Here is another sad example of our Council not willing to confront the Township planning department for appearing to work on behalf of the developer, rather than protect the interests of town residents. Rather than getting to the bottom of a potential manipulation during the planning process, they are attacking and attempting to discredit the source of information.
Prior to this week’s Planning Board review of the MC Residences, the 37 Orange Rd application by developers – a project with 46 residential units per acre, Martin Schwartz of the Planning Board stated before the hearing that he believed there may have been intentional staff manipulation that impacted the Council’s approval process for this project.
See attached article here:
Mr. Schwartz spoke prior to the official hearing and announced that 18 units/ acre were originally intended in the Redevelopment Plan amendment for this neighborhood, both originally suggested by the Council and then agreed to by the Planning Board. Once discovered months ago, the Township Manager reportedly told Councilors he would investigate and report back why the 18 units per acre agreed to was not the determined Plan result. However, no report was apparently given to Councilors which Mr. Schwartz publicly reported during Monday's PB meeting Sept 9, since he was advised by some that there was no report. Since no corrective action was taken, the developer was able to move forward and gain approval for a much higher density than originally authorized.
The 37 Orange Road developers, Pinnacle Companies and Hampshire Companies, are also developers for Lackawanna Plaza. Pinnacle is a major developer for several major Montclair sites including the recently opened MC Hotel on Bloomfield Ave, The Sienna on Church and South Park, Valley and Bloom apartment complex and Pinnacle is currently building the Seymour St. project.
Our Town Planning Department is the key player in coordination and expediting of proper planning processes for the benefit of Montclair, not developers. They are the professionals and experts hired to serve, advise and protect Montclair residents based on township interests and master plan goals.
View the video of the statement by Martin Schwartz just a few minutes into Monday’s planning board, prior to 37 Orange Rd application review by the Board here
Read the conflicting exchange of statements between Mr. Schwartz and Township
Residents need to know the Planning Department is serving them. Voters need to get answers and action from our Council. Ask questions:
Mayor Robert Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org
1st Ward Cllr. 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
ABetterLackawanna group of dedicated residents now have a website for residents to review and join the complaint seeking to appeal the approved plan for Lackawanna Plaza. Plaintiffs are not financially obligated.
Our Council needs to hear from you.
Deadline is this Thursday, July 18th to be listed as a plaintiff on the amended filing of the suit.
Those who previously sent in their names and street addresses also need to provide an official signature to be listed formally as a plaintiff and may now do so electronically.
Go to www.abetterlackawanna.org to review complaint items and sign to be heard and support those residents working hard for a better downtown.
Please forward this to others willing to stand for a better Montclair.
***Refer others to www.SaveMontclair.org for recent history of development in Montclair and to Join Us for updates.
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.
***Please pass to residents to Join Us. Like Us on Facebook.
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.
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Tstafford@montclairnjusa.org
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.
***Please pass on to others to come Monday and speak out. Like us on Facebook.
Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas