Franklin planners approve zoning to revive Main Street

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:49

    FRANKLIN-The Planning Board unanimously approval a new zoning ordinance Monday night that realigns the borough's ability to meet its intended planning goals for the years to come. The new ordinance now returns to the mayor and council for its expected approval. "We worked for a year-and-a-half on that with a lot of input," said Planning Board chairman John Cholminski, who expressed his satisfaction with the final draft. If the new ordinance receives the borough council's support, as expected, it will become law some 20 days after the final reading is voted upon. A large part of the new ordinance deals with the anticipated Gateway Project that the borough has been working on in order to revitalize the Main Street corridor. The area was a thriving commercial center during the borough's illustrious mining days of more than half a century, but which has grown dormant since then. The former New Jersey Zinc Co. property along Main Street will be the main ingredient of that intended revitalization. The new ordinance allows for greater commercial development in the area than previous regulations, but also opens up different types of housing. The new zoning also would serve as a blueprint in anticipation of the growth Franklin officials foresee coming to the town. The planning board's subcommittee recently reworked the final draft in regard to the zinc company property that is owned by Anthony Patire. He is a Clifton-based developer who recently acquired majority rights in the Zinctown tract after having held minority interest in it for 22 years. The old change house, where miners would shower and dress after a long day in the mines below, will remain the key structure around which the anticipated commercial development will occur on the property's upper half. The lower portion of the property, which is close to Susquehanna Street, and the borough's viaduct will be developed for residential use, including age-restricted housing. One of the planning board's final concerns dealt with the synchronization of both the upper and lower levels, which are expected to be linked via a "connection" to allow for pedestrians and workers to have access to parking without having to go outdoors or rely on stairs. It's about 60 feet between the two levels. Cholminski had worried that in the event a developer on the lower level had reached his profit margin well in advance of the "buildout" of the upper section, "we'll never see that connection." However, the new ordinance includes the stipulation that "no more than 25 percent of the total number of residential certificates of occupancy may be granted" before the upper level's commercial development is completed. Patire could use subcontractors in order to complete all development on both levels. Patire's main concern dealt with the part of his property known as the Sterling Slope. This 1.5 acre strip on the upper portion faces Sterling Street, which could have been interpreted as being part of the commercial development. Because no one wanted it included for commercial purposes, the problem was worked out. "They actually gave us more than we asked for tonight," said Patire's attorney, Thomas Prol. "They're telling us we might be able to put 50 (residential) units there; we had only asked for 10." Patire's biggest concern, however, is still with the possibility of the borough opting for redevelopment status. Under New Jersey Land Use law, that could allow the town to bring in another developer to do the work, thus greatly reducing Patire's potential profit margin, even though he would still own the land.