PLANNING BOARD APPROVED LACK PLAZA PLAN WITHOUT SUBSTANTIATING NEED FOR PARKING VARIANCE AND STATION DEMOLITION.
A Deputy Director of Preservation at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and Montclair resident, Caroline Kane Levy says Lackawanna developer failed to satisfy the heavy burden of proof for the both a parking variance and demolition of a historic site and the Planning Board did not do its job in demanding proof. The developer’s variances are directly tied to the demolition of a historic structure important to the town and region and are asking for a 400 car parking variance in an already parking-starved downtown. Ms. Levy explains that:
1. A variance should be granted only if there is not "substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impair the intent and the purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.
2. A developer seeking a variance must meet strict standards under the NJ Municipal Land Use Law based on hardship and therefore cannot self-create an undue hardship for a supermarket, such as eliminating existing the parking across Grove Street for a new residential development.
3. Historic preservation law, including Montclair’s ordinance requires that the developer has the burden to show that an important and vital historic building cannot be retained and reused.
Ms. Levy says the above are substantive reasons why the Planning Board’s decision was flawed but there are procedural reasons as well.
1. The applicant never revealed a tenant until the last possible minute and that a supermarket representative was not allowed to be questioned or to affirm the claims of the developer.
2. The Township Council voting ahead of the Planning Board by passing a Council resolution to urge the expedited approval by the board of this ill-conceived plan.
3. The aggressively prejudicial way Chairman Wynn led the meetings, opening each meeting with a statement that he expects the applicants to sue, refusing the Historic Preservation Commission's request to allow additional expert witnesses, and not allowing members of the public speak who did not live in Montclair which is not accounted for in the planning board bylaws.
4. Instead of doing research himself, the Planning Board’s attorney told the applicant to prepare a report on whether there may in fact be easements or deed restrictions dating from the 1980s federally funded adaptive re-use, such as retaining public access through the tunnel under Grove Street, therefore taking the word of the developer.
5. At the last possible minute, the entire program was revised, to include a much smaller supermarket with very different loading and parking requirements, and a vote was taken without any questioning or time for additional review by other agencies or interested parties.
6. The Historic Preservation Commission has been marginalized during this entire process.
If the supermarket fails, the valuable historic asset will be gone and what will be left is a very large development site zoned for 6 stories with recommendation to consider up to 8 stories in the master plan guidelines.
See Ms. Levy entire article here.
Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas