The redevelopment of the Saks property has been stalled since the mid 90s. This almost 30-year standoff has cost taxpayers untold sums in litigation, has prolonged the economic problems the “uptown” Short Hills’ commercial area has experienced, and weakened and closed businesses along the stretch of Morris Avenue leading to Kings. At last, we are close to seeing a long overdue improvement of the large abandoned building and dark sea of blacktop which stand as the gateway to our town.
In the September 21st meeting I heard ZBA members openly express a lack of any concern for the developer’s timeline, suggesting they may have new comments causing yet another delay when the application goes before the Board tonight.
In recognition of the sweeping need for revitalization, the Township Committee recently passed an ordinance creating a Special Improvement District and approved the hiring of a consulting firm to formulate a vision plan for Millburn and Short Hills. It appears the Zoning Board and the Township Committee are not aligned. Sadly, it also seems the Zoning Board is more interested in continuously reworking the language governing a 20’ strip of curbing, landscaping and sidewalk (the only portion of the site within Millburn Township) than it is about the effect delaying the approval is having on the landlords and businesses that have struggled for such a long time – and even more so now.
This development is a trifecta for the Township and for “uptown” in particular: new residents will dine, seek services and support stores both existing and new; it will boost the occupancy, rents and value of income-producing properties thereby generating more real estate taxes; not a single student will be added to our school system.
Why the delay? The Zoning Board will be delinquent in its responsibility if it fails to grant final approval to 92 Millburn Avenue Urban Renewal at tonight’s meeting.