The Township Council previously said it would review a final Redevelopment Plan created for Lackawanna Plaza this Tuesday, July 25th. However, only about a month ago, the Council asked our Planning Board to review and make recommendations about this newly written Plan -- which meant only 1 to 2 meetings. However, this stage of the Plan approval is most important as it really determines the footprint, heights and bulk of the project. One or two meetings is hardly enough to understand and decide what works best for the town and finalize the level of detail needed in a redevelopment plan of this scope and magnitude.
In addition, this current plan was written by the consulting firm hired by the Council. Unfortunately, it reflects what the developer wants, not what residents had told town leaders they wanted in previous meetings and visioning sessions.
It’s hard to excuse or justify why our Mayor and Council want to bypass the full due diligence process for Lackawanna Plaza, but a badly needed supermarket which is years away does not begin to explain it. Full Planning Board reviews provide the opportunity for residents and board members to review and respond to protect and enhance neighborhoods and seek the best for our town’s future.
During 2013 and 2014 planning board meetings reviewing drafts of the master plan, it was clear most members of the planning either board kept quiet or were supportive of the mayor’s and town planner’s quest to increase zoning heights all over town. At that time, development was approved with little consideration for concerns of residents asking to preserve the quality of life people chose to live here for.
Residents complained then, as they do now that development focused on bringing in lots of new residents and not enhancing neighborhoods or caring what current residents wanted. State required “ visioning workshops” were set up to allow residents to voice concerns for what they wanted. Officials claimed few new kids will use the already crowded schools and that the new residents don’t want cars.
Promoters and NJ Transit talked about lots of amenities in new “ Transit Oriented Development” but actual plans just show 100s of new apartments, very little commercial space and more justifications for too little parking. Each of the previous developments meant more public parking spaces sold as “permit only”.
During the last three years, the Council approved new planning board members that residents asked for, with a more pro-quality of life viewpoint. Our new Planning Board today has worked conscientiously to better understand and negotiate with developers more of what residents wanted: less bulky structures with more tasteful designs fitting the neighborhood character. However, this takes months of back and forth reviews -- especially in cases like those developments from Hampshire and Pinnacle, since their initial plans have little consideration for a neighborhoods and start with massive oversized footprints and heights. Pinnacle built Valley and Bloom which was initially approved by the earlier planning board members and final plans approved by this same Council as reported here.
We need to keep asking our Mayor and Council to let our Boards and Historic Preservation Commission to do their job and not bypass those due diligence reviews and procedures that can protect our town, our property owners and residents. This Council has now helped provide a planning board that finally cares about our neighborhoods and residents -- so let them to their job.
The town website Council page provides the agenda and as of Saturday morning, Lackawanna Plaza is not listed however public comments are scheduled.
Speak out Tuesday night ( 7PM at town hall) during public comments. Tell them to let the Planning Board and HPC do their work.
Ask them to represent their constituents and not just the developer.
Call (973) 509-4901 for your representative’s name.
Mayor Robert Jackson: email@example.com
1st Ward Cllr. Hurlock: firstname.lastname@example.org
2nd Ward Cllr. Schlager: email@example.com
3rd Ward Cllr. Spiller: firstname.lastname@example.org
4th Ward Cllr. Baskerville: email@example.com
At-Large Robert J. Russo: firstname.lastname@example.org
At-Large Rich McMahon: email@example.com
Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas