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Zoning Board Puts Brakes on Vista Project

Board of Adjustment chairman tells CHCC officials that a Vista redesign should address "negative criteria," which include scaling back the proposed 258-unit assisted living facility

Christian Health Care Center's application to construct a 258-unit senior housing facility was put on hold temporarily in order to provide several months for the applicant to addresses a number of issues raised by the Wyckoff Zoning Board Monday evening.

Board Chairman Jerome Lombardo presented a list generated by board members, which addressed the "perceived negative impacts to the community" that could arise should the board greenlight the Vista Project.  

Among their requests were a 25 percent overall size reduction, including the total elimination a height variance; a lower starting price point for housing; as well as a number of assurances regarding upkeep of the property and some use restrictions.

The board chairman read the list of more than a dozen recommendations to the applicant following an evening of testimony from , the board's traffic expert. 

The board is requesting that the applicant take these concerns under consideration, and revise then present the new plan to the land-use board in October. 

Lombardo told CHCC Attorney Jerome Vogel and CHCC President Doug Struyk that the future of the application was in their hands.

"What remains to be vetted is whether or not you seriously are going to address the issues that remain," Lombardo said. "We're all very, very sensitive to the negative criteria that could be created by the granting of such an application."

"Let me assure the board and the public that we're sensitive to all of the considerations that everyone has about the scope and breadth and content of the project," Vogel said.

In comments to Wyckoff Patch following the Monday night meeting in , Struyk said that the zoning board requests seemed "reasonable."

Although he and his team would still need to "put pen to paper" to rejigger the plans before revealing any changes, Struyk said the CHCC Vista project was ultimately right for Wyckoff.

"I strongly believe in the positive criteria of this project and what it means for this community," he said.

Lombardo explicitly told Struyk and Vogel that the board's list only laid out its vision of a way forward for the Vista project, it did not in any way guarantee board approval even if all concerns were corrected.

Included in the board's list of "negative criteria" were:

  • Reduce overall size of project by 25 percent — either by decreasing the number of units to 195 (from 258,) or by reducing square footage by 25 percent.
  • Reduce lowest cost point for living in Vista. A lower entry fee allows more people to gain access to the housing, Lombardo said.
  • Scale back the "ultra-large" corner housing units. Lombardo said the 2,700-square-foot domiciles were "excessive and need to be reduced."
  • More outdoor gardens and more connectivity on the CHCC property — Lombardo mentioned the possibility of bike or walking paths.
  • Provide more landscape buffering and ensure perpetual maintenance.
  • Provide Wyckoff Zoning Board with permanent solution to "the first responder dilemma." Protocol for all emergency response must be clarified and finalized, Lombardo said.
  • Provide schedule for perpetual maintenance and upkeep of the retention basin.
  • The board wants the CHCC to go out for bonding to cover against blasting, damaged roadways, dust and air quality issues, and clogging and silting of storm drains.
  • Revised plan should include all traffic recommendations from Dean's evaluation.
  • The board wants deed restrictions on property use, guarantees of no further expansion, and a prohibition on cell towers, satellites, and so on without board approval.
  • All structures should not exceed 35 feet, eliminating any height variances
  • Strict adherence to all recommendations issued by Boswell Engineering 
  • Consider eliminating the side yard encroachments 

Board Attorney John Spizziri tentatively scheduled the next Wyckoff Board of Adjustment meeting concerning the CHCC application on October 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Gary Rabinowitz July 24, 2012 at 05:49 PM
"The board wants the CHCC to go out for bonding to cover against blasting, damaged roadways, dust and air quality issues, and clogging and silting of storm drains." Is CHCC capitalized adequately to bond these gigantic risks? Has CHCC ever gotten bonded like this before, or is their first time? There should be a thorough review of their financial statements and wherewithal. After reading Mr Struyk beg for funding from gov't officials for CHCC's nursing home facilities, can they even get surety bonding?
Gary Rabinowitz July 24, 2012 at 05:50 PM
"Scale back the "ultra-large" corner housing units." How vague. "More outdoor gardens and more connectivity on the CHCC property — Lombardo mentioned the possibility of bike or walking paths." If all Wyckoff residents can use these, where do we park? And this means more area for the Wyckoff PD to patrol. If the paths are for CHCC/Vista residents' use, then a bike/walking path means nothing to the community at large. "Provide more landscape buffering and ensure perpetual maintenance." Big deal -- $10k, 50k or even 100k of extra azaleas, arbors or yews on a gigantic eyesore like this means nothing. "Provide Wyckoff Zoning Board with permanent solution to "the first responder dilemma." Talk about understatement -- this is much, much more than a "dilemma." Without expanding the police, EMT, FD, this means severe dilution of first responder services to the rest of the town. With expansion of the police, EMT, FD, it means a much, much higher cost to Wyckoff taxpayers. Pick your poison. "Provide schedule for perpetual maintenance and upkeep of the retention basin." We all know about the Rambaut fiasco here in town. What good is a "schedule of maintenance" if there's faulty oversight of, among other things, the legal entities and funding sources to ensure maintenance and upkeep is actually completed? Don't tell me town officials "learned their lesson" from Rambaut. CHCC is a rookie in the home development game -- a "schedule of maintenance" is like saying "trust us."
Susan July 24, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I think everyone is also ignoring the white elephant in the room... what about the now "imperative" water tower that Ridgewood Water insists is needed to supply this new construction. Can we force the tower onto CHCC property???? I agree with Gary, this is STILL too big. Over and over again at these proceedings the CHCC kept bringing of the Jabar Case as an example. This was a "similar" desired usage in West Orange. Ok, West Orange has 46307 people. Wyckoff has 16696. (Both taken from 2010 census #s). Jabar was allowed to build 130 BEDS (not units, but lets not get picky). Using those easy numbers, lets let CHCC build 47 units. The Jabar case sited "inherently beneficial" to the town, and 130 per 46,000 people fit the bill, so for 16696 people the ratio is the same... 47 units. SImple math people. 258 to 200 is not a big enough decrease.
Gary Rabinowitz July 24, 2012 at 07:29 PM
@ Susan - great point. The water tower is yet another undesirable and disastrous aspect of this CHCC/Vista project. I will have more to say on this and more when I get back home (I'm on the road all week). CHeers, GXR
Lorraine Sinnott July 25, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I am pleasantly surprised that the Zoning Board did not just rubber stamp this project as they seem to do with every other building application. The proposed project is way too big and in my opinion will have a tremendous negative impact on the area and the traffic patterns on Cedar Hill and Sicomac.

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