Impact of Vermella complex on Union schools unclear

Photos by David VanDeventer
The first phase of the Vermella apartment complex across from Kean University in Union is expected to be completed by spring of next year.

UNION, NJ — A study commissioned by the local school board last year projected the student population would increase by 63 after the construction of about 450 residential units in the Vermella Union development on Morris Avenue.

The study was prepared by EI Associates, a design and engineering firm, and presented in March to the school board. It also found that Union’s student population has decreased during the past five

years, potentially offsetting any increase. The enrollment-projection portion of the study was conducted by Ross Haber and Associates.
The total district enrollment of students in pre-kindergarten to 12th grade decreased by 262 students — from 7,492 in 2012-13 school year to 7,230 in 2017-18 — even as 440 permits for the construction of other residential units were issued, the study said.

“This indicates that the residential construction, at best, has had a limited impact on the overall decline in the district enrollment,” the study reported.

However, the study does not specify when those units were built and how many became occupied within that same five-year period between 2012 and 2017. Of the 440 units approved, 55 were one- and two-bedroom apartments, while 385 were “multi-family” apartments, according to the study. While the study indicated that 63 new students would enter the school district as a result of the first phase of the Vermella Union development, there are some discrepancies between this study and the township’s official number and breakdown for the types of expected units in the new developments.

Township correspondence from a March resolution compliance letter by the township engineer indicated that 449 residential units would be built during the first phase of the Vermella project, including 130 studio apartments, 228 one-bedroom units, 65 two-bedrooms and 26 three-bedroom apartments. These numbers were confirmed by township spokeswoman Natalie Pineiro.

The developer for Vermella has applied for about 1,528 units, although the township does not plan to approve that many, LocalSource previously reported.

The school board study, however, accounted for 462 units at Vermella, including 154 studio apartments, 238 one-bedroom, 62 two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom apartments. This study was approved in September and presented in March.

The data used to compile the number of new Vermella units and five other local residential developments came from an open public records request filed by Ross Haber and Associates and the township. The date of that records request was not specified in the school board study.

The study also examined the impact of five additional projected residential developments in Union: two American Landmark developments, 1255 Stuyvesant Ave., Avalon Bay and Summit Court. Those developments are expected to include about 300 units, bringing 116 additional students into the district, the study said.

The six developments in the study — including Vermella — were projected to increase the student population by a total of 125 students in kindergarten through grade five; 36 in grades six to eight; and 18 in grades nine to 12.