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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Proposed 12th Street apartments

Representatives from Hammonton Gardens LLC presented a site improvement application at the June 13 meeting of the Hammonton Planning Board. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—Representatives from Hammonton Gardens LLC presented a site improvement application at the June 13 meeting of the Hammonton Planning Board.

That application—No. 14-21PB—is for approval to construct four new apartment buildings—with 84 units—to accompany the five existing apartment buildings, with 52 units—which will be renovated—at 882 12th St., Block 1201/Lots 5 & 5.01, which is located in Hammonton’s IDZ (Inclusionary Development Zone) zoning district. Additionally, the applicant is seeking approval for parking and lighting improvements and other associated site work.

The application was presented by professional planner CherylLynn Walters, with testimony offered by engineer Thomas C. Roesch, architect Michael Kolchins and Hammonton Gardens LLC representative Mikhael Trocki-Videll.

Walters said that the application is contemplated and consistent with the town’s court-approved affordable housing plan, which was memorialized in Ordinance No. 012-2016. Walters said that ordinance was specifically adopted for this site after “negotiation and discussion between the town and the Fair Share Housing Center, and with the applicant’s input.”

“The inclusion of the property in the town’s affordable housing plan was then reviewed and approved by the Superior Court of New Jersey, with the court finding that this site provides a realistic development opportunity for 13 affordable housing units to be accomplished by setting aside 15 percent of the new apartment units as units available to individuals who income-qualify to occupy same,” Walters said.

Walters said that the project will also include a 2,800-square-foot clubhouse and a tot lot “as envisioned by the IDZ zoning.”

The application, Walters said, was filed on November 10, 2021.

“We received a letter from Adams, Rehmann and Heggan—consistently referred to hereafter as ARH—on December 21, 2021, deeming the application incomplete. On March 3, the applicant delivered revised plans to the board secretary and board professionals in response to the incompleteness determination,” Walters said, noting that the application and accompanying information have been on file for at least 10 days prior to the hearing.

Walters said that all materials were also submitted to the Hammonton Environmental Commission on March 3, and that a presentation was given to that body on April 13.

“We have not seen a written report from the Environmental Commission from that meeting, but the applicant did agree—and continues to agree—to make the changes requested by the Environmental Commission,” Walters said.

Board Member Michael Hozik said that he contacted commission chair Dan Bachalis regarding the letter, which had not been sent, but that he would provide a copy to the board and the applicant.

Walters said that was not the only documentation that the applicant did not receive.

“We have not received any review reports from any departments—fire officials, police department, anybody else on behalf of the municipality,” Walters said.

Walters said that the applicant received a new report from ARH on June 12, indicating their review of the project.

“Generally speaking, the applicant is largely in agreement with most of the comments in that report,” Walters said.

During his testimony, Roesch described the property in its current state.

“We are 12.7 acres. It’s basically a rectangle; 429 feet along Route 54 and 1,295 feet deep. There’s a small notch of about 30 feet in the back along Commerce Way that is not our property, but, for all intents and purposes, we are a rectangular lot,” Roesch said.

Roesch said that the existing site has 52 apartment units in five buildings, as well as a small, single-family dwelling that faces Route 54. The property has two entrances on Route 54, as well as a driveway that leads to the back of the property.

“The back areas are dead-end areas, so there’s no looping or anything ... At the present time, there’s no access to the rear on Commerce Way,” Roesch said.

Roesch then described the proposed improvements.

“There’s going to be a rehabilitation of five existing buildings ... There’s also going to be the construction of four new apartment buildings containing 84 residential units, which will include 13 affordable units,” Roesch said.

Roesch detailed the particulars of the new units.

“We’re going to have 12 one-bedroom, 60 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom units, though the overall distribution could change as a result of any market conditions at the time of construction,” Roesch said.

Roesch reiterated that 13 of those units will be designated for affordable housing.

“The affordable housing units will comply with the bedroom distribution requirements set forth in UHAC [Uniform Housing Affordability Controls] rules,” Roesch said.

Roesch said that the plan includes the removal of the single-family dwelling.

“We’re going to be replacing it with a 2,800 square-foot clubhouse ... We will be adding 10 parking spaces to the front area to accommodate the clubhouse,” Roesch said.

Roesch said that the existing driveways will be extended to form a loop around the facility and to provide access to Commerce Way. Roesch also said that new parking will be added around the property to accommodate the new units.

“We will have a total of 281 parking spaces. The ordinance, based on everything here, would require 279, so we are in surplus of what is required,” Roesch said.

Roesch also discussed electrical vehicle charging stations.

“They became a required law last year, such that we have to have make-ready locations for electrical vehicles throughout a residential property; it’s about 15 percent of the required parking spaces. We have 42 make-ready parking spaces, and they’re located all throughout the site,” Roesch said.

Board member Gordon Pherribo asked for a definition of the term “make-ready.”

“Does that mean you’re putting in the basic stuff, but not really being able to charge? You’re just setting it up to be at some point in time in the future—or are you talking about a total, complete charging station?” Pherribo said.

Roesch responded.

“I believe that it’s the basics to it—the electric and maybe the stub—but then there are requirements of how much has to be put in at certain times, and I’m not exactly sure. I believe a third of the make-ready have to be within a year-and-a-half of the first CO [certificate of occupancy], and then another third another time later and the rest of them after that,” Roesch said.

Roesch also described the proposed tot lot, which will be 40 feet by 40 feet, as required by the ordinance.

“It will have a fence around it. It will open from dawn to dusk; it will not be lit ... There will be a sign there regarding any playground access and rules that need to be followed. We haven’t finalized any kind of playground design yet, but we will certainly work with your professionals on that in the future,” Roesch said.

Roesch then addressed stormwater management.

“Presently, this property has no stormwater management on it. Most of the site slopes from back to front, and any rainwater makes its way out onto Route 54,” Roesch said.

Roesch noted that the proposed improvements have to meet all applicable requirements.

“In the front area, for the clubhouse and parking, we have designed a small basin that will accept the rainwater from that, infiltrate it and then release it at rates less than it presently does into the same general direction that it goes now,” Roesch said.

The main basin, Roesch said, will be in the middle of the property.

“That will receive rainwater from most of the new improvements. Some rainwater will first go to some bioretention systems; those are shallow, highly vegetated. They can handle a lot of precipitation ... Those will go into the basin there. It’s designed to discharge any excess runoff via a pipe, which will then go out onto the driveway in the same general direction that it goes right now. Rates of runoff will be less than what is required,” Roesch said.

The third area with basins will be in the rear of the property, Roesch said, facing Commerce Way.

“There’s almost a 20-foot difference in elevation to Commerce Way to the back. We have a new driveway that connects to the back that slopes down to it. We had to design basins to accept the runoff from those areas, and try to squeeze them in where we have a lot of slope—and we had to account for the seasonal high groundwater table,” Roesch said.

Roesch said that, in the existing condition, there is virtually zero rates of runoff in the two- and 10-year storm.

“We were able to capture most of the runoff in these basins, and for the two- and 10-year storms we didn’t release anything, so we were good there. However, the very end section of the driveway just is unable to get into those basins because of elevation and such, so there’s some rates of runoff there, and, because of that, we exceed, in the proposed condition, what is allowed to be discharged,” Roesch said.

Roesch said that condition has caused their Pinelands Commission certificate of filing to be deemed inconsistent.

“They basically stated if your town engineer is OK with our explanation, then they’ll be OK with it, too,” Roesch said.

During his testimony, Kolchins described the proposed new buildings, noting that there are three designs.

“The largest is a combination of two-bedroom and three-bedroom units. In all the buildings, there’s a wainscot of brick; it’s intended to match the color and the style of the existing brick buildings. That wainscot gets extended to the first story and the bays that are at either side of the entrance. There will be vinyl siding above that and different gable roofs. There’s a dormer ... It’s just decorative, and it’s in line with the entrance,” Kolchins said.

The largest building height, Kolchins said, is 43 feet, and the building is three stories. Kolchins said that the architectural features of each building are the same.

“Just the size changes,” Kolchins said.

Kolchins described the proposed color scheme.

“The horizontal flatboard is going to be gray siding, and then it will change to a white board and batten on the bays flanking either side, on the gables facing the parking lot,” Kolchins said.

Councilman Jonathan Oliva inquired about the size of the new units, and Kolchins responded.

“The three-bedroom units are 1,503 square feet, the two-bedroom units are 1,337 square feet and the one-bedroom units are 1,016 square feet,” Kolchins said.

Kolchins also detailed the proposed renovations to the existing structures.

“The major proposal is to break the roof up with gables that will be lined up with the entrances, so that we can break that long, monotonous roof up a little bit ... We’re going to be working with the existing roof that’s covering the entrances and adding to it, refinishing the gable end,” Kolchins said.

Kolchins also said that the current aluminum columns will be replaced with 10-inch-square colonial columns.

“We’ll be refinishing the railings and the deck edges, repainting the doors and the trim. On the gable ends, we can get rid of the existing siding and replace it with siding to match the new buildings ... One of my pet peeves is, shutters don’t look right if they’re not proportional to the window; if they don’t close and cover the window, they just don’t look right. These are old and falling apart—some of them are missing—so I’m just proposing to get rid of them all together,” Kolchins said.

Oliva asked for clarification.

