Dear Mayor Hannen, Deputy Mayor Giblin, and members of the Township Committee,
I have had the pleasure of growing up in Cranford for 16 years before I headed off to College. I returned each break and during the Summer to work in town and lived with my parents. After graduation I resided for a few years out of town and returned to Cranford in 2012, with my husband and eight month old baby girl. I love the close-knit community, family events and school district, which were all HUGE selling points for us to buy our home in Cranford. I have now lived in town for approximately 25 years.
We have since added two more children to our family and two of them have started school in district last week. Our oldest is at Brookside for Kindergarten and our middle child started Pre-K at Walnut. We have lived in town for almost five years and love all of the events we are able to experience, the families we have met, and now, the schools that are providing our children one of the best educations in the state.
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We live on the North side of town, but remain cognizant of how the redevelopment of the land on Walnut will drastically reduce the quality of life we have in town. Our children's classrooms will grow exponentially and I struggle to understand how the school system could accommodate such growth. Our Board of Education has been struggling for years to accommodate a full-day Kindergarten, citing space and resources as the number one concern, so how can a development that is expected to increase our population by 10% not put a strain on our current system? Resources that are already stretched thin in town because of our existing population will be stretched further, and our quaint little paradise will begin to mimic a small city, which is not what my husband and I were looking for when we purchased our home.
We had no idea how insanely populated the town was already when we moved here in 2012. When we went to register our oldest for preschool in 2014, all of the schools in town were filled for September and I began looking in March. We had no idea that registration takes place approximately nine months prior to the start of school, and the existing ones in town were at capacity. We had to register in a nearby town because there wasn't enough room for our child in any of the private preschools in Cranford.
I spend a lot of time walking with my children in town and have been in a number of situations where we are just narrowly missed being hit by cars. This is happening in the municipal lots when we shop in town, when we cross in crosswalks to get to the park, or when we walk over to Dreyer's to get donuts and chocolate milk. This is happening with the current population and existing residents. We are one week into drop off at Walnut Avenue and I am extremely petrified of the existing traffic situation during school hours. Parking on Walnut and cajoling two children under five while maneuvering a stroller gives me serious anxiety as the cars whip down the road, oblivious to my precious cargo. When I think about a huge complex being developed down the road, I struggle imagining my family staying in such an overpopulated community, one in which I can't walk a tenth of a mile with them into school without worrying about the blaring car horns and screeching brakes (this has already happened TWICE since school started, and today marks one week in).
I read the most recent letter sent by Hartz Representative, James R. Rhatican, and struggle understanding how these units will be marketed to millennials. I am a "millennial" and would not have considered living in Cranford prior to having a family, paying the listed rates for the units that will be built. When I was single and childless, I resided out of town, and it was only after I started a family did I want return to town to raise my children. I know one person is not an accurate representation of an entire population, however, Hartz goes on to explain that three recent multi-family developments in Cranford yielded minimal residents that are childless and since they are using these MUCH smaller multi-family complexes to extrapolate to their entire development, I feel my single experience is worthy of consideration. Additionally, all of my millennial friends did not reside in town either because we view Cranford as a place to raise children, this was not the place to live when we were single and childless. Currently, my millennial friends with children reside in town, and my childless friends reside elsewhere.
Hartz has also contended that they have tried and failed to market the commercial space. I have not been inside the buildings on Walnut, but from driving by the property as I do several times per week, it appears that the property remains the exact same for years. As a landlord, I have spent lots of money over the past few years to continuously update our unit to keep it fresh and modern, and when the unit is not kept up-to-date, we experience a delay in landing a tenant. The fact that this property remains the exact same as I remember it for decades, makes me wonder as to the appearance inside the buildings. Perhaps this should be a requirement for Hartz prior to their redevelopment, to upkeep the property to a more desirable standard to keep it at a competitive environment for commercial real estate.
I am not able to attend the meetings to show my opposition to this development because I am with my young children at night, making our house a home. I am brushing teeth, pulling out clothes for tomorrow, reading stories and rocking a six month old for the better part of every evening. If I could attend in person, I would because I am vehemently against this development and want this community to remain the tree lined, happy neighborhood I remember from my childhood. I want to be able to walk my children to school or the playground safely and I want them to receive an excellent education because we have the space and resources in our school for the BEST.
I am a millennial, Hartz’s targeted market for this development. Prior to me having children, the development would not attract me to reside in Cranford. Should the rezoning occur, it would require us to reconsider the residence in which we raise our family.
Please keep my neighborhood one in which I love to reside. Please allow me to keep my home here.
Thanks for your time,