KEYPORT — A dense apartment complex proposed at an environmentally sensitive site will not meet stringent state standards for stormwater management, which has caught the attention of the borough Environmental Commission.
The planner for what is being called Baypoint — a 3½ -story, 24 two-bedroom apartment building with 57 parking spaces on 1⅓ acre next to Chingarora Creek — doesn’t want the details of their stormwater plan getting out.
“Don’t write a story about that,” planner Michael Geller said after a Planning Board hearing last Thursday. “It’s too complicated.”
Without getting into the technical details of Baypoint’s stormwater management system, it breaks down like this:
At a minimum, major building projects need to control 50 percent of the runoff water on their site from rain caused by a fairly typical downpour called the two-year storm.
Baypoint’s design team came to the Planning Board asking for permission to build a system that handles just five percent — 80 percent less than the state standard — of the runoff through a system of pipes and trenches.
“As such, these trenches seem inadequate to absorb the run off (sic) generated by a 57 space parking area as well as the impervious surfaces created by the buildings themselves,” wrote Dr. Kenneth DeGroat, the Environmental Commission chairman in a letter to the board’s engineer.
To make his point, DeGroat used the CVS pharmacy recently built on the former Remsen Dodge dealership at Broad Street and Route 35 in the Mechanicsville neighborhood as an example. That site, with 66 parking spaces, sidewalks and the building was required to build two retention basins to handle stormwater.
Read the Environmental Commission letter, Click here.
The Baypoint apartments are proposed on the former Walling Mobilehome Park on Williamson Street. All that is left of the trailer park are a few concrete slabs and a dilapidated garage. The land has not been maintained otherwise. Trees and weeds have taken root throughout the property.
The land straddles Chingarora Creek on two sides, and the state Department of Environmental Protection has placed wide conservation easements on the property to help protect the already faltering water quality in the creek.
“Excess storm water not adequately controlled will undoubtedly run downhill from the building site and into the surrounding wetlands and creek causing additional erosion and silting of the creek, exacerbating existing flow problems, DeGroat wrote. “In addition to introducing pollutants (oil, chemicals all year, salt and ice melt in winter) to the creek and wetlands, the stagnant water represents potential health hazards from increased mosquito and insect populations.”
In addition to the allowance to reduce the mandated storm water management at Baypoint, the developers need the Planning Board’s permission to forgoe some other requirements so they can build exactly what they want.
- A story variance: The proposed project is 3 ½ stories. Borough regulations only permit 2 ½ stories. Baypoint’s designers were told to put parking under the building to maximize space and alleviate an already burdensome neighborhood parking problem. The developers originally proposed a plan that fit the parameters for the number of stories. By putting parking under the building, the development team needed to raise the entire structure. Two floors would be occupied and an attic would house HVAC and other mechanics for the units. The attic would not be accessible by residents.
- A height allowance: This is not a formal variance or waiver, but the developers want the Planning Board to recognize the height of the building as 29 feet. The maximum height allowed in Keyport is 30 feet. The reason the developers want the building height to be recognized at 29 feet is because the peak of the roof is several feet above the maximum allowed. Legally, building height is not measured from the ground to the roof peak. Instead the height of a building is measured to an imaginary point between the peak and the gables. To lower that point below 30 feet, Baypoint’s developers proposed a plan that slopes the roof from the peak toward the top of the first inhabited floor. They proposed dormers to make the second floor habitable. The distinction is important because it could require the developers to seek a different type of permission called a D-variance. If a D-variance was needed for the project, Baypoint’s case would need to be dismissed from the Planning Board and the developer would need to present its case again but Mayor Harry Aumack II and Councilman Isaiah Cooper, who both sit on the board, would not be able to hear the case and alternates would need to be used.
- Permission to build before DEP weighs in on project aspects: Part of the project is to build a 23-spot parking lot where the Green Grove Gardens pool used to be. (Green Grove Gardens and Baypoint are owned by two different companies, but they are controlled by the same group of people.) The lot is near the intersection of 8th Street at Fulton Street. To build the lot there, the DEP must survey the land and mark what is and what is not wetlands. That’s a process that could take a year, according to Geller. The risk to the developer is that the parking lot could be scuttled by the state. If they aren’t allowed to build Baypoint without building the parking lot, the DEP ruling has the potential to kill the project. So the Baypoint developers want to be able to build one while pursuing the other. And they don’t want to be precluded from developing Baypoint if the the parking lot can’t be built.
- Permission to count a gym as recreation for the site: The planning board wanted outdoor recreation —a small playground — to be included in the plans. Instead, Baypoint’s developers included a gym that would be open to the Green Grove Gardens residents. There is still debate on this issue.
- Design of a sewer system and pump stations: The borough’s sewers end at the Green Grove Gardens. The former trailer park and a few other properties south of Green Grove Cemetery are all on septic systems. The lack of a sanitary sewer hook-up has prevented development there for decades. The Baypoint developers want to connect their sewer to the existing lines using a pump station because the line can’t be gravity fed. The pump station makes the units vulnerable to power outages. If power is interrupted to the pump station, the sewers for the apartments would back-up. The board has asked them to redesign some of their sewer plans.
To be sure, the drainage problems along Green Grove Avenue are much larger than the existing garden apartments or the proposed building.
Green Grove Avenue has no storm sewer system from the Henry Hudson Trail to Chingarora Creek. Many of the side streets in the southeastern neighborhood are without storm sewers as well.
In heavy rain, water pools on the streets and intersections as it flows over the asphalt toward the creek picking up grass clippings, sand and chemicals along the way.
Geller’s point of view is that the Baypoint site has no stormwater controls whatsoever, so something is better than nothing.
“The site currently drains uncontrolled,” Geller told the board. Later he said, “We’re trying to meet the standards as much as we can.”
By and large, the borough’s contracted professionals agreed that Baypoint, as proposed, does not meet the standard, but they stopped short of asking for full compliance with regulations.
“We want to get the best and highest recharge possibility of for this property,” said Francis Mullan, the borough’s contracted engineer from T&M Associates of Middletown.
Mullan asked the Baypoint developers to increase the capacity of the stormwater system to just 10 percent — 60 percent below the state standard. Mullan spun it by saying he requested that Baypoint double its stormwater capacity.
The project “would have to be dramatically scaled down to get to the threshold,” he told the board.
Mullan refused to be interviewed after the hearing to clarify his public statements on the developer’s proposed stormwater plan, and his recommendations to the board.
Only two members of the nine-person board said they were not happy with Baypoint’s plan to manage storm water. They are Terry Mussen, and Dennis Fotopoulous, an Environmental Commission memeber.
A final approval on the project is expected Sept. 24.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story described the proposed Baypoint apartments as “large.” To be more clear, the description of the apartments was changed to “dense.”