Real Estate

Cranford Township Committee Updates Redevelopment Study as Clock Ticks for Mt. Laurel Immunity

The Cranford Township Committee voted to remove all properties from the North Avenue Redevelopment Study except for Swan Cleaners and municipally-owned properties. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna

CRANFORD, NJ – Affordable housing concerns wove through commissioner and resident comments during Tuesday night’s township committee meeting, at which the committee passed a resolution exempting most properties from the North Avenue Redevelopment Study.

The committee voted to remove all lots from the study except for the parking lots, the vacant MDTV building and Swan Cleaners. Swan Cleaners is the only included property that remains privately owned.

The approved resolution also removed the ability to use eminent domain on any of the land in the study, a move that Deputy Mayor Ann Dooley and Commissioner Jean-Albert Maisonneuve believe will negatively impact the ability to redevelop Swan Cleaners.

Sign Up for E-News

“I think it’s very important to consider what the experts are telling us,” Maisonneuve said. “I think that this action to not include eminent domain for Swan Cleaners really challenges us to do any sort of development. That area has been in need of redevelopment for over a decade. If we leave that area in that state, we’ll be very challenged to have a developer come in and give us any sort of plan.”

Commissioner Mary O’Connor disagreed, saying there are other options for the township committee to use.

“I do not agree with eminent domain,” she said. “I think it’s a slippery slope and we don’t want to go down there.”

The resolution passed 3-2, with Commissioner Patrick Giblin, Mayor Thomas Hannen, Jr. and O’Connor voting ‘yes.’ Dooley and Maisonneuve voted ‘no.’

Many of the business owners with properties originally included in the study were in attendance, questioning the committee's transparency and reiterating that they were not notified when the study was conducted or before it was presented.

Judy Swick, co-owner of Chapman Bros., said the study has already hurt business.

“It’s great removing eminent domain and all that, but it’s still out there,” Swick said. “Google any of our businesses and it comes up in the top five results. It’s impacted every one of us. It’s not going to go away overnight. I just think all of this should have been thought about before and it should have been communicated to us.”

As the commissioners and residents discussed the resolution, concerns regarding affordable housing were brought up repeatedly. The commissioners acknowledged that the properties included in the study may be used for affordable housing and that Cranford’s immunity from the Mt. Laurel Doctrine ends on Jan. 1, 2019.

“I tried to do the math and it appears to me that we have between 77 and 97 affordable units that we still have to account for,” resident Eric Rubinson said, reading from documents from the township’s court appearance in September, at which the township was not granted further immunity.

In those documents, multiple sites were included as potential spaces for redevelopment, including the Birchwood property and 750 Walnut Avenue.

“If we scale that out at a 15 percent offset of what the total is, that becomes a total of 647 apartments that still have to be built in this town,” Rubsinon said. “Am I in the ballpark?”

“You may be very close with those numbers, but remember that when we went to court, that is what was projected as how we may get to that number,” Hannen replied. “That doesn’t mean that we have the vacant land to build all of those units, but that would be the assignment. One of the reasons we went to court is to reduce densities and convince the court that we’re fulfilling our requirements with affordable housing so that we don’t get in trouble with the court.”

“Are we looking for areas?” Hannen continued. “Yes, there are ways that we think that we can fulfill the obligations that we have. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those units have to be built, because, quite frankly, the land might not be available. We are doing the best we can to show the court that we are serious about fulfilling those obligations so we maintain control of what Cranford’s density is, not someone else from the outside trying to determine that.”

At the end of the meeting, O’Connor received loud applause when she addressed the housing concerns during her closing comments.

“We have options for North Avenue,” she said. “Rehabilitation would allow us to work with property owners to upgrade design standards and build a more cohesive street scape. We could combine redevelopment and rehabilitation to improve the area without disrupting family-owned businesses that have been Cranford staples.”

“Although there are people who want to see this town have a more urban setting, I don’t believe most of our residents of any generation, from millennials through seniors, want that,” O’Connor continued. “No one has ever said to me, ‘I move to Cranford because I hope it becomes like the city I left.’ People come here because of what Cranford is. We absolutely need to find a way to meet our affordable housing obligation, but we need to do it without losing our identity. I believe we can do it and we need to work together to find a way we can achieve that goal.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News


Union County Democratic Committee Elects New Chair

February 22, 2018

CLARK, NJ – The vote for the Union County Democratic Committee (UCDC) chairmanship came to a conclusion Wednesday night when 748 committee members from the county’s 21 municipalities descended on the Gran Centurions in Clark to vote for their new party leader.

State Senator Nick Scutari won with a 412-341 victory over Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr in a battle that had become ...

Filthy, dangerous conditions, theft and assault alleged at recently-opened Newark shelter

February 13, 2018

Newark, NJ—Antoinette Jackson, Sonya Webb and Andrea Eaddy sit in a McDonald’s on a cold winter morning, not far from the homeless shelter they currently call home.

During the day, they count on places like McDonald's to stay warm. They must leave the shelter at 7 a.m. and can only return after 4 p.m., even when temperatures drop below freezing.

When the ...

Clark's CityMD Urgent Care Shares Flu Survey

CLARK, NJ - As flu season is in full gear and the probability of catching the flu is a real concern, a majority of Americans admit to taking actions that may contribute to the spread of this highly contagious virus.  According to a recent survey, roughly three out of five Americans who have had the flu or flu-like symptoms (61%) admitted to being out and about the last time they ...

Cranford Endorses Colleen Mahr

February 19, 2018

Mayor Colleen Mahr has been a valuable friend to the Township of Cranford. Whether it’s offering advice and assistance during devastating flood cleanup, supporting the Mayor's Council on the Rahway River, or her insight and assistance in meeting our affordable housing obligations--Mayor Mahr is always there for Cranford.

Colleen’s fairness and integrity is beyond reproach.

Union County Hosts First LGBTQ Roundtable

February 24, 2018

On Tuesday, February 20, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, through the Office of LGBTQ Services, hosted a roundtable with over 20 leading LGBTQ advocacy and ally organizations that serve Union County and New Jersey. Facilitated by Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality, more than 40 participants met to discuss LGBTQ-related programs, services, issues and ...

Cranford Police Blotter: Multiple Drug-Related Arrests & More

February 20, 2018

The information provided does not represent the total scope of police activity. Individuals charged as a result of police investigations are merely an accusation. All defendants should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

1. 02/14/2018 @ 2226 hrs.

Raritan Road and Coleman Avenue

Arrested: Kevin Johnson, 60, Plainfield

Arrested by: Jason D’Agostino

Charges: Possession of ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, February 24, 1:00 PM

Westfield Area YMCA, Westfield

Free Kids Expo and Water Safety Event

Arts & Entertainment Health & Wellness

Sun, February 25, 11:15 AM

Trinity Episcopal Church (Sherlock Hall), Cranford

Seamen’s Church Institute Fundraiser & Collection ...

Food & Drink Giving Back Religions And Spirituality

Thu, March 1, 1:15 PM

Calvary Lutheran Church, Cranford

Calvary Lutheran Church Invites You to Mid-Week ...

Religions And Spirituality

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

The Definition of Insanity

February 21, 2018

Dear Editor:

There is a quote, attributed to various people, including Albert Einstein that states, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, that is fitting for our current election for Union County Democratic Committee (UCDC) chair.

There is no shortage of polling data related to the functioning of our Federal, ...