After a series of nine contentious hearings which began in May, the Weehawken Planning Board unanimously denied Hartz Mountain’s application to construct two 18-story residential towers, totaling 335 rental units, on Harbor Blvd. in the Lincoln Harbor neighborhood, at what officials previously promised would be the final public hearing on Oct. 29.
The property, owned by Hartz Mountain, is currently being used as a parking lot for nearby construction sites. It sits along the municipal boundary between Weehawken and Hoboken.
Hartz Mountain has played a large part in the development of residential and other properties along Weehawken’s waterfront, as the township’s population has grown roughly 18 percent over the past eight years.
Scale, parking, traffic, access at issue
Objectors to the project, both on and off the Planning Board, felt that the proposed development was too large in scale for the area. It would have been about 40 feet taller than any nearby buildings, and the property would have been bounded on its eastern and southern side by the Hudson River.
Part of what made the public hearing process for Hartz Mountain’s application uniquely cumbersome is the fact that the Weehawken Planning Board’s redevelopment plan for the Lincoln Harbor area has no height or density requirements for new developments. The board determines its own limits for each Lincoln Harbor development on a case-by-case basis.
Some observers were more surprised by the board’s decision to reject Hartz Mountain’s plan than others. However, as meetings progressed, it became clear that officials had certain demands for the project related to parking, access to the waterfront, and more, which Hartz Mountain wasn’t willing to meet.
Nearby property owners from Weehawken, Hoboken, and Union City, along with their attorneys, maintained a heavy presence at most of the hearings. They echoed the Planning Board’s concerns about the development’s impact on their highly-coveted view of the New York skyline and waterfront access, and how such a development might impact local traffic.
The amount of parking Hartz Mountain sought to provide in its proposal was not enough for members of the planning board. Hartz Mountain attorney James P. Rhatican said that the developer was willing to provide 60 public parking spaces, which would be metered with a two-hour time limit. Those spaces would be in addition to the 257 other resident-only parking spaces the developer is required to build.
The objections that Plannning Board officials had to Hartz Moutain’s parking plan became apparent during a Sept. 19 meeting, in which officials unanimously rejected Hartz Mountain’s parking analysis about four months after the public hearings first began.
Fund for a Better Waterfront, a nonprofit lobbying for Hoboken’s Union Dry Dock to be converted into a park for public use, also lobbied against Hartz Mountain’s proposed development, prior to its rejection.
Its opposition to the development was based in the fact that the $230 million Hudson River Rebuild By Design project ends abruptly at the property. It also objected to the density of the structure, which falls within 10 feet of a flood wall Hoboken constructed using federal funding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Because a portion of the property falls within the limits of Hoboken, Hartz Mountain would have had to seek additional approvals from the Hoboken Planning Board. Because the property was so close to the Hudson River, it also would have had to get approvals from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.