CRANFORD, NJ — A so-called hasty decision by the Cranford zoning board has been the talk of the town during the past few weeks.
On May 8, the board approved an application for a new three-story building to accommodate the relocation of the Kilkenny House restaurant and 24 new apartments.
“The address of the new location is 109 Walnut Ave. and the bottom of the building will wrap around to Chestnut Street,” Zoning Officer Ron Johnson told LocalSource over the phone on May 11. “The location is currently a three-family home which is not in accordance with the master plan. No properties have been purchased yet, and the sale will take some time.”
The property is zoned for commercial use. The plan required variances for front-yard setback requirements (less); impervious coverage (more); onsite parking (less); parking spaces required for a restaurant (less); and loading/unloading zone (none). The second and third floors of the new building received approval for residential use.
According to a transcript of the zoning board meeting, licensed architect Alonso Martinez spoke about the four single family houses that don’t comply with the master plan that will be razed to accommodate the new building. The style of the new structure, he said, would be consistent with the area’s.
Traffic expert Nicholas Verderese was heard on the transcript saying that a total of 36 parking spots would be on site for residential parking. This is one-and-a-half per unit, which he said was a “comfortable number” because having the required two parking spots per unit wouldn’t make sense with all the downtown parking available.
Zoning board member Chuck Higgins said “a contingency plan would be nice,” because many of the proposed units are two-bedroom apartments. A parking study Verderese said he never saw recommended more than one-and-a-half per unit. There is no onsite parking for the restaurant, but patrons can park on
the street and in surrounding lots.
The absence of a loading and unloading zone was addressed by the parking expert, as well. The loading area will be on the side of the building, because no parking spots can be within 50 feet of a stop sign. However, loading and unloading is permitted in this area.
At the zoning board meeting, police also posed questions about safety and concerns were expressed about flooding and parking.
“I expressed concerns about the proposed location’s impact in terms of street flooding,” said Maureen Tinen, owner of a home at 75 Chestnut St. of Cranford and president of the Union County Economic Development Corp. In an interview with LocalSource over the phone on May 23, she contended flooding “will probably be more severe with the construction and more water will be put in storm sewers. Parking is another issue because where will the residents in the apartments as well as the customers at Kilkenny House park? This is the property next door to mine.”
Owners of businesses on the street are concerned about parking availability for their customers as well. They fear their businesses will suffer at the expense of the new structure and that this issue should have been addressed prior to the application’s approval.
“Parking is not going to be good,” Debby Coury, the owner of Yvette’s Dance Studio, told LocalSource over the phone on May 23.
“I’m not against improving Cranford, but it will affect all businesses on the street. They’re allowing 14 parking spots for 24 apartments. What if any of the people decide to have a party? Kilkenny House now has access to the train station. Parking spots will be taken [there] for a good hour or two by their customers.”
Residents and business owners also expressed surprise over what they viewed as a hasty decision by the board.
The owner of Kilkenny House, Barry O’Donovan, did not respond for comment.
Zoning officials, including the chairman of the board, were unavailable for comment when contacted by LocalSource.