The North Bergen Planning Board has tabled its final decision on the application for the project, filed by Churchill Road Developers, LLC, until further testimony can be heard about safety.
The developer wants to build the three-story houses into the face of the Palisades, similar to the Bergen Ridge development that was erected five years ago just yards from this proposed site off River Road.
But the existing residents of the isolated dead-end Churchill Road want no part of the project, saying that it offers a variety of safety issues, like emergency vehicular access onto the steep incline, as well as the possibility of dynamite being used to blast away at the approximately 2,000-year-old rock that has been a fixture on the site forever.
However, according to township administrator Chris Pianese, there never has been talk of using any blasting of any kind in the Churchill Road development. Pianese said that if it is later determined that blasting is necessary to get through the existing rock, then the developers will have to come back before the Planning Board to get further approvals.
"When the township devised its master plan in 2003 and it was adopted, it was designated that townhouses could be built there, as opposed to high-rise apartments," Pianese said. "Plus, the developer only needs site plan approvals. There is no need for any variances, because everything they have proposed is within the zoning laws. They've specifically given testimony that no blasting was necessary and it wasn't planned. When they start to put the pile drivers into the cliff and the minute they hit rock, they'll do something else to avoid it. I can't see it as being a problem. It looks like a sound development for everyone."
"I truly believe that this is something that is being blown out of proportion by a handful of residents," Pianese added. "The road they planned will be wide enough for all traffic, especially emergency vehicles. They've even adopted the original plan, eliminating two units, in order to oblige with getting the emergency vehicles in and out. They plan to widen the road even further to enable a U-turn at the end of the cul-de-sac, which they didn't have to do. The development plan makes sense, but it's ultimately the Planning Board's decision."
The project would be built in two phases and include a parking garage.
"There is a fair amount of concern with regard to the stability of that rock," North Bergen Planning Board chairman Harry Mayo said at a recent hearing.
Some other residents issued complaints that constant vehicular traffic might affect the rock's foundation, because of the vibration caused by the traffic going to and from the area.
"I'm telling you that if there are trucks going up and down that hill, the rock is going to fall," said Manny Velez, a concerned resident who lives in the Park Towers condominium complex on Boulevard East that overlooks the proposed development. "I know it's going to be a dangerous situation. They shouldn't try to put anything there. Just leave it alone."
"We don't want it," said another concerned resident from Park Towers. "We can't keep jamming people into this town in every little nook and cranny. This is not a sound development area. It's bad for traffic and it would be really bad for us on the Boulevard if they start blasting down there. It will disrupt all of our lives."
Pianese can't see it.
"These are all three-story homes," Pianese said. "The other option could be high-rises. It's a good, sound development. It's such a win for those people and they don't see it, but it's up to the Board to determine that."