Planning Board is Protective of 833 Clifton Ave.
The Clifton Planning Board met for their regularly scheduled meeting on February 23, 2023, at 7 pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall. According to the city’s website, the Planning Board's responsibility is to… “Exercise its powers in regard to the Master Plan, subdivision control, Capital improvements, site plan review, and conditional use approval and application of developments.” The planning board receives applications from businesses or citizens and reviews applications for development in the city.
The board started off by approving the minutes of past meetings, and resolutions. The reexamination report for the master plan was adopted, with the city manager abstaining due to his absence at the past meeting.
The only applicant scheduled for the evening, listed under NEW HEARING, may be new to the planning board but is not new to the chambers. Morici Real Estate Management, LLC was present at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting last month (January 18) attempting to construct a 3-story residential apartment building containing 26 one-bedroom units. That application is on hold, but whether it’s withdrawn depends on what the planning board says about this new idea. Moricis is now requesting to build a car wash instead on the same land instead of an apartment building. The location - 833 Clifton Avenue (Block 35.07, Lot 1) is a long-time vacant lot.
The proposed car wash would be conveyer belt driven, fully automated, and ideally require zero to one employee there to make sure everything is functioning well. The applicant first suggested that the car wash would be open 24 hours in the residential community but decided that 6 am-midnight could work too, once the city manager expressed an issue with it. More details on the carwash itself include that the front and back door of the carwash are closed while a vehicle is not immediately entering and exiting. So, if a car is inside and at one of the stations, the doors would be closed. According to the applicant, the process due to its automation should not take more than a minute for a car to get in and get out. Peak hours are estimated to be Saturday and Sunday mornings, despite the traffic study being done between 4-6:30 pm on a Tuesday - pointed out by Commissioner Welsh. City Manager Dominick Villano confirmed that all water used in the car wash itself would be collected and recycled for reuse. This carwash should be able to fit three cars in the tunnel at a time and a total of 17 lined up on the property.
Commissioner Binaso questioned the applicant's intent when it came to trees on the property. The applicant plans on increasing the [im]pervious coverage and increasing the amount of trees. Mayor Grabowski had concern with the safeguards of cars exiting onto Cloverdale during a period of traffic and the possible pile-up of cars once exiting the tunnel. The applicant responded that sensors and safeguards are in place to avoid that issue. Also, there is room for four vehicles to wait at the exit location causing the issue to be unlikely.
The applicant certainly did not have it easy with the board. Questions were asked regarding issues like traffic - pedestrian and vehicular. The area is subject to a flow of students every weekday when Clifton High School lets out. Also, with a medical facility across the street, Dunkin’ on the other side of the corner, neighborhoods behind the lot, and Clifton Avenue as a common route to popular Paulison Avenue, the amount of traffic was a large concern of the board. Commissioner Welsh in particular inquired and made points regarding the topic.
Another possible issue brought up is the noise generated by the blowers needed to dry the cars. The applicant claims that the decibels from the blowers would be lower than street traffic but did not have actual data on the decibel level for the blowers. The applicant spoke to neighbors and agreed to install a fence between the car wash and the home immediately adjacent to the property. Commissioner Binaso questioned the applicant about how all the cars awaiting entrance will be idle with their motors running. When the applicant was asked by the commissioner regarding information on pollution as it relates to the motors, the applicant said an environmental report had not been done.
The city manager made it known that he could not make a decision due to the lack of information regarding decibel levels. This application will carry on to the March 23 meeting.
During the Conceptual Review portion (when a possible future applicant shows their unfinished plans to the board simply for insight and comment) one individual presented their plans to the board. A current business with a building 15 years old wishes to install a new manufacturing line, requiring additional space for storage and supplies. The business is considering building out into unutilized parking spaces. This addition would consist of two floors-each 9,000 square feet. One concern rose from the Vice Chairman, who inquired about a drainage concern in the back of the property where construction would take place. Besides this, the board along with the city manager seemed confident that the decrease in parking spaces that would result would not cause an issue. The business was called a “good corporate citizen” by Commissioner Binaso.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:14. The next meeting is scheduled for March 23, 2023, at City Hall.