Attorney Gerald Muller of Miller Porter & Muller, representing the Fund for a Better Waterfront, stated in a letter that he would ask the Weehawken Planning Board to deny the Hartz Mountain application at the hearing scheduled for October 29. Hartz submitted an application to build two 204-foot 18-story towers with 335 residential units at the Weehawken Cove just north of the Hoboken border. These proposed high-rise towers, filling nearly the entire site footprint, would have abutted the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway’s 30-foot easement to the east and south. Hearings began last May and continued for nine evenings, often going late into the night, with the applicant presenting testimony from its architect, engineer, traffic consultant and landscape architect. Objectors to the application from Weehawken, Hoboken and Union City packed the hearings, raising concerns about blocked views, traffic and parking.
In his letter, Mr. Muller stated that the Board did not have jurisdiction over this application because the Township Council in January 2017 revoked the authority of the Planning Board to determine the number and density of dwelling units, maximum building height and open space requirements.
At the October 29 hearing, the Weehawken Planning Board, in a dramatic turn of events, denied the application. Hartz Mountain has been developing the Lincoln Harbor site since the 1980s. What began as a mostly commercial development has recently been transformed into a series of increasingly larger residential projects. On the Hoboken side of the Cove, a 4-acre park is to be built as part of the Rebuild by Design flood mitigation program. During Superstorm Sandy, the Weehawken Cove was a conduit for the surge that flooded Weehawken and Hoboken back to the base of the Palisades Cliffs.
Mr. Muller, in his letter, lists the elements in the proposed project that do not comply with the Planned Development District regulations as follows: building height, maximum number of dwelling units, FAR (floor area ratio), maximum residential square footage, minimum tract size, viewshed requirement, and open space, stating: “Because the applicant does not comply with the Planned Development District standards and the applicant has not sought variances from them, including variances that could only be granted by the Zoning Board, the Board does not have jurisdiction over the application.”
At the October 29th hearing, Planning Board members, including Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, confronted Mr. Jay Rhatican, the attorney representing Hartz, as to why the applicant had not responded to concerns repeatedly raised about the building height and failure to provide more public parking so Weehawken residents could enjoy this portion of their waterfront. Before taking a vote, the Board went into closed session to discuss the matter privately with its attorney Elise DeNardo. When the Board returned, they asked if anyone present wanted to speak in favor of the project. No one responded. The Board then voted unanimously to reject the application prompting the audience to break into applause.