillips, a professional planner speaking on behalf of the applicant, said the University's student housing shortage has created a development opportunity.

"By all accounts, Rutgers is bursting at the seams," Phillips said. "It cannot realistically accommodate its students within the confines of its own campus."

Steve Schock, an architect with Kitchen and Associates, said the 34 apartments break down into six one-bedrooms, 24 two-bedrooms, three three-bedrooms and one studio apartment.

The building would have a maximum occupancy of 82 people, Ward said.

The project attempts to rectify five issues with off-campus housing that do not benefit students or citizens, he said. Such issues include limited parking in the area, lack of safety features in older houses and the accumulation of garbage on streets.

By limiting the amount of people in an apartment, students can focus on education, Ward said.

"Students are much more accountable for their own actions and behaviors when you have two or three students in an apartment as opposed to eight or 10," he said.

Ward said attics and basements are congregation areas that generate noise complaints, trash tickets and other problems residents typically have with college students.

James Zullo, vice president and director of Timothy Haahs and Associates Inc.'s New Jersey office, said the project would forgo the 15 on-street parking permits available to existing units and instead utilize 29 underground parking spaces.

Only the 29 tenants who paid for spaces would have access to the garage via a secured entrance on Senior Street, said Zullo, a University alumnus.

Daniel Van Winkle, a ward six resident who lives on Senior Street, wondered if allowing one company to come in and replace family homes with an apartment building would lead to an open season for developers.

Van Winkle said the zoning board would set a precedent when they approved the plans.

"What stops the rest of the Senior Street from becoming this?" Van Winkle said.

Each application is based on its unique circumstances, the zoning board members said.

Joseph Kenny, born and raised in 35 Senior Street in ward six, said 30 years ago his friend planted a California redwood transplant and let it grow 36 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Since the building is planned to be 37 feet high — not including its tentative towers that would add more height to the building — Kenny fears that it would take away from the grandeur of the redwood, which is the biggest tree in the neighborhood.

"Talk about being dwarfed. That's a monster coming into our neighborhoods," said Kenny, a University alumnus.

Three LLC's own all the existing properties at the location — Little Bombay Inventing, Jersey NB, and Sicard Street NB, Ward said. Chris Ward, Timothy Ward and Masahiro Hanzawa own the LLC's.

Greg Flynn

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