Resident Bill Brooks studies a RayRap exhibit prior to the zoning board hearing. Below, a rendering of the proposed six-unit condo building that would front on Harding Road at Hudson Avenue. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Board members told developer Ray Rapcavage that though they appreciated his flexibility in accommodating the concerns of nearby residents, he hadn’t gone far enough.
“It’s just too dense,” said board chairwoman Lauren Nicosia, whose motion to reject the plan was backed by all but one other board member.Hudson Avenue resident Anthony Sposaro, an attorney, questioned a planner for Rapcavage. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
The vote came after a handful of neighbors urged rejection of the project, which would have put six condos — two of them designated as “affordable” — and 16 townhouses on a three-quarter-acre parcel fronting on Harding Road, Clay Street and Hudson Avenue.
“There’s just not enough space for what is proposed on this site,” Hudson resident Jeff Paszkiewicz told the board.
Two others, Anthony Sposaro and Sean Fagan, argued that Rapcavage was asking for nearly twice as many units as would be permitted anywhere else in town.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me that we’re picking a different metric for density in this zone,” said Fagan.
The RayRap property, which includes a tarp-covered shell of a house destroyed by fire three years ago and a now-remediated gas station lot at the “five corners” of Harding, Hudson and Branch Avenue, sits in a zone that doesn’t permit townhouses or condos.
But planner Elizabeth Waterbury argued that Rapcavage could build apartments there, provided they were atop commercial uses. And according to prior testimony on behalf of RayRap, the developer could have built an office building, a food store or other commercial structure there without the need to obtain any variances.
Waterbury contended that the project would be far less dense than anything allowed in the zone.
Ken Tumia, who’s lived at the northeast corner of Hudson and Harding for 37 years, implored the board to approve the Rapcavage plan.
“The last thing I want to see there is commercial,” said Tumia, who praised Rapcavage for maintaining the handful of rental homes he owns there now and for cleaning up the gas station site, though others were critical, allowing his rental properties to become eyesores.
Rapcavage repeatedly met with neighbors over the course of the hearings, several times setting up a table in the old gas station lot to show them his plans. He also revised his plans several times, first eliminating what was to have been a grocery store on the ground floor of a building that would front on Harding, and instead using it only for condos.
He later changed his designs to eliminate curb cuts in front of each unit by creating a shared driveway to garages accessed from the rear of the units, moving the buildings back from the street to conform with existing homes, and other modifications.
Board members told Rapcavage they appreciated the openness, but member Sean Murphy told him, “I don’t think you came down quite enough. At the end of the day, it’s just too much.” Only Anne Torre voted against Nicosia motion to reject the plan.
Rapcavage, of Rumson, declined comment on the board’s decision.