The developer’s plan for Lackawanna Plaza will be presented to the Council for review this Tues, May 23 at 7PM in the town hall, 205 Claremont St. Here is the proposed development massing perspective at Grove and Bloomfield Avenues. An second view from above is here. It is important for Council members to be reminded what residents have said they wanted in this project.
Please plan to attend this meeting and speak. If necessary, you may view it on TV 34 but be sure to communicate with elected officials. Email addresses are on the town site.
Lackawanna Plaza is one of several areas in town which were designated “redevelopment areas” while the master plan was being reviewed between 2013 and 2015. The most controversial part of the original 2013 master plan draft was raising zoning heights in all business districts and eventually heights were reduced. However “redevelopment areas” and “ areas in need to development” were designated which allow for deviations from local zoning restrictions.
Many residents expressed concern about these designations. At that time, Mayor Jackson and other officials explained that this designation would allow the town to have more control. Since this is the case, it is the time to remind elected officials what has been already asked for by the public for Lackawanna Plaza during public outreach sessions.
This is the time to come out and insist that this project be a crown jewel to be proud of. Lackawanna Plaza can be an exciting and beautiful destination as well as attractive gateway to our downtown. Pass this email to residents and especially those in the 4th ward.
The proposal by Pinnacle/Hampshire would vastly overdevelop the site with bulky buildings adding 349 apartments in an already congested neighborhood, degrade the eastern gateway to Montclair, dwarf and disregard elements of the venerated historic train station, and shut the door to creative possibilities for a valuable amenity in the Fourth Ward and for the town as a whole.
Significant concerns about developer’s proposal include:
* Overly intensive development. The west and east parcels combined (7.5 acres) would have 349 apartments, 755 parking spaces, and 36,000 square feet of office and retail. The west parcel, with the historic station, would have a density that exceeds what zoning allows. This will bring traffic congestion and obstruct the historic setting and layout of the train terminal.
* Excessive mass and bulk. The buildings proposed for the west parcel (train terminal) are monolithic and completely out of scale with the existing historic structures. Deeper setbacks are needed and bulk should be drastically reduced.
* Insufficient common areas. More acreage is needed for common areas such as a train-themed playground, green space, cultural plaza and outdoor dining. These features could be a fabulous amenity to Fourth Ward residents and a destination for residents area-wide, making this a true legacy project. Presently, common areas are too small a component of this massive project.
* Lack of respect for the historic train station. This 1912 station, designed by William Botsford and on the National Register of Historic Places, should be the jewel in the crown – the most prominent architectural feature – of this redevelopment, yet it has been subjugated entirely. View corridors and sightlines to the terminal, particularly the monumental Waiting Room, are blocked or interrupted by the vast mass and bulk of the proposed buildings.
The plan has not adequately addressed how it will preserve and highlight historic components of the train station, such as the train station building, the train sheds, the track platforms, the steel piers that supported the canopies over the platforms, the horse trough, and the stairs to Grove Street. According to the Office of New Jersey Historic Preservation, the Lackawanna Station was once called the “ Handsomest and best arranged suburban railroad terminal in the United States.”
* Location of the grocery store. Consider putting the grocery store east of Grove Street instead of next to the train station’s historic buildings. That east parcel is not within the Town Center Historic District and may be a more appropriate area for a modern supermarket.
Part of the process for any development are meetings providing the opportunity for the public to say what they want in a project.
Below is what the public requested in community outreach meetings for this project.
* Make Lackawanna Plaza less of a barrier, and better connect it to the surrounding community.
* Create a vibrant place with a mix of uses that bring activity to the Plan Area.
* Promote redevelopment opportunities that create a positive fiscal impact for Montclair, which will complement existing uses in the vicinity and improve the streetscapes within the Plan Area.
* Provide a regulatory framework that fulfills the Township's vision for the Plan Area while accommodating market preferences and reasonable economic factors.
* Protect and enhance historic aspects of the Plan Area through preservation and appropriate new development.
