“Hear Ye. Hear Ye. This Court is now in session.” The Teaneck Board of Adjustment operates much like a standard court. Instead of one judge there are the members of the board who sometimes query a witness and who later rule on each case. There is normally a lawyer who represents the developer seeking an affirmative decision on the variances from code requested. There is no appointed lawyer to represent the opposition. At the hearing last night on the proposed 100 State Street apartment it was the residents who stood in opposition and spoke out strongly.
The process is meticulous, detailed and a slow slough. In spite of a long night, the full hearing was not concluded so yet one or more sessions will be needed before a verdict is rendered. The developer’s attorney Wendy Berger interrogated her project engineer in an effort to justify the many variances requested and to show where the developer was in compliance and willing to make, or not make, adjustments of interest to the board members. In some cases the consultant instead of saying “we will change this,” more vaguely stated “we could change this.” Also Board members on some occasions asked tough questions.
Following the presentation audience members were allowed only to query the consultants. When residents appeared to be launching a broad or unclear statement, the Chair helped them to formulate a precise question for the consultant to answer. In some cases the responses were vague as with the indoor and outdoor playground. Other questions included why some parking spaces did not meet the width specification, why a setback was 15 feet not the required 30 feet, what water runoff problems were there, why there so many excessive units, why there was was so little green space, and why protected trees were to be chopped down. Among the questioners were Deborah Eliyahu, Marsha Brown, James Veach, Lillian Lewis, Chuck Powers, Paula Rogovin, Alan Sohn, Carol Kron, and Josh Santaell. During this session the Chair was occasionally brusque, “When I speak, you don’t.”
The developer’s planner presented a torrent of detailed statements with references to the several Teaneck master plans and numerous other sources to justify the project and its variances. However, there was no printed copy of his statement that would have helped the public to fact-check what he said. Nonetheless, residents challenged some of his arguments.
Although the township code for “Good & Welfare” requires it start at about 9:00 PM, for this hearing it began much later – at the end of the meeting. Chair Jan Meyer forcefully explained that because the formal part of the hearing was now closed, board members should ignore what was to be said by residents and not consider these statements in rendering a verdict. Only at the conclusion of the hearing for this project (at some future date) could residents voice their opinions on the record.
The developer left immediately before “G&W” after asking a nearby seat mate the results of a sports game. He was not there to hear what residents said.
Nonetheless residents were not deterred from speaking. Immediately 14 people formed a line to make their statements. Encapsulating the concerns, Denise Belcher, a member of our Planning Board and speaking only for herself, stated the large number of variance requests were too many to justify board approval. Erica Logan said there was a lack of information on the project and there needs to be a comprehensive Teaneck development study. James Veach saw no reason, except for greed, as to why the developer could not come more into compliance with fewer variances. Other speakers included, Howard Rose, Chuck Mero, Linda de Carlo Burns and Michelle Bivens.
A few spoke in support of the project. One person indicated this State Street block is an “eye sore,” and so the new apartment is needed. Another individual praised the developer for taking a financial risk to build housing and urged more developers to offer projects to the township.
The meeting with over 160 people in attendance took place in the huge Teaneck High School Auditorium with attendees so dispersed throughout the space that a photo could not capture all of them.
The next meeting to continue review of 100 State Street was tentatively set for June 6, although this date might be changed.