Residents who comprehend what brings people to Montclair can only be shocked and question why more residents, planning board members and elected officials do not stand up and fight to preserve what is valued in this unique and historic town.
Lackawanna Station is listed as one of New Jersey's 10 most endangered historic sites in Montclair Patch article.
Caring, dedicated residents are continuing efforts to seek a better plan for Lackawanna Plaza and offer this walk of the area to raise the public's understanding of the negative impact of the current plan. They need your voice and help to get a better plan.
(For some history of this project go to Updates page on www.SaveMontclair.org. Please forward this to other residents to join us for direct emails.)
Meet here for the:
Lackawanna Plaza Impact Awareness Walk
Saturday, April 27, 10-11 am
Refreshments – Fun – Community
Meet at the corner of Grove St & Glenridge Ave 10 am
See first-hand why community members are fighting so hard against this plan.
Join this informally guided tour of the historic setting and proposed demolition with explanations and plan impact including:
1.public parking with nearly 50% reduction of the normal requirements,
2. the valet parking operation opposite Crane Park to supplement the deficit of public spots
3. issues with left turns from Grove and Bloomfield Avenues and the resulting 40 foot wide mid block driveways on Grove and Bloomfield for pedistrians to cross
4.100 truck driveway for pedestrians to walk across on Glenridge Ave
5.154 apartment building including the public tunnel under Grove Street now accessing Lackawanna Plaza to become private for the developer's use only.
Also learn about Toney's Brook which runs under the area and enjoy a demonstration in Crane Park about native plants.
**Prizes for the fastest and slowest kids, strollers, and senior citizens getting across the planned 40 foot driveways on Grove and Bloomfield !
RAIN OR SHINE.
The April hearing at the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the so called Lloyd Estate or mega mansion plan has been rescheduled for May 15. When a project becomes controversial such as this one, the applicant's attorney may use common strategies to frustrate and wear down opposition with delays. Moving board reviews and decisions to summer or holiday periods eliminates the numbers of opponents willing to attend meetings. You may track any meeting changes and the agendas on the town site page for the Zoning Board of Adjustment or call the Planning Department to check for last minute changes.
Zoning regulations are established to protect the town and neighboring property owners. Residents wishing to follow and/ or influence the plans need to show up at Zoning hearings. The applicant will have experts explain how the plan will work while asking the Zoning Board to approve the required zoning variances for the off street parking, extra bulk and rear set back closer to the land reserve than zoning allows.
The applicant will likely have an attorney presiding while experts testify how the plan will work in order to convince the board to approve it. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions of each expert after their testimony. You may also bring a sign to communicate your wishes but well thought out questions from the public can provide information and influence board decisions.
See Montclair Local article for plan information here.
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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.
February 11, the Planning Board approved the Lackawanna Plaza plan allowing for the demolition of part of the train station stanchions for new parking spaces and a reduction of 400 parking spaces normally required for this type of plan. The planning board's own supermarket design consultant pointed out that this parking variance would not be needed if the supermarket was an appropriate size for this downtown location and no larger than 35000 square feet. This approved plan now provides for a 29000 square foot supermarket with the balance of the 47000 square foot Pathmark space left without a the developer providing a plan.
The Planning Board received pressure for months from various sources to make a decision because some local residents just wanted a supermarket. Some stated that a compromise had already been given by the developer when the number of apartment units was reduced from 349 to 154. Immediately prior to the planning board vote on February 11, Lidl supermarket was introduced as the intended market, a German chain and competitor of Aldi and Walmart. Its very difficult for anyone as well as board members to sift through the facts and comprehend the implications of any complex decision in a high pressure environment. We will all see what the implications of this decision over many years.
Any developer has a strategy laid out by a professional team to ultimately obtain the goals for his property. Part of this strategy is to initially ask for much more than he actually expects then use board fatigue and resident pressure as advantages. Lackawanna Plaza is now much more valuable property with a 400 parking variance and is zoned for 6 stories and with a recommendation to consider up to eight stories in the master plan for land use policy. Recently, a Lidl representative said that he did not want to answer press questions because a lease had still not been finalized.
See this article for thoughts from a professional in preservation.
First its the Lackawanna Station and now its historic homes.
Now is the time to make it very clear to officials that we value Montclair’s history and assets. Let's do something about the demolitions and knock downs of our older homes and historic properties. Your Township Council and Manager need to take immediate action.
The “No Knock Down” law used to be in force but was removed in 2012 under this current Council’s watch. A number of great older houses have been demolished since then. This protection needs to be reinstated. This law provides for a review process to help control arbitrary demolition of valued historic properties.
This week’s knockdown and loss of two 19th and early 20th century historic homes on Undercliff and Lloyd Roads is a disgrace. By not ensuring that the legal protections were kept in place to prevent these and past tear-downs, they are not doing their job for this historic town. Historic homes is one of our most important selling points when people visit and move here. It’s their job to preserve historic neighborhoods and those assets.
Montclair is here for residents, not developers. Make this happen. Stop the destruction of our town. Send a letter or email now.
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Last Monday's planning board meeting ended without time to start public comment regarding the developers proposed plan for Lackawanna Plaza proposal. Public comment will finally proceed this next Monday, January 28.
The final objector’s testimony at the last meeting was extensive and resulted in many subsequent questions from planning board members, the developer’s attorney and the public. The objector’s testimony suggested provided details of the 1980’s careful restoration of assets of the historic train station. Since federal funds for the 1980’s restoration were used it was questioned whether those assets could now be demolished legally.
Developers come with their proposal and a wealth of experience, financial resources, experts and tactics to eliminate opposition. Strategies are used to eliminate opposition, to frustrate and burden the planning board members volunteering their time as well as residents who are likely new to the process and have limited time, experience and resources. For example, no temporary food market has been allowed by the developer since 2015. The neighborhood is frustrated waiting for a source for groceries and this pressure helps the developer get what he wants approved which includes a parking variance for almost half the required parking.
In addition, when this current proposal was presented last spring, thedeveloper ignored the request by the planning board chair to work with the Historic Preservation Commission for a plan which could be approved. Since then only minor changes by the developer were proposed but required new reviews by the board.
In recent months while under oath and providing expert testimony for the developer, a consultant mentioned that he understood that there were several supermarkets interested in the site. However, the developer increases tension by claiming that there is now only one supermarket interested and others have dropped off the list. Thedeveloper also refuses to disclose any interested supermarketconsequently the planning board cannot verify the developers claims of what a supermarket requires. Should our planning board make decisions to demolish historic assets and massive parking variance based on this developers claims ?
Informed or insightful public comment can impact the planning board decision. Testimony is closed now so public comment is scheduled to start Monday, January 28, 7:30 at 205 Claremont Ave. We will live with the decision. Please plan on attending to show interest and speak if possible. **Check for last minute changes on the town site.
Open this Montclair Local article for information about the proposed plan and an alternative by Historic Preservation Commissioners.
***Please pass this to other residents, Like Us on Facebook. For more history of this project go to www.SaveMontclair.org to Notices page.
MONDAY NIGHT PUBLIC ATTENDANCE AND COMMENTS CAN HELP.
Developer uses scare tactics to manipulate residents to help him get his plan approved. **Please pass notice to others to show up Monday. Like Us on Facebook.
The planning board sympathizes with local residents in the food desert perpetuated by the developer and feels pressure to approve a plan which allows almost half the required parking for this over sized market, retail and office site and destroy parts of a valued historic landmark, based on unsubstantiated claims from this developer who says that this is what any supermarket wants.
In contrast a supermarket design expert explained that this is not necessarily the case. This expert said a smaller attractive market using the train station intact would draw more customers, have the required parking and be more aligned with grocer industry trends. There are supermarket companies who pride themselves in building within converted buildings to enhance the shopping experience.
The town has been held hostage by the developer since the Pathmark closed in 2015 and he did not allow any temporary market at the site. Local town Facebook sites such as Secret Montclair are used by this developer to manipulate the neighboring residents to help him get approval for his plan by stating " if you want a supermarket come to the January 14 meeting."
In reality, the town stipulates a supermarket be part of the development and according to the developer the project is years away. Efforts are best spent asking the Mayor and Counsel to insist that the developer finally allow a temporary food market and to propose a new and reasonable plan for our downtown.
Everyone wants a supermarket but more residents need to speak out for a development which enhances the downtown neighborhood and a market which will stay open in a fast changing grocery industry.
This Monday, January 14 at 7:30 in the town hall, the Planning Board is expected to hear final testimonies from professionals objecting to the developer's current plan and then have the public comment period before the Planning Board votes. During the last meeting professionals offered alternatives which provided a plan with safer and more accessible pedestrian access, dividing the parking and traffic flow and a offered an attractive alternative market using and not disturbing historic assets.
Planning board members take direction and ultimately vote based on legalities and zoning regulations as well as information from various sources including consulting professionals, town officials and developers and residents. Public comment is when residents can offer valuable insight with relevant professional knowledge or specific concerns about how the plan will affect them.
For more history and details of the Lackawanna Plaza proposal see further notices below on this page.
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SHOULD OUR PLANNING BOARD APPROVE A PLAN WITH NEARLY HALF THE REQUIRED PARKING AND REMOVAL OF OUR HISTORIC LANDMARK ASSETS IN THE DOWNTOWN CENTER BASED ON CLAIMS BY THIS DEVELOPER???
The public comment should start Monday, January 14, 7:30 at 205 Claremont. Be there if you care about the downtown. Democracy requires citizen involvement so those with their own agenda cannot step in to take advantage when no one is paying attention. ***Check the town site and planning board pages for last minute changes.
This last Monday, the Planning Board heard testimony from ""objectors" or opponents of this developer's plan for Lackawanna Plaza. This included testimony from an architectural expert specializing in preservation of transportation hubs as well as a local reuse architect's project design which could resolve many concerns including parking space and preservation of historic station assets.
On Monday, January 14 at least one more objector is expected to speak before public comment proceeds and potentially the planning board vote. Concerned residents filling seats and/or speaking out helps the planning board determine what is important to residents and momentum to follow that lead.
***Please pass to other residents to join us on SaveMontclair.org. Like us on Facebook.
A vote to reject or approve could be this same night. Ground breaking is not expected for 3 or more years according to previous statements by the developer.
The developer’s plan includes a 48000 sq foot store, seeks to reduce the required 859 spaces by 400 spaces with a parking variance and to expand current parking with the removal of some stanchions or train sheds of the historic train station. The planning board's consulting supermarket designer stated the appropriate store size according to industry trends for smaller markets and for this Lackawanna Plaza urban site should be no larger than 35000 sq feet. A smaller size store would not require additional parking and negate the need to destroy parts of the station. The 30,000 sq foot downtown Cedar Grove Foodtown market with parking according to code has succeeded since 1985 under the same owner.
The developer's plan requires valet service as well as shared parking using spaces built for the new apartment building in an attempt to compensate for lack of 400 parking spaces. The current parking on Bloomfield Ave at the Pig and Prince lot and Plaza mall would be expanded over the size of a football field along Bloomfield Ave by destroying or moving some train sheds.
In addition to questions whether valet and shared parking would reliably supply needed parking, there are concerns for the permanent management of these services, the customer's cost of the valet services and the recourse the town would have if management falls short in the future. Although the developers parking expert told the planning board that cost of valet service is unknown, the Mountainside Hospital valet service is $8 according to their website.
Critics of this plan also site pedestrian safety concerns, flow of traffic on Glenridge Ave and the massive and unsightly parking lot on Bloomfield Ave which is camouflaged in the developer's site illustrations.
History of project reviews
The developer has not allowed any temporary grocer to use the empty Pathmark since 2015 and consequently provided leverage by creating a food desert.
Since last spring, the developer has ignored the request by the Planning Board's chairman to work with Historic Preservation Commission members to develop a plan which could be approved.
The developer has refused to alter his plan to destroy train sheds for parking spaces, although national preservation standards require a landmark to remain intact.
Residents, planning board members and the Historic Preservation Commission members have worked many hours to gain an attractive development which would enhance the neighborhood and downtown center. These volunteers need more residents to help to stop this plan by attending meetings and communicating with Councilors.
***Please pass to other residents to join us on SaveMontclair.org. Like us on Facebook.
More details from the objectors are here in the Montclair Local article.
IF YOU ARE NOT OUTRAGED THEN YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION…LACKAWANNA PLAZA, THE LAST CHANCE TO AFFECT DECISIONS.
This plan provides for almost half the normal parking requirement and partial destruction of a designated historic landmark. Whether you value history and historic assets or not, this site has been established as valuable by professionals in the field and that should be respected by town officials, the Planning Board, the property owner and informed residents. Historic districts are proven valuable economic and tourist magnets for towns and the Montclair's policy guideline them preserved. This is an opportunity to showcase Montclair's downtown but not with this plan.
The obvious solution proposed by the Planning Board’s own supermarket design consultant is a smaller supermarket and required parking, would be consistent with industry trends and urban locations. Instead, months have gone by trying to tweek an irresponsible, bad plan.
The 30,000 square foot downtown Cedar Grove Foodtown has appropriate parking and successfully operated since 1985 by the same owner. Does anyone expect a 47, 000 square foot supermarket, medical offices and new and existing neighborhood businesses to thrive without enough convenient parking.
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The developer's parking expert argued how they would compensate for the parking deficit with shared and valet parking. Each concept has its flaws and if not very successful could be chaotic or disastrous for the businesses and then the downtown.
This developer has created delays and attempts to deceive the planning board and public with bogus testimony by paid experts to justify and impose a poorly designed site plan to maximize lease income. Each new plan proposed by this developer incorporated only minor changes but required a full review process by the Planning Board. By dragging out the review process, protesters gradually lose interest and pressure increases on planning boards to make a decision.
Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission members have tried hard to get it right and they need a lot more residents to show up and say this plan needs to be rejected.
Starting this Monday, December 17, other proposals will be presented by “objectors” and then public comment will begin when objectors finish their presentations. This can happen as soon as Monday or on later meeting dates on January 14 and the 27th. When public comments are concluded, the Planning Board is expected to approve or modify this plan but it should be rejected to work on a great plan. Only you can impact this decision. See proposals below.
Meetings will be shown live on channel 34 but most visual illustrations are usually not visible on your TV and residents filling seats or speaking up impact decisions.
1.This current plan provides for nearly half required parking according to proven guidelines for this type of development (a reduction of 400 of required 859 spots). The developer also proposes a reduction in the size of each parking spot.
Providing parking is costly so developers attempt to justify the need for less. One claim is that half of parking spots for the 154 unit apartment building at corner of Grove and Glenridge Ave will be available for daytime use even though this building will attract NYC train commuters using the Bay St station. This shared parking concept likes to assume cars leave for the day and free the space for other cars. Obviously train commuters 2 blocks from the train will not remove cars during workdays.
Also pointed out is that holiday periods are the busiest shopping times and those periods can make or break a business. Many of those same apartment tenants will also stay home, again using the parking during those holiday times when their parking space is in high demand.
This developer’s parking expert also explained the use of valet parking in the Crane Park neighborhood and side street named Lackawanna Plaza to accommodate customers of medical offices, the grocery and a fast food store recently included in this plan. Existing businesses relying on street parking in that neighborhood have a lot to be concerned about. Planning Board members stated that “ it was outrageous” and “ Lackawanna Plaza would look like a used car lot”.
Since the planning board argued about this point, the parking expert quickly offered that they could valet cars all the way to the apartment building parking lot on the east side of Grove at Glenridge…."since it would be half empty during the day hours". Another suggestion is to set aside space in the supermarket lot for some valet parking within the west lot on Bloomfield Ave, consequently reducing the self parking spots for supermarket customers.
When management of the valet service was discussed it became apparent that there could be as few as one attendant working at times. In addition, valet attendants are under pressure to park and retrieve cars asap and sometimes for only short periods. This plan proposes to eliminate some parking meters on some Glenridge Ave street parking spots now used by post office customers but presumably to be used for valet services.
Local residents have already complained that Crosby’s Gastropub on Glenridge was filling residential street parking by valeting customer cars. It was also discussed that the town would have no easy recourse if this valet service is mismanaged or terminated in the future.
2.This developer bought a historic landmark in a historic district but his architect stated that he was never asked to design a plan respecting or showcasing the historic landmark. Instead the developer sought out and hired a historian and planner willing to state that the train stanchions are not historic or valuable in their opinion.
In contrast, in the 1980s the developer who redeveloped Lackawanna Plaza with a Pathmark Supermarket, worked with the renown architect, Richard Blinder (who also restored Grand Central Station ) to help design the Pathmark site using the train stanchions for the existing mall in front of the supermarket space.
3. This developer makes claims that the stanchions cannot be used inside supermarkets while a supermarket design expert says otherwise and that it would be " gorgeous". Other architects provided existing examples of train stations now used for markets. Architects stated “ Its normal to be required to work with restrictions of an existing site and to design accordingly.”
Approval of this plan would be a great disservice to town residents. Doing so, the planning board would ignore their own town’s master plan goals to respect and preserve the town’s historic character.
4. Critics say this plan makes Glenridge Ave more dangerous and is unsafe for pedestrians.
Architects and the architecture consultant for the planning board have proposed plans to provide for an attractive, convenient and safe area for pedestrians, cars and delivery trucks to return to again and again. Suggested designs providing for a safer shopping area have been ignored by this developer.
Lackawanna Plaza can and should be the crown jewel and a real actual gateway to our downtown, a meeting and gathering place… attractive, convenient and safe to walk or drive to. Instead, this plan proposes an oversized downtown supermarket with parking lot stretching deeper than a football field and big box highway stores. The developers Illustrations camouflage who it will really look.
What you can do.
Come Monday at 7:30 to the 205 Claremont Ave to see what can happen to your downtown. The Mondays of Dec 17 and then possibly January 14 and 28, the PB will hear from architects and other objectors who offer plans to use the historic assets and create a safer attractive site. Then the public can have their say. Check the town site on the planning board page for any last minute changes.
See detailed report and proposed options to beautify the site using train stanchions from the the Planning Board's architectural consultant here.
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Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas