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Leonia Citizens Group Reaches Settlement For Former Church Site Development

Holy Spirit Lutheran Church
Holy Spirit Lutheran Church Photo Credit: Leonia Library

LEONIA, N.J. -- A citizens group and developer who were at odds over a planned four-story, 37 unit apartment building have reached a tentative settlement.

Save Leonia Zoning chairman Judah Zeigler, the borough's mayor-elect, announced the agreement after meeting with the SLZ steering committee Sunday night.

The new plan is for a building on the site of the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church that’s three stories high, with its bulk reduced significantly. A wing at the west end of the property has been removed and the floor area on each of the three levels will be reduced by nearly 3,000 square feet.

The number of parking spaces was cut from 84 to 65; there will be one curb cut instead of two.

The number of units overall was reduced to 32. Of those, 27 are one-bedroom units and five two-bedrooms.

313 Woodland LLC also agreed to contribute $18,500 to Leonia’s recreation fund, and replace every tree removed or cut down with three new trees.

After making the announcement, Zeigler resigned as chairman to avoid potential conflicts. Committee treasurer Joseph Bevacqua, a longtime Planning Board chairman, was elected chairman.

Bevacqua told Daily Voice that the sides “came to a common agreement” through mediation, and that the plan calls for a significantly "less intrusive" building that the original.

A lawsuit filed by SLZ won’t be dismissed, he said, until a new application is presented to the Planning Board and approved.

Save Leonia Zoning sued 313 Woodland Place LLC in June after the Planning Board approved a building that the group said it considered over-large and inappropriate for the residential location.

The group mounted an online petition campaign that gathered 700 signatures opposing the plan and raised contributions to hire a planning attorney who met with a representative of the developer and a mediator.

The application now goes back to the Planning Board, with agreed modifications. The board has scheduled a tentative meeting for Dec. 23.

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