The proposed 258-unit independent living complex for seniors at Christian Health Care Center has earned the Design Review Board's recommendation, although a report is expected to incorporate members' concerns on the size of the project.
The advisory board unanimously approved a motion Monday to forward a recommendation to the zoning Board of Adjustment that compliments the aesthetics and architecture of the estimated $100 million Vista complex, while including reservations on the size of the building, which includes a 720-foot wing.
"I think we're all agreed that (the building) is beautiful. ... The reservation is on the length of the building and its effect on the surrounding community," said member Barbara Daley.
Vista "doesn't have any effect off the site," said CHCC attorney Jerry Vogel. "It's a unitary, singular site different from anything in Wyckoff. ... This property is unique, the look is unique," said the attorney, who had repeatedly told members over the course of three public hearings that the size of the project isn't in their purview.
Members of the board acknowledged that fact. The advisory body cannot approve or deny any applications. It meets on an as-needed basis, to review building materials, colors and the like, eventually forwarding its impressions to the land-use board with authority, which is the zoning board in this case.
"It may not be in our area to criticize.. but a big building like this will create other issues that maybe some of these other boards will explore," said Chairman Larry Skott.
"This board doesn't really take a position on the size of the building," said Mayor Rudy Boonstra, "but they (zoning board) should be aware of our concerns in that respect."
The Vista would be built toward the Sicomac Avenue side of the complex, with trees shielding views. Nearby residents would be removed from the development with a 150-foot setback, while roads that would circle the Vista would be at least 100 feet from the nearest property line.
Monday's hearing was largely spent on a review of new computer renderings prepared by architectural firm Brown, Craig Turner, as presented by architect Glenn Tipton.
The 720-foot wing had vexed the board since its initial hearing, prompting it to request a three-dimensional model and the detailed renderings presented Monday. They incorporated an approximation of the colors and landscaping associated with the project, which would require the clearance of some 20 acres of woodlands on CHCC's 78-acre campus.
The planned one- and two-bedroom apartments (owned by CHCC, leased by residents) would be housed within three-story buildings, centered by a range of facilities, including shops, eateries, banks, a wellness center and more. Parking would be underground at the complex, which was designed to have a "rustic" feel, incorporating cultured stone, wood, shingle siding and dormers. Courtyards and walking paths would decorate the property, which representatives have said will not be visible to passersby on nearby roads.
"It's designed to appear like a series of buildings rather than a large one," said Tipton, as his designs show a variety of roof lines which aim to mimic single-family homes, rather than a large institution.
"We've bent over backwards... to mitigate the scale" of the building, Tipton said. "It won't feel like a big building properly designed.
"I think it will be an attractive addition to Wyckoff ... in no way an embarrassment to anyone," he said.
The renderings of the wing presented at Design Review's last hearing on the project showed the elevation without the planned aesthetics, prompting the board to request more detailed drawings.
"I think what you came back with told the story of what we're trying to accomplish," Skott said. "It's very nice ... but it's still big."
Vogel was concerned that the board's report to the zoning board, which will be culled by secretary Susan Schilstra after a review of the meeting minutes, would have a negative tone.
Members assured the attorney that the report would not issue recommendations on scaling back the project but would reflect the board's concerns on size, which largely dominated the three hearings on the project.
"It's really cautionary, not negative," Boonstra said. "It should be conveyed there was a concern about the size of the building.
"We should also be clear (in the report) that it's a nice-looking building," the mayor said. "The materials are well-selected."
Skott also suggested the board's report include a call to take a hard look at the aesthetics of the entrance to the campus, on Sicomac Avenue, along with a planned traffic light at the intersection of Cedar Hill and Sicomac avenues. Vogel said Bergen County has indicated it would be amenable to a light there, should Wyckoff ultimately approve the project.
The Vista landscaping plans will be reviewed by the Shade Tree Commission. Another advisory body, Shade Tree also will forward a report to the Board of Adjustment, which ultimately would have to decide whether to grant zoning relief.
However, Wyckoff is only Christian Health Care's first stop on the route to construction. Eighty-six of the planned 258 units would be constructed in Hawthorne, as the campus straddles the two municipalities. Representatives have chosen to go through the hearing process in Wyckoff before turning to the neighboring borough.