Town's Label St study ignores state policy guidelines for redevelopment: “Preserve and Enhance Areas with Historic, Cultural, Scenic, Open Space and Recreational Value”:
Notes below about the township’s Label Street study was done to seek designation so 3 story zoning can be ignored. See previous notice above on this page.
The Township’s March study for the Label Street area cites the “New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan” (2001), and highlights 6 of that plan’s 11 Policy Objectives, which the Township study considers most relevant to Label Street Redevelopment. But it fails to mention Policy Objective 9, which stipulates the importance of historic preservation. We believe this is highly relevant to any redevelopment of the Label Street area.
The Township study points out that in the State plan, Essex County is classified as a Metropolitan Planning Area PA1, and cited several of the 11 Policy Objectives for such an area. It neglected to mention:
Policy Objective 9: Historic Preservation: “Encourage the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic or significant buildings, Historic and Cultural Sites, neighborhoods and districts in ways that will not compromise either the historic resource or the area’s ability to redevelop. Coordinate historic preservation with tourism efforts.” (Print Page 191/ Digital Page 225) Here is the State study: https://nj.gov/state/planning/assets/docs/2001-state-plan/stateplan030101.pdf
More broadly, on a Statewide basis, going beyond just Metropolitan Planning Area PA1, the State plan cites 8 overall “Statewide Goals, Strategies and Policies.” Goal 7 is “Preserve and Enhance Areas with Historic, Cultural, Scenic, Open Space and Recreational Value”:
Goal 7’s Strategy: “Enhance, preserve and use historic, cultural, scenic, open space and recreational assets by collaborative planning, design, investment and management techniques. Locate and design development and redevelopment and supporting infrastructure to improve access to and protect these sites. Support the important role of the arts in contributing to community life and civic beauty.” (Page 87)
Goal 7’s Vision for Historic Preservation: “In 2020, historic sites and districts are given special recognition in their communities and are integrated into local zoning and development strategies. Seeking to maximize the unique character of their communities, nearly all municipalities in New Jersey have enacted ordinances recognizing the value of local history and providing limited protection of historic resources. In addition, these communities have conducted surveys to identify and map the location of sites, landmarks and districts as part of the master plan process. Utilizing the state’s building code that enables economically viable rehabilitation of historic properties, builders and developers embrace the ideals of conserving resources by revitalizing existing neighborhoods. Creative use of building codes now encourages the retention of the historic fabric of our communities. Development projects around the state provide for archeological investigations and on-site public observation, enhancing the understanding of our past and increasing the awareness of the current cultural diversity of the state.” (Page 87)
The State plan also outlines 19 Statewide Policy Categories. No. 9 is “Historic, Cultural and Scenic Resources” (Page 144):
“Protect, enhance, and where appropriate rehabilitate historic, cultural and scenic resources by identifying, evaluating and registering significant historic, cultural and scenic landscapes, districts, structures, buildings, objects and sites and ensuring that new growth and development is compatible with historic, cultural and scenic values.”
Also, Statewide Policy Category No. 19 is “Design,” (Page 174), which includes as a subcategory Policy 10:
“Respecting Local Context and its Vernacular: Acknowledge and incorporate local history, climate, ecology, topography, building materials, building practices and local scale into the design of the built environment and the protection of the natural environment, where practicable and cost-effective.” (Page 178)
And Policy 19/Adaptive Reuse:
“Design and construct buildings in a way that will facilitate their adaptive reuse.” (Page 180)
Based on the “New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan,” the State strongly recognizes the importance of historic preservation in such projects. Any consideration of redevelopment for the Label Street area should also embrace historic preservation and seek ways to enhance the historic industrial structures in the study area.
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This Monday, April 11 at 7:30 PM our Planning Board is scheduled to review two Walnut Street area land parcels proposed for a designation of “ Area in Need of Redevelopment” or ANR so 3 story zoning restrictions can be officially ignored.
One parcel is half the block between Label and Oak Place including vacant restaurant and second parcel is empty lot on Forest and Oak Place corner. A developer has a plan already in place for an 8 story building. This building would replace the factory building currently housing 16 businesses at older construction rental rates. The proposed building is shown here.
The ANR designation is meant to provide financial incentives and flexibility to attract development for dilapidated, dangerous or abandoned property which would otherwise be of no interest to developers.
In this case the ANR designation would help a developer’s interests but alter the charm of this successful mixed-use neighborhood as well as add congestion to the adjacent residential streets. If the ANR designation is stopped Monday night by the Planning Board and not recommended this kind of building cannot be built.
Residents need to voice opposition by calling into Mondays meeting. Find directions on Planning Board page under Agendas in on the town site here.
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Additionally the Depot Square station parking lot/ farmers market area has been proposed for designation of “area in need of rehabilitation”, with similar incentives.
Here is how this happens.
1st A property owner approaches our own town planner about what they want to do outside of our zoning restrictions, which exist to protect all area property owners. Zoning is determined by the Planning Board as the most appropriate land use setting for that part of the community.
2nd The planner now comes to the Council with a proposal to study the area to support a proposal for ANR designation. The planner hires an outside agency for the study which almost always recommends a designation. All Councilors and the Mayor approved this study.
3rd The developer then brings the development proposal to the Planning Board with few restrictions including heights, parking requirements and preservation laws.
Unfortunately, high rise development has been proposed in town since the Mayor Fried administration hired an urban town planner prior to 2012 experienced in planning Hoboken development. During the the Jackson administration in 2013-2015 residents all over town pushed back hard to stop rezoning to allow 7-12 story high density building in business districts throughout the township in the new Montclair masterplan. In 2014, in one planning board meeting scheduled during Thanksgiving week, sixteen ANRs were designated in our downtown Bloomfield Ave area and adjacent neighborhoods making zoning immaterial for these properties.
Transit Oriented Development or TODs has also been promoted here since 2012. NJ Transit funded many NJ town masterplans to support this which resulted in confusing, complex and overly technical masterplan documents with high density development around train stations. Montclair was of special interest since we have six train stations. Montclair was one of only 3 towns in the state that our Council actually approved using the 200-page masterplan funded by NJ Transit, replacing our previous, easy to understand masterplans with a few pages. “It’s all about fannies in the seat”, the NJ Transit property manager told this writer. More history of development in town can be found on the SaveMontclair.org site. Join Us to receive future notices about development.
Since 2012 the township planner and four of the holdover current Councilors from the past administration have heard residents all over town fight over development and zoning for high density; Sean Spiller, Bill Hurlock, Robin Schlager and Bob Russo have all heard ongoing resident anger and dismay about continued proposals and oversized projects. They’ve heard it over and over, night after night; sometimes with 150 or 200 residents attending board and ward meetings… “We did not move to Montclair to live in a city”.
Residents can participate in the Planning Board meeting Monday at 7:30 PM by following directions on the Planning Board page of town site here. Sometimes the PB meeting schedule or agenda changes with little or no notice so check this site again Monday. The study for ANR designation and maps can be found town site on the Planning Board page here.
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Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
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HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas