The developer of Argonne Woods, a condominium complex on Route 23 in Butler, approached the borough council Tuesday seeking members' blessing before pursuing a zone overlay to convert units intended for purchase into rental properties.
In doing so, the developer would be increasing the number of occupancies at the complex from a total of 69 units to more than 120, including the rentals.
The economy has had an effect on the condominium business, even as much of the development is still being built, according to developer Mounir Badaan, of MNB Realty Inc., who spoke to the council with his son, Brandon Badaan. The complex has only sold 10 of the 18 completed units, he said. About one unit has sold for every six months since they have been available.
"We just have a very bad situation," Mounir Badaan said.
In an effort to save the business, the Badaans approached the council before the Land Use Board to gauge whether the council would be agreeable to a zoning overlay, something that may be needed to amend the originally approved purpose of the property and now allow for rentals. Brandon Badaan said the application process for the overlay could cost thousands of dollars and the developers wanted to first hear the recommendation of the council.
"We wanted to shoot the idea around before those expenses are incurred," he said.
But council members agreed they felt more comfortable referring the issue to the Land Use Board for discussion and review. Mayor Robert Alviene was also concerned about the people who have already purchased property at the development.
"The people that did buy these things, they have to be considered at some point," he said.
Brandon Badaan presented drawings that showed a 700- to 1,000-foot separation that would be built between the rental and owned properties. More than 90 of the units would be rental-only.
The properties for purchase were priced between $300,000 and $400,000, Mounir Badaan said. But the rental units, which inclde one- and two-bedroom models, could be priced at $1,100 per month.
The Badaans were asked if they considered applying for zone variances, but Brandon Badaan said he did not feel variances would be appropriate for the site. The development is located in an R7 zone which does not currently allow for rental property.
"It would be so many variances that it just wouldn't fit," he said.
Borough Attorney Robert Oostdyk agreed.
"This would be a major variance," he said. "It's almost more appropriate to look at it as a zone change."
Mounir Badaan thanked the council members for their consideration and said he plans to approach the Land Use Board. He also stressed how essential the allowance for rental property at the development is to him.
"That's the only way we're going to be able to survive," he said.