Mixed Use Project In Peapack-Gladstone Faces Changes

February 19, 2023

PEAPACK-GLADSTONE – A planned redevelopment of the commercial zone along Lackawanna Avenue is still moving forward but faces changes due to new state environmental rules, the Borough Council was told on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

The plan, which would contribute 17 income-restricted housing units toward the borough’s state-mandated affordable housing obligation, led the Borough Council to rezone the area in September 2020 to allow the permitted uses and density.

But the developer, Gladstone-based Melillo Equities, still needs to seek a site plan approval from the borough Land Use Board. That step has been put on hold while Melillo has sought to obtain a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) on wetlands plus a Flood Hazard Area (FHA) permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

At the Feb. 14 council meeting, Anthony Melillo, managing partner of Melillo Equities, said the DEP was planning to enact new regulations that would enlarge the Peapack Brook flood way and exterior flood plain. That would extend the flood way line deeper into the southern part of the project, with the former Bevel Saddlery building at 10 Lackawanna Ave. falling within the flood plain, he said. Renovations to the Bevel building would be more restricted, as would nearby surface parking.

As a result, Melillo said, the Bevel site would need to subdivided off; density would be shifted further north; and parking would need to be relocated to higher elevations. But he noted that he would not seek to increase heights on the buildings to the north. In addition, one of the two driveways for homes at 201 and 205 Main St. would need to be converted to an emergency access road, which was initially to run through 191 Main St.

He said the changes may require a variance to allow some parking to be shifted to the rear of Main Street lots that are in the project but not within the area that was rezoned.

While council members posed questions, Melillo asked if they wished to opine on the potential changes. Mayor Mark Corigliano said the council should probably withhold comment since the site plan and any variance requests would be decided by the Land Use Board.

“I very much appreciate the challenges you face doing this work and we want to work with you, we want it to be successful,” Corigliano said.

Melillo said he would provide the Land Use Board with a similar update.

Still, he asked if the council believed the changes would be in the spirit of the borough’s affordable housing settlement and the 2020 zoning ordinance.

Corigliano said the one exception was that he had hoped to see the former Bevel building “give way to a nicer structure.” He recalled that the building was to have housing on the second floor but would now be entirely light industrial use.

Initial Plan

The redevelopment plan grew out of an affordable settlement in May 2018 in which the borough agreed to provide 78 income-restricted units to meet its state-mandated “Round III” obligation through 2025.

The borough then worked with Melillo to get 17 affordable units contributed toward that obligation. In conjunction with state rules, Melillo would subsidize the cost of building the affordable units by being allowed to also build market-rate units plus commercial space.

The Lackawanna Avenue corridor would be redeveloped with 40 residential units including three with income restrictions, 18,700 square feet of retail space, and 21,150 square feet of office space. In addition, Melillo will make conversions providing six income-restricted units at 191 and 193 Main St., and another eight at 291 Main St.

Both sides of Lackawanna Avenue would be redeveloped.

The east side includes 217 Main St., which houses The Stable car dealership; 219 Main St. at the corner, which houses Equitack horse equipment; 12 Lackawanna Ave., which houses Cafe Sapori; and 10 Lackawanna Ave., a vacant office/warehouse formerly occupied by Bevel Saddlery.

The west side includes a house at 33 Lackawanna Ave.; Dominick’s Pizza at 31 Lackawanna Ave.; an office barn with a multi-bay garage; and an unenclosed parking shelter.

A conceptual plan shown at a joint meeting of the council and the Land Use Board in July 2020 called for five buildings, all with flat roofs. Three were to be on the road’s east side, including a renovated version of the two-story Stable building at 217 Main St.; a three-story building in place of Cafe Sapori; and a renovated version of the two-story former Bevel building.

On the west side were to be a two-story building and a three-story building, with the existing structures to be removed.

The 219 Main St. corner building that houses Equitack would be removed to make the entrance to Lackawanna more visible. The extra space would allow head-on parking on both sides of the road.

Melillo said at the Feb. 14 meeting that the plans to remove the Equitack building have not changed.

 – W. Jacob Perry