Original Article

NUTLEY,  NJ –  Numerous attorneys, engineers, traffic experts and one Nutley citizen addressed the Nutley Planning Board members with testimony and questions relating to the site plan application for parking on the Seton Hall Hackensack Medical School in Nutley and Clifton NJ.

The Special Meeting of the Nutley Planning Board June 28, 2017 ended after over three hours of testimony and is to be continued at the next scheduled meeting July 12.

Prism Capital Partners owns all roadways on the former Roche campus and is the landlord to Kingsland Street Urban Renewal LLC, the entity known as Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.

Kevin Coakley, attorney for Seton Hall, was the first to testify at the hearing. He provided the attendees with a timeline starting with the 2016 redevelopment plan approved by the Board of Commissioners. Planning Board Chairman, Philip McGovern did not attend the hearing. Coakley is a a senior member and Co-chair of the Real Estate and Land Use practice at Connell Foley, where McGovern is the Managing Partner.

Coakley’s opening statement included: “We are disappointed in the report from the planner.” Nutley Planner Paul Ricci addressed points of disagreement at the conclusion of the meeting.

The main issues discussed as part of the parking application were water supply and the parking deck/garage originally slated for the Clifton NJ portion of the campus.

Regarding water supply to the campus, Planning Board member Mayor Dr. Joseph Scarpelli questioned if there was a supply redundancy between Jersey City supply and water supplied by the Township of Nutley. The water supply question was specifically related to buildings 123 and 123A, the Medical School buildings.

Testimony from the applicant’s engineer was: “My understanding based on some of our research we did is that the on-site public, private water supply is connected to Jersey City water supply as well as Passaic Valley. My understanding in the past, Hoffman La-Roche depending on water quality, could go through the process of shutting off one supplier, hence turning on another supplier. I do not know if that is still in effect.”

Mayor Scarpelli’s concern was that this “becomes a Nutley Public Safety issue” relating to sufficient water pressure to the buildings. He asked if Prism was ‘willing to work with us’ re: moving of fire hydrants. Testimony was that there were calls into Passaic Valley.

Scarpelli also voiced concerns about traffic on roadways. “I’m just a little concerned about that (First Avenue) becoming a thoroughfare, from Bloomfield Ave at Kingsland to Route 3. Is there any way at this point to look at slowing down the traffic? ” The Prism testimony was “At this point there is no traffic mitigation…it is not something we are looking at, at this time. We are looking at future planning for this road.”

Paul Pehnae, of Langan Engineering, testified as the traffic expert for the site plan. He stated that the traffic report had been filed with the Board of Commissioners and discussed with Nutley Zoning Board Engineer Todd Hay. He testified that traffic in and out of the campus will be higher in the evenings that when the property was occupied by Roche due to nighttime activity at the medical school. He added that no new points of access will be added on Kingsland.

“I’m not seeing it on these plans. It was talked about, a bus depot or bus stop along Medicine Way. Is that still being contemplated?” Mayor Scarpelli. “It is still being contemplated. We’re talking to New Jersey Transit regarding the roadway infrastructure as designed.”

It was noted that the county intends to improve traffic flow at the location, with the elimination of traffic lights and the introduction of traffic circles.

Todd Hay, Township Engineer, testified: “I am confident the county is looking at the site in its entirety. They have another consultant looking at a larger comprehensive transportation plan.”

Mayor Scarpelli: “The last thing we need are serious accidents at that exit from the campus.”

Hay testified that Essex County is the only entity with the authority to approve a ‘left turn only’ out of the site. He advised the Board of Commissioners he would speak to the primary traffic engineer at Essex County who he added ‘happens to be one of my clients’ and address the traffic impact study, engineering and pedestrian safety.

In addition, Hay told the Board of Commissioners, “There is a distinct possibility there could be bus or jitney service brought to the site.”

When asked about the percentage of traffic anticipated to flow through Nutley vs. Route 3, the expert testified that Mayor Scarpelli’s calculations were correct: 60% of traffic entering or exiting the campus would be on Nutley streets. He also stated that the “total potential traffic from the entire On3 site is not available.’

“To return to [Route 3] to the west you must use Kingsland.”

According to the engineer, ‘The county has approved the project traffic patterns subject to a few conditions regarding engineering etc. The county recognizes their approval is for Phase One only which is the Medical School.’ He did not disclose specifics of the conditions agreed to in order to obtain approval.

It was also noted that bike traffic was not included in the traffic study and there would “possibly” be bike racks on the campus.

NOTE: The traffic study included ONLY the area that will be occupied by the medical school campus, approximately 19 acres  and did not include the larger part of the On3 development.  The total acreage for the On3 development owned by Prism Capital Partners Inc is 116 acres.

A recent article in “The Setonian”, the official undergraduate newspaper of Seton Hall University, quoted Dr. Bonita Stanton, founding dean of the School of Medicine.“ The next step in the accreditation process for the developing medical school is a site visit this fall, during which the LCME, the medical school accrediting body, will visit the Nutley and Clifton campus, which is currently under construction. The site visit will be a major factor in the LCME’s decision whether we receive preliminary accreditation. Preliminary accreditation is needed to admit students.”

Planning Board members Mark Arcuti, Secretary, Bill Algieri, John “Jack” Barry and Chairman Philip McGovern did not attend. Vice-Chair Carol Tangorra led the meeting. Members speaking during testimony were, Tom Evans, Joseph Scarpelli, Gerard DelTufo, Frank Contella and Anthony Malfitano.

Board members Lorraine Kucinski and James Greengrove attended but did not address any of the witnesses providing testimony.

Note: Prism Capital Partners LLC is also the developer of the $230 million Edison Village in West Orange.  The industrial-to-residential redevelopment of the historic Thomas Edison Invention Factory and Commerce Center was initiated in 2003, but the recession and lawsuits stymied progress at the 21-acre site at 175 Main St. for more than a decade. According to Prism’s website: ‘The first phase of the project is highlighted by the adaptive reuse of the Historic Thomas Edison Battery Building and will contain approximately 334 residential units, 18,400 square feet of retail and a 630-space parking structure.’