* Coordinate redevelopment efforts for the entire Plan Area to minimize disturbance to surrounding residences and businesses during construction.
* Provide a land use mix that results in a sustainable positive fiscal and social impact for the Township of Montclair.
* Ensure that one of the uses is for a quality grocery store and encourage supportive food-related uses.
* Provide stores and services for local residents and workers while also drawing patrons from the broader community.
* Provide plazas and public gathering spaces at key locations, connected by walkways to and through the site.
* Provide mixed, multi-generational housing opportunities, with a variety of unit sizes ranging from small micro-units to larger three-bedroom units.
* Provide affordable housing, including workforce housing.
* Incorporate arts and culture into the redevelopment project, but do not compete with other redevelopment initiatives.
* Encourage shared parking in structures that are hidden from view.
* Create programmable indoor and outdoor spaces that provide for year-round multi- cultural and multi-generational events.
* Require high-quality design and building materials that reflect historic local design and materials.
* Reduce the existing block pattern with visual breaks and pedestrian connections through the Plan Area.
* Provide bulk and setback regulations that allow reasonable development but reduce building mass and minimize impacts on adjoining areas.
* Promote high-quality architectural design of new buildings that complements existing historic buildings in the Plan Area and vicinity.
* Create an inviting and attractive pedestrian-oriented atmosphere at the sidewalk level.
* Enhance the public realm by providing an attractive and welcoming pedestrian environment through active ground floor uses and public spaces.
* Minimize the amount of street frontage devoted to driveways, parking garages and loading areas.
* Preserve and adaptively reuse historic features and structures on the site.
* Establish view corridors that protect the visibility of important historic features. Mobility and Circulation
* Improve safety for all modes of travel and circulation - vehicles (cars, buses, taxis), pedestrians (patrons/shoppers, commuters, young and old), and bicycles - by providing clearly defined and distinct areas for all modes of travel and safe access into and out of the site.
* Provide multiple pedestrian connections to and through the Plan Area that creatively use lighting, landscaping and design to create a pleasant walking experience.
* Improve connections to train stations and transit service.
* Activate Grove Street, making it less of a barrier and more of a connector for both sides of the development.
* Minimize traffic impact through appropriate design of driveways and parking and traffic calming improvements on area roadways.
* Achieve economic benefits through green site design, including green solutions to stormwater management and use of pervious pavement.
* Reduce dependency on solo automobile trips by leveraging the Township's transit assets and encouraging walking and biking.
* Promote active and passive "green" building technologies.
* Ensure the redevelopment project is compatible with the carrying capacity of the utilities servicing the Plan Area.
* Evaluate Toney's Brook to determine if it can be daylighted and/or relocated as an open space asset.
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Midsized single homes and affordable housing can have high costs to town...require informed, balanced decisions....Help some, hurt others.
LOTS OF NEW HOUSING..HARD DECISIONS...MORE INPUT NEEDED
During the next few years extensive new housing is planned to go up in Montclair. Communities with a reputation for better schools attract a disproportionately higher number of school aged children. It is imperative that housing is planned to maintain the right balance of residents using public schools with those that do not but pay taxes to support them. For a list of proposed development go to our town site here---.
In general, both mid range priced single family homes with school children pay much less in taxes than they cost the town. In addition, since designated affordable housing units are sold or rented below the market rate, they pay reduced taxes or rent accordingly.
Other tax payers make up the difference. According to the 2015 census there were 15347 household units in Montclair but since their are foreclosures not all households are paying taxes.
Many empty nesters leave New Jersey for a less expensive housing however many just move to adjacent towns. We need to have alternatives for more empty nesters to stay here since they are primarily replaced with young families.
Everyone agrees that maintaining excellent education is crucial but costly. Overcrowding the classrooms degrades education for every school child. According to the NJ Dept of Education 2013/14 school year cost per K-12 Montclair student was $19,093.
In 2010 the newly built Charles Bullock primary school opened in order to lower the number of children in primary grades, at a cost of $31 million. Census data for that same year indicated Montclair had 14520 households units including renters responsible for the debt which continues in our taxes today.
