A plan to build a mixed use development with affordable housing units in the proposed Transit Oriented Development District (TODD) was shot down by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZC) because it didn’t meet zoning regulations for the area. The application, submitted by Sixty Five Marsh Hill Road, LLC is for property known as 65-69 Marsh Hill Road and 0 and 15 Salemme Lane. The project calls for 23,641 square feet of commercial/office space in two, 4.5-story buildings connected by an underground parking structure as well as 60 apartments, 18 of which would be affordable housing units. The applicant submitted the plan as an Affordable Housing Application, invoking the state statute that requires all communities to offer affordable housing.
But the proposed site of the project is still zoned Light Industrial (LI-2) which prohibits any residential dwellings, despite plans to eventually amend the zoning regulations to include housing. Currently the TPZC has implemented a moratorium on all TODD applications, pending the anticipated zoning changes in the area.
The moratorium was implemented earlier this year after the Commission approved a similar proposal by Orange Land Development LLC (OLD) to construct 200 residential units, a 799-car parking garage, and 22,000 square feet of commercial space at the site. OLD submitted a zone change application and received approval for it pursuant to the TODD regulations.
According to TPZ Commissioner Ozzie Parente, “we learned a few things in considering that application and knew that we wanted to make some changes to the TODD regulations that would be applicable going forward. The moratorium gave us the breathing room we needed to make those changes.” The Commission expects to hold a public hearing about the zone change sometime in June.
Parente admits he’s baffled why the applicant would chose to submit an application to build residential dwellings in an industrial zone. “Our regulations clearly state residential dwellings are not permitted,” said TPZ Commissioner Ozzie Parente, adding affordable housing units will be welcome in the TODD district once the regulations change. But even with a zone change, there will be a cap of 250 housing units permitted in the TODD, and Orange Land Development has already been approved for 200 of them.
At the Commission’s May meeting, Town Attorney Vincent Marino distributed a draft resolution for the Sixty Five Marsh Hill Project to the commissioners outlining all the reasons the plan was denied including a clause that states, “The Applicant (Sixty Five Marsh Hill Road LLC) admitted it is seeking to circumvent the TODD regulations. In particular, the Applicant conceded that it is not willing to abide by the 250 cap on residential units allowed in the TODD.”
The resolution clearly states housing is prohibited in an LI-2 zone but also says that once the moratorium expires in less than two months, the applicant can file a zone change application for TODD approval.
“It all seems kind of crazy to me, “Parente said. “None of these projects can commence until you see a train stopping in Orange and with the state’s financial difficulties, who knows if and when that will happen.”
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent