The Weehawken Planning Board convened last night to discuss Hartz Mountain Industries proposed development for two, 18-story towers along the township waterfront, but another marathon meeting still did not yield a vote from the board.
Right off the bat, the board was forced to deliberate whether or not to adjourn the meeting early because of the absence of the development planner, who they had hoped would give key expert testimony for the 344-unit project on the Weehawken-Hoboken border.
Planning Board Counsel Elise DiNardo told James Rhatican, the vice president of land use and development for Hartz, that they were stalling the application process with the planner’s absence – an assertion he immediately pushed back against.
“We’ve been here for every meeting until 11:30 p.m. at night. There’s been no stalling. Frankly, I resent that suggestion. We have witnesses up here several times answering questions from the board and submitting revised plans to the board, so to suggest that we’re planning games I think is inappropriate,” Rhatican responded.
The process has been a long one thus far, as last night marked the seventh public meeting on the project.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner was one of many who voiced further frustration that the project, which would sit along the Hudson River Walkway, continued to be stuck in limbo.
The mayor said that, for four years, the township has been requesting for Hartz Mountain to reduce the height of the towers to either 15 or 16 stories high, since residents say that the planned 18-story towers would obstruct views of the Manhattan skyline.
“So the question is now … everything we’ve been saying all along, you have to lower the building, 15 or 16 stories or some kind of combination. So, where are we going? Seven meetings. So I think it has to come to a head, tonight,” said Turner, who seemed keen on having the board vote.
However, Rhatican answered that Hartz currently has no intention of reducing the height of the towers.
From there, Weehawken Planning Board Commissioner Nicholas Strasser also echoed Turner’s sentiment.
“With this building … something has to be done about the scale and mass,” he said to applause from the crowd.
Furthermore, Turner took issue with the lack of parking that Hartz is proposing for the development in Weehawken Cove.
“Parking is a big issue. Again, we’ve been talking about this for a long time, four years, and we’re no further along. We’ve talked to our attorneys, you can’t have a waterfront development with only 23 parking spaces. You’ve got to have more free public parking,” Turner explained.
Turner also expressed concern that the proposed development doesn’t integrate with the other developments nearby so that residents can easily access coffee shops and restaurants.
Citing the absence of the developer’s planner, the board once again did not vote on the project.
However, they told Rhatican that Hartz has until October 31st to provide all the information and testimony to convince the board why their proposal should win approval over other developers’ proposals.