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DyDee Area Project Another Step Closer

from The Retrospect

Fieldstone Associates brought two plans, seeking final approval, before Haddon Township’s Planning Board last Thursday to clear the way for the town’s largest redevelopment project.
One plan for reconfiguring parking in the area received approval. The other, for the redevelopment of the DyDee project area, has been postponed until affordable housing obligations, or lack thereof, can be determined.

The two proposals work together to allow substantial reconfiguration of parking for existing office buildings, including the Sentry Office Tower, across Haddon Ave. from the DyDee area. The parking expansion and reorganization would allow Fieldstone to purchase an existing Sentry parking lot, which is part of the DyDee redevelopment area, and incorporate it into the redevelopment project.
A net advantage of the deal would be that office workers at the Sentry building would no longer cross Haddon Ave. when getting to and from the parking lot.
The parking reconfiguration involves existing Sentry parking space next to the tower, parking space behind offices known as the Shusted property, and township land next to PATCO parking for the Westmont Hi-Speedline station. Fieldstone, in consultation with township engineer Greg Fusco, agreed to build a drainage basin in excess of requirements to help handle existing stormwater runoff issues in the area.
According to Fusco, PATCO had objected to the expansion of parking unless the runoff situation improved. In 2006, flooding impacted nearby Westmont and Ardmore avenues.
Another substantial change the parking plan precipitates is the traffic flow on Glenwood Ave. The first 200 feet leading from Haddon Ave. will stay two-way. The remainder will flow as one-way traffic toward N. Atlantic Ave.
Fieldstone attorney Rich Goldman said approval of the parking plan would allow necessary real estate settlements on the affected properties to go to closing in March. Those closings, he said, essentially comprise “the last piece” of the real estate puzzle to allow the entire project to move forward.
The planning board also heard testimony on the main redevelopment area. A landscaping change, to accommodate a request from township engineer Fusco for wider sidewalks, precipitated a request from Fieldstone for a variance from height restrictions.
Initially, the proposed buildings not facing Haddon Ave. were wrapped with planters ranging in height from two to four feet depending on the grade of the land. To widen the sidewalks from six feet to seven feet, as well as allow large grates around tree plantings, the planters would need to be removed.
The net result increases the building’s height calculation, which, due to a quirk in township zoning, calculates the height based on ground level abutting the building, instead of, for example, the street level. Fusco said the quirk stems from some township neighborhoods, such as one near Cooper River, have soil elevations much higher than street level.
Fieldstone attorney Goldman argued that the ultimate elevation of the roof, as in feet above sea level, will not be changed. Should the board not wish to approve the change, he added, the affected buildings received preliminary approval to be built with planters and would be built that way at the expense of wider sidewalks.
Planning board solicitor Don Cofsky noted he was not sure how cognizant the board was of the effect the planters had on building height calculations. He said the change could be seen as Fieldstone “coming through the back door” to get a taller building. Fusco noted that all the applicant had to do was “throw some soil against the building and no variance is needed.”
Several members of the public, including Sam Marsh and Tom Cassel, supported removing the planters in favor of wider sidewalks during the comment portion of the meeting.
Cofsky noted at the end of the meeting that if a resolution to the affordable housing question has been determined before the planning board’s next meeting on March 4, then the redevelopment area’s final approval application would be heard. Public comment would only be allowed on the affordable housing issue at that time.
The affordable housing issue remains murky, however, because Governor Chris Christie announced on Tuesday that all activity of the Council on Affordable Housing, a state board would cease for 90 days pending the findings of task force. Christie has vowed to help municipalities resolve court-mandated affordable housing issues

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