Barring any unforeseen scheduling conflicts, the final vote will happen on Monday, June 7 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. While the public will be invited to attend the meeting, there will not be another opportunity to comment.
The garage, if approved, will be built partially underneath the Babbio Center for Technology Management, which is presently under construction on Sinatra Drive between Fifth and Sixth streets.
The garage portion of the building will be four stories. Because a portion is slated to be built under the six-story Babbio Center, the entire combined structure will be 10 stories from its base.
When a developer desires to deviate from the zoning code, he must go before Zoning Board of Adjustment to request variances. The power to approve variances and to interpret zoning questions give the Zoning Board quasi-judicial authority to "fine-tune" land use regulations on a case-by-case basis, based on strict criteria.
,br> A developer can request variances for a variety of reasons. Stevens is asking for variances for permitted use, lot coverage, building height, distance between buildings, building length, open space ratio, facade specifications, the number of principal buildings per lot, conditional requirements for public parking facilities, minimum setbacks from a residential zoning district, and a location for the garage entrance, among others.
Most of the spots will be for Stevens students and faculty, but some will be made available to people using the Little League field. "This project has a huge number of benefits," said Libeling. He listed them as: Directing the school's traffic away from the city center, providing free parking for parents who use the Little League field, more than one acre area of open space on the garage's roof, some which might be used as wintertime home to an ice-skating rink, and a small university police precinct on Sinatra Drive side of the garage.
He added that the location is the only opportunity left on the campus to address the university's parking responsibilities.
He also said that while 14 variances may seem like a lot, most of them have arisen because of zoning oddities. "These are [zoning] anomalies that have no planning impact," said Libeling.
There were members of the public that both supported and opposed the application, although there were about twice as many people who came out against the project at recent hearings.
For the objectors, the same concerns kept arising, such anxiety about the hefty size and "uninspired" architecture. Critics also worry that the project will cause additional traffic problems, and that a large parking garage might not be the best use for property that faces Hoboken's revived and celebrated waterfront.
They also fear that with so many variances, this is "zoning by variance." They said approving the garage would be a de facto rewriting of the zoning code. In Hoboken, it is the City Council which is supposed to have the legislative authority to write and change zoning.
"It's just too big and doesn't really fit in this location," said Hoboken resident Bob DuVal, during the more than three-hour public comment portion. Seven-year Planning Board member and chairman of the Planning Board's Master Plan subcommittee Hank Forrest also opposed the garage.
"This has been poorly planned and poorly presented," he said during the public portion. He added that there hasn't been an adequate study to determine why a 725-car garage is needed, where these cars will come from, and how this plan compares with parking plans on other urban campuses.
He also had questions about the nearly 400-foot facade facing Sinatra Drive. "I think there could be a more imaginative treatment of the facade," he said.
Ron Hine, the executive director of the Fund for a Better Waterfront, said that any project this close to the waterfront should bring "life and energy" to the water's edge, but this project is a "dead, lifeless" parking garage. "We have set a very high standard for our waterfront and it would be a tragedy if we let this go," he said. He added that Stevens should go back to the drawing board and come back with a smaller project that connects to the streetscape and hides the parking.
Hoboken resident Augusta Przygoda said, "Granting 14 or more variances seems to me that you are re-zoning," she said.
Those who spoke in favor of the garage said that it would take cars off the streets and provide a desperately needed amenity for the university. City Councilman A. Nino Giacchi, who lives on Hudson Street, said that for years, Stevens students and staff have parked on Hudson Street and have taken spaces that should be used by residents. He added that this is the most appropriate location on the school's campus for a garage because it's not particularly close to residential housing.
Stevens employee Margie Everett said that Stevens needs these spaces. She said it's hard to organize events for the school because of a lack of parking. "My only regret is that it couldn't be more," she said.