Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Suburbanite: Englewood Cliffs mayor wants to revamp 5th Street area in borough

Englewood Cliffs mayor wants to revamp 5th Street area in borough

Thursday, March 15, 2012
Northern Valley Suburbanite

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS — Mayor Joseph Parisi, Jr. wants to hire a planner to determine the best way for the borough to utilize 5th Street, from Bayview Avenue to the edge of Fort Lee.
"There's a bunch of different things I'd love to do on that property," said Parisi. "It would be great for the town and ratables."
The area includes about 17 different properties, approximately 50 percent of which are owned by the same person.
In order for any plans to be made, the borough would have to make changes to the zoning of the area, known as the B-3 Zone.
"The zoning of that area is prohibitive to develop in a way that benefits Englewood Cliffs," said Parisi.
Like Parisi, Councilwoman Carrol McMorrow believes changes should be made to the zoning of the B-3 Zone.
"I believe that the B-3 Zone is underutilized due to outdated zoning regulations and should be examined and appropriate revisions implemented," said McMorrow.
Parisi wants to hire a planner to look at the different zoning issues, consider the borough's master plan and determine what would be most feasible use of the area. Parisi has an artist's rendition of what can be done to the area.
"It is my understanding that the mayor has already attended a preliminary meeting and that drawings of ideas that encompass a combination of 42 condos and retail space were discussed," said McMorrow. "I do have concerns about the extent of preliminary activity, which did not include the property owners and residents."
She said she is concerned that the Planning Board will meet in subcommittees – these meetings do not need to be advertised to the public.
Parisi said although he has the drawings, the Planning Board has not yet had the opportunity to look at the plan.
"Our biggest concern right now is how much it would cost for the planning end of it," said Parisi.
Parisi said he would like to lay out the plans for the people developing the area, so they understand what the borough's vision is.
"If we show them, they will build, so to speak," said Parisi.
He added the developers could always make modifications to the plans, but the details would already be ironed out so the borough gets exactly what it is looking for.
While plans for 5th Street are only in the conceptual stages, Parisi has a few ideas for what he would like to see done in the area.
"What we are looking at is maybe having a mixed use with retail, condos, co-ops or apartments," said Parisi.
Parisi is interested in adding residential units in the area so the "mature" residents of Englewood Cliffs do not move out of town.
"If they sell their homes, where would they move?" said Parisi. "The residential units down there would provide the opportunity for those residents to stay in Englewood Cliffs."
The residential units would most likely be one-bedroom, instead of two-bedroom, units. Parisi said the borough would have to look into the effect having residential units would have on school taxes.
Parisi also envisions outdoor cafes where people can sit and relax. The area is zoned for about 1,600 square feet of retail.
Before any work is done to the area, property owners would have to agree to develop the area.
"We're not going to do anything like eminent domain," said Parisi. "We really wouldn't be involved in any other extent than setting up our ideas."
Parisi said there are a number of different ways to develop the area. A developer could take a land lease and pay to develop the property, one of the property owners could pay to keep the property and develop it or someone could buy up all the property and develop it. The developer or property owner would have to determine if it is cost effective to develop the property.
"If the landowner doesn't agree [to the plans], we would have to go in for a variance," said Parisi.
Before any action is taken, Parisi wants to hold public hearings and hear everyone's thoughts and comments about redeveloping the B-3 Zone.
Like Parisi, McMorrow also believes the public should be involved in the process.
"I strongly believe the process, which includes the involvement of both the Planning Board and the Governing Body, should be open and transparent from start to finish and should allow the property owners and residents ample opportunity to express their opinions from the rezoning's infancy," said McMorrow.

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