On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
Gaulkin, Dreier and D'Annunzio. The opinion of the court was delivered by D'Annunzio, J.A.D.
[240 NJSuper Page 251] Plaintiffs appeal the grant of use and bulk variances for a mixed commercial and high rise residential development adjacent to the George Washington Bridge approach lanes. Plaintiffs' appeal to the governing body was stillborn because the Fort Lee Borough Council reached a consensus not to hear it. Respondents contend that pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-17(c) the council's decision not to hear the appeal constituted an affirmance of the Board of Adjustment's action. But cf. Com.
We do not address the issues generated by the council's action. We conclude, for the reasons expressed below, that the development proposal should have been presented to the planning board and the borough council as a request for a zoning ordinance amendment and, therefore, we reverse.
The development site is 15.69 acres. It is bounded on the west by Lemoine Avenue, on the north by South Marginal Road, on the east by Central Road and on the south by Main Street. Hoyt Avenue and Hudson Street parallel Lemoine Avenue and Central Road and divide the site into three blocks. The site is designated as tax blocks 4801, 4802 and 4803 and is located several blocks west of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. A map of the site is attached as Appendix A.
The site is undeveloped except for a few modest structures on Main Street and Lemoine Avenue and is used occasionally as an informal parking area.*fn1 The developer is Owners Maintenance Corp. The site is in the C-1 and R-4A zones. The C-1 zone is the borough's central business zone and includes Block 4801 and the westerly half of Block 4802. The easterly half of Block 4802 and almost all of Block 4803 are in the R-4A zone. See Appendix B. Residential uses are not permitted in the C-1 zone. The R-4A zone permits one and two-family residences on lots of 5,000 and 6,000 square feet. The maximum building height in R-4A is 35 feet. The project encompasses the entire R-4A zone.
The area surrounding the site is zoned for residential, commercial and office use. Uses to the west of the site include banks, mixed commercial and convenience uses, three-story apartment buildings, a diner, a used car lot and a gas station.
Uses to the north include a drive-in bank, parking areas and older homes on small lots. Larger, older and well-maintained homes on small lots are located to the east. Commercial uses in converted residences, banks and some residences are located to the south. Plaintiffs operate a general merchandise retail business in a one-story building on the northerly side of Main Street.
On the easterly 8.17 acres, most of which is zoned R-4A, the developer proposes to build two residential towers containing 670 dwelling units. The north tower with 420 units would be 36 stories and exceed the R-4A zone's 35 feet maximum height restriction by 316.8 feet. The south tower, with 250 units in 26 stories would exceed the height restrictions by 221.8 feet. The residential project would exceed the zone's 40 per cent land coverage limitation by 8.8 per cent. The residential towers and ancillary health club also require use variances.
On the westerly 7.5 acres zoned C-1, the developer proposes to construct 608,000 square feet of office and retail space in two structures: a seven story north building and a 13 story south building. Although no use variances are required, the commercial project deviates substantially from certain bulk and dimensional requirements.
The project requires vacation of Hoyt Avenue and the realignment of Hudson Street which would be ...