“Exterior on the existing is going to be the terracotta brick, and then the roof is planning to be existing roof, and where the gables go, a new roof color to match. On the new buildings, it’s going to be terracotta brick with a gray siding and a dark roof color? So we kind of have a mismatch between buildings?” Oliva said.

Walters said that she would clarify that with her client.

“The idea for the color on the siding was gray and white combined, with the matching terracotta bases. I have to get some clarification on the roof material and the color of the roofing,” Walters said.

Following Kolchins’s testimony, Walters asked for a brief recess to confer with Trocki-Vedell, which was granted.

Following a 15-minute recess, Trocki-Vedell approached the microphone to offer testimony.

“Depending upon the age of the older buildings, if it’s over a certain age and it’s cost-effective to redo them, then they will all be done with the new color scheme, a grayish color scheme ... If, however, they are somewhat newer, then they will be consistent and all the newer building will be consistent with all the older buildings as that reddish, terracotta color. If that’s the case, then the siding on the newer buildings won’t be gray; they’ll either be a green or a beige as the siding,” Trocki-Vedell said.

Pherribo inquired further.

“Basically, what you’re saying is, if you have a 50-year roof and it’s 10 years into it, you’ll have to live with the mismatching colors for the next 40 years?” he said.

Walters responded in the negative.

“If we’re 10 years into a 50-year roof, then we’re going to change the color palate for the new buildings to be consistent with the existing buildings. Instead of providing a gray-on-gray on the new buildings—which is the preference—they would then change the new buildings to match the current color scheme. But, if the roofs are old and in need of replacement, the applicant wants to stick with the gray color scheme and would update the new roofs on the rehabbed buildings as they’re rehabbed to match the new scheme,” Walters said.

Walters said that the buildings will be consistent in any case, depending on the ages of the existing roofs. Trocki-Vedell explained further.

“If the roofs are 50 years old, I would want to replace them all and make them the newer gray color so it looks a little bit nicer. However, if they’re somewhat newer, then they’ll all be considered red and that’ll dictate the color for the new buildings,” Trocki-Vedell said.

Before Town Engineer Mark Herrmann presented his report, Oliva addressed the applicant.

“I think this is a good thing. I like what’s being proposed here, but I do feel that there are a considerable amount of questions that I have—and other members of the board may have ... We don’t have a review from our fire official on record. We don’t have a review from our police chief on record. Our school board representative isn’t here tonight, but there’s certainly going to be an impact to our schools that I’d like to make sure is considered,” Oliva said.

Oliva noted additional questions regarding vehicle charging stations, installation of sidewalks and the overall aesthetic of the proposed development.

“I personally feel that it would be appropriate to table a vote tonight until we’re able to resolve some of the aesthetic questions, and also the safety, health and wellness questions from police and fire,” Oliva said.

Walters responded.

“I would prefer to go through the board professionals’ reports, since we’re here and the testimony is fresh in everybody’s memory and recollections. Then, any revisions that happen, or revised testimony that comes back, go through that at another time,” Walters said.

Oliva agreed to hold off on making a motion.

During his report, Herrmann spoke about the stormwater issues.

“The project is not required to meet the new stormwater regulations regarding green infrastructure, but, as submitted, it’s pretty close, using bioretention facilities and infiltration stations,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann addressed the runoff concerns near Commerce Way.

“The entranceway is about 60 feet or so, and it does go undetained into the road. I do believe I can work with Mr. Roesch to possibly reduce that,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that, for the two-year storm, the volume of water leaving the site is 440 cubic feet.

“On the downstream receiving basin there—the infiltration basin—that’s about a quarter of an inch across the entire thing. For the 10-year storm, the increase is about 305 feet, which is about five-eighths of an inch across that entire basin,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that, given the design of Commerce Way itself and the proposed site improvements, a no-net-increase of runoff was impossible.

“I think the impact is extremely minimal,” Herrmann said.

Town planner Stuart Wiser, in his report, noted a necessary variance for the project.

“We had called out the location of the clubhouse as being permitted only in the side and rear yards. The clubhouse, as we saw, is going to be in the front yard; we believe that’s a variance requirement,” Wiser said.

Following the reports, Oliva thanked the applicant for “a marathon meeting.”

“Three-and-a-half hours; it’s not something that we’ve done, I think, in a long time,” Oliva said.

Oliva made a motion to table a vote on the application until the planning board’s August 3 meeting to allow the applicant to provide more information, and to allow town officials to submit the required reports. Board member Michael Pullia seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.

Chairman Ed Marinelli thanked the professionals for their work at the meeting.

“You did a wonderful job tonight. It was a very difficult evening, but we made it through,” Marinelli said.

The Hammonton Planning Board regularly meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Their next meeting is scheduled for July 6 at 7 p.m.


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