CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham residents asked many questions on the redevelopment plans for Post Office Plaza, but left the open public meeting held Tuesday night without definitive answers.
Actually, there are no concrete answers to give at this point since no plan has yet to be proposed and developers have yet to receive the information needed to make "Requests For Qualifications."
According to professional planner Annie Hindenlang, who has been hired by the borough, residents and the Borough of Chatham Council will have the final say in the balance reached in any redevelopment plan.
Hindenlang reported on feedback residents gave on their preferences for the redevelopment and answered questions from the public who gathered in borough hall. She explained the process in which Requests For Qualifications (RFQs) would go out to developers and the public on the 5.5 acre parcel of land proposed for redevelopment in the video below.
Hindenlang said that they compiled data from about 400 respondents to surveys about what kind of retail and living spaces they'd like to see in downtown Chatham. The survey also asked specifically where people spend time when they're not in Chatham and many said they go to Madison, Summit, and Morristown (see video below).
When asked, Hindenlang estimated that it would take a year to a year and a half before any construction began.
Currently, there are 14 lots in the area of Post Office Plaza deemed in "need of redevelopment." There are 10 owners of the properties valued in total at $11.1 million. Those properties generated $175,429 in tax revenue to the borough.
Peter Hoffman, Chatham Borough Council member noted the need for "additional tax revenue" and pointed to the "moribund" downtown as reasons for seeking the redevelopment of Post Office Plaza in his remarks below.
Many residents in attendance were concerned about proposed "Mid-Rise" apartment buildings, which would put an added burden on the School District of the Chathams budget with increased enrollment.
There is also concern about increased traffic on an already packed Main Street, especially since residential units continue to be build in Florham Park on Passaic Avenue near the Chatham border.
Resident Shawn Sterling, who has children in the school system, expressed his skepticism (see below) about studies that might predict little impact on school population from the redevelopment.
Hindenlang said that there is "significant precedence" that these type of developments do not produce as many children (see below).
Summit Avenue resident Jill Critchley Weber, who is also the president of the Chatham Board of Education, pointed out that demographers have often been wrong in predicting future school-age populations in Chatham.
Weber is in the process of prioritizing resources for the next school year budget and explained that increased tax revenue to the borough from redevelopment does not go into the coffers of the BOE, but rather to the municipality (see below).
Axlyn Sommer, who has owned T.M. Ward Coffee in Chatham for the past 24 years, described her establishment as the "Cheers" of Chatham and offered to help explain the plans to residents when it is formed. She said, right now she hears a lot of confusion and speculation from customers in her shop (see below).