Its not unique for all tax payers to subsidize those residents with school aged children but residents and decision makers need to understand the potential cost implications of adding housing. However in recent years Montclair has had what other towns may not have: strong pressure for larger scale development and very active proponents and agencies asking for more and more designated affordable housing.
We need to understand the town’s cost implications of more housing, single family homes and "affordable housing" rented or sold on the town finances, schools and taxpayers. We have to rely our Council to make well-informed responsible planning decisions for the all residents, especially those with the lowest incomes who can least afford higher taxes or rent increases.
Keep in mind, only a portion of your property taxes go to schools. According to the Montclair Assessors Office during the 2015 year 55.74% of household property taxes went to our schools while the remainder was divided among the municipality, libraries, open space and the county. In recent years, non-school town services cost an additional $5-7000 per household unit including town administration, police, fire, streets, waste management, utilities etc.
A median 3 bedroom home in town assessed at $585,000 typically houses 1-2 school children and may pay $16-20,000 in total property taxes. However, if this median home has two children attending public school they will cost the town about $46,000-47,000. Renters pay taxes as a large portion of rent.
Mid range single family homes are popular with developers since they sell easily now. Larger homesites are being sold and subdivided by developers into lots to build multiple homes. Just this week, the planning board was required according to zoning regulations to approve 8 new homes to be built after the demolition of a large historic homesite at 44 Pleasant Ave.
Our schools can expect to gain an average of two children per household from this development. This will cost to the city schools approximately $320,000 per year at today’s cost. However, tax income from the 8 households will be much less than actual town costs. These proposed homes assessed between $8-900,000 may pay about $30,000 in property taxes for a total of $240,000. If each have two school aged children the total will cost may be over $376,000 for school and other town services.
Five housing units were also approved on the corner of Claremont and Grove in a lot which had been an empty single family home and funeral parlor. We now see two duplexes and soon a new single family home will go up. Schools will likely see an additional 8-10 children from these 5 new home units and again costs will far exceed tax revenues produced.
Affordable Housing is also very important to be planned responsibly and needs to be in balance with other housing to make up the difference in tax revenue and costs. “Affordable housing” is a federal term as well as a town ordinance to provide housing for those who cannot afford to live in Montclair, unless provided below market rate housing. Local proponents pressure for all development over 5 units to designate 20% affordable households. The town and tax payers share cost by accepting lower taxes from those residents and its explained here on the townsite.
In addition, an agency, Homecore has a local office to promote as well as build affordable housing. Talbot Street affordable housing units went on sale recently. Open here for tax revenues for these affordable units. Since 3 bedroom unit requires 5 residents and may average $3500 in taxes but potentially have 2-4 children and cost $6-7000 in town services and about $20,000 for each child in a public school.
Montclair has a sizable population who needs affordable housing assistance however eligible "affordable housing" applicants need not live in Montclair or even New Jersey. According to our planning office, any applicant living legally in the US may qualify for "affordable housing" in New Jersey. Therefore eligible applicants from out of town may obtain affordable housing in Montclair and add children to our already crowded schools while current residents do not get the help.
Recently our town officials are discussing providing half of affordable housing units ( or 10% of all new units ) to town employees. Local land and affordable housing are precious commodities so should be used for the most benefit of the town. In this metropolitan area most people commute to their jobs. If affordable units went to qualified senior households or current residents there would be no impact on schools.
Our Council representatives need to hear from more residents asking for balanced housing to protect our schools and tax payers. Residents want responsible, well informed planning and decisions which help our schools and township’s financial success. Communicate with your your representative.
What we need:
To find your ward or Councilor’s name call 973-509-4901.
Mayor Robert Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org
1st Ward Cllr./Dep. Mayor Bill Hurlock: email@example.com
2nd Ward Cllr. Schlager: firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd Ward Cllr. Spiller: email@example.com
4th Ward Cllr. Baskerville: firstname.lastname@example.org
At-Large Robert J. Russo: email@example.com
At-Large Rich McMahon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas