Chatham Borough Designates Post Office Plaza 'In Need of Redevelopment'; Community Forum Set for June 15 at CMS

Post Office Plaza has been designated as a place "in need of redevelopment" by the Borough of Chatham Council Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham Borough Planner Dr. Susan Blickstein Credits: TAP Chatham
Vince DeNave, Chatham Borough engineer, reported on capital improvement projects Credits: Janice Perrone
A report on sewer capacity in the shared service with Madison was presented Monday at the Borough of Chatham Council meeting Credits: TAP Chatham
Resident Fran Drew sought preservation of the tree canopy at the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night Credits: Janice Perrone

CHATHAM, NJ - At its Monday meeting, the Chatham Borough Council unanimously voted by resolution to designate Post Office Plaza as “an area in need of redevelopment.”

The Planning Board recommended the designation, and on June 15 the borough will hold a forum, at 7 p.m. at the Chatham Middle School, to get community input on the project. The resolution specifies that the redevelopment will not be done by condemnation.

The discussion items emphasized infrastructure, as the council heard a report on sewer demand projections by planners Dr. Susan Blickstein and Kendra Lelie, as well as a report by borough engineer Vince DeNave on capital improvements.

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The sewer report, which used a 10-15 year projection period, was designed for sewer capacity decision-making purposes. A parallel study will be presented to Madison, which shares a sewer authority with Chatham. The study took into account a population increase in Chatham due to affordable housing and other residential units coming to the River Road area, as well as an increase in staff at commercial buildings due to the trend toward higher density office design.

The report concluded: “The results of the sewer demand projection indicate an estimated need of 217,725 gallons per day (GPD) of sewer capacity to accommodate the new residential and non-residential development that may occur over the next 10 years.” However, that figure includes a 10 percent contingency, which Dr. Blickstein herself questioned the need for. Without the contingency, the additional output the sewer system may need to handle is projected to be 198,725 GPD.

Mayor Bruce Harris noted that there are several ways to add capacity to the borough’s current process, “but apparently there’s also an option of changing the process, using a different treatment process.” He added that the borough also has to consider the possible need for increased water inflow. “We have our own water utility, so we need to check that we have capacity (there).”

DeNave noted that the borough has been doing more projects in house, such as drainage and park projects, “stretching the tax dollars a lot farther.” The Department of Public Works has finished two drainage projects on N. Summit and Clark Street. Perhaps the most noticeable project, he said, is Liberty Park, where only a few finishing touches are still pending, including signage and a wider walkway.

Roadway improvements this year include five roads in the road resurfacing program and eight in the microsurfacing program. But the work will take place after school ends “and a lot of folks have left town,” said DeNave. The roads, which include Hedges to Rowan on Weston Avenue, will be closed to all but local traffic during the paving and milling periods.

DeNave noted the borough allots $150,000 a year for curb and sidewalk repair, and this year’s projects are on the east side of N. Passaic Avenue, where the sidewalk stops at Yale Street, and a zone from Elmwood Avenue to the west, on the north side of Main Street.

Regarding trees that may be affected by new sidewalks, DeNave noted that the project may include root trimming and regrading of sidewalks, but no tree removals. Curbing projects are finishing up in the Bartow section.

DeNave added that the Kelley’s Pond project is almost complete - the final grading is going to be done shortly - and DPW did the entire project. The possibility of offering ice skating there will be discussed at a future meeting.

Additionally, Shepard-Kollack field is undergoing improvements, including new backstops. The shelter is also being repaired. The county gave the borough a $93,000 grant for trails, and DeNave said that this work will start in June. “The first portion is going to go outside the fields, a one-third of a mile loop,” he reported. “Phase II is going to head off into the woods. We’re going to be working on the markings, formalizing them with wood chips, fixing the dam, and we’re going to be doing some scenic overlooks.”

During public comment, three residents complained that the borough is losing many of its mature trees as developers knock down smaller homes and replace them with larger ones.

Fran Drew, of Inwood Road, showed photographs of borough trees that have been chopped down recently. DeNave noted that once an approval is granted for an addition or a new home, all trees within 15 feet of the structure are automatically allowed to be chopped down. Outside of that, however, you need a tree removal permit. “Sometimes the planning board puts a condition on an approval that trees can’t come down,” he said, but the subject of affected trees does not come up at every board approval. “We can tighten that up.”

Council Member James Collander agreed that “we are losing the canopy in town.” A presentation by the Shade Tree Commission is tentatively scheduled for the June 12 council meeting. “We may need a completely different blueprint for how we do things,” Collander added.

Upcoming community events include:

  • May 29: The annual Memorial Day commemoration, 8 a.m., at the memorials in front of the Library of the Chathams. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved indoors to the Firehouse Commons Room at the Firehouse at 1 Firehouse Plaza.
  • May 30: Chatham Borough Opioid Awareness Program, 7-8 p.m., Chatham High School auditorium.
  • June 10: Fishawack, the Jaycees race starts at 9 a.m.; the festival begins at 10 a.m. and ends with a movie under the stars at 8 p.m.

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