MONTCLAIR, NJ - The regular scheduled meeting of the council for the Township of Montclair began with a widely spirited discussion about the development of the historic Lackawanna Train Station with a scheduled presentation from the Lackawanna Plaza developer and property owner.
An open session followed a presentation of recognition to various residents and organizations.
Addressing the council were individuals whose concerns related directly to the Lackawanna Plaza Development. Daniel Cruz and Isreal Cronk, both advocates for immediate use of the Lackawanna foot print, advocated that while awaiting the development of the property, space could be used as a farmers market type of set up bringing fresh produce and groceries to the current empty space.
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William Scott, chair of the housing commission and NAACP Housing Authority Montclair chapter, addressed the council to state that he wants to ensure that the process, as it moves forward, would continue to include people living in the community. He also asked whether they will be able to give any public feedback and input to the planning board. Scott further stated that the proposed plans currently throughout the township would bring 1080 units into the the 4th ward to build all along the Bloomfield Avenue corridor and Grove including the Seymour st development project.
Mayor Robert Jackson responded and made it clear that "feedback would be welcomed" after Tuesday night's presentation and thereafter as the town moves forward with the developer.
Councilor Renee Baskerville, who has been in the forefront and vocal on many of the current building projects, has conducted several open house meetings addressing the supermarket issue and the development plans for the proposed building projects. She echoed the same sentiment as Jackson, stating that "community feedback would, and is always welcome."
Several members of the Montclair Historic Preservation foundation spoke and cited the importance of retaining elements of the original structure. They maintain that any work done should be in character with aesthetics of the historical brick and cement work done on the building, including the four columns of the original site since 1912.
The firms designated as redeveloper for the Lackawanna site, are Pinnacle of Montclair and Hampshire Co. of Morristown, who state they have been in talks with ShopRite to become an anchor tenant of the location.
James Cotter and another resident of Clover Hill Place, addressed the council and made note of the issues that would affect their area such as transportation routes along Glenridge Avenue, density, height. They also mentioned a universal concern, which has been echoed in previous meetings, is the bringing in of 350 units of apartment style housing and a 65000 sq foot supermarket.
The time arrived for the presentation by the firms designated as redeveloper for the Lackawanna site, Pinnacle Co. and Hampshire Co. of Morristown, opened up the discussion by stating that talks initially began with A&P, which is the parent company to Pathmark. They were slated to become an anchor tenant of the redevelopment, however, due to bankruptcy of the company after 156 years in business, the plans fell through. Consequently, Pathmark closed in 2015.
The developers' current plans include mixed retail space, a 65000 square foot supermarket, 350 above the ground four-story residential units on both sides of the Grove Street Lackawanna Plaza corridor between Bloomfield Avenue and Glenridge Avenue. They also propose underground parking and open green space on Bloomfield ave.
Attendees were also reminded that the plans presented were still in a preliminary stage and that nothing has been signed.
There were questions from the council, as well as community residents. Township officials state that community input for such a massive structure would be implemented or at least taken into consideration.
Following the presentation, approximately 20 people approached the podium to voice their concerns. Many expressed that the plans shown did not take into account some of the suggestions as it related to building and population density previously addressed at prior meetings.
There were concerns with the four-story units in that small area with no green space on the Glenridge Avenue side. Other issues raised were the traffic configuration as it relates to traffic on Bloomfield Ave, Bay Street train station, Mountainside Hospital and the current residents on Pine and Glenridge Ave.
Residents also spoke of the visual effect on the sky line and sun, which would affect the quality of life that long term residents and new residents found to be the charm of Montclair.
One attendee made comment saying, "It feels like we are being made to believe that in order for a supermarket to go into Lackawanna Plaza, that housing must be incorporated."
The residents of the 4th ward have made it clear that the immediate need is a shopping facility, not more housing.
From the Historic preservation standpoint the concern with the project centers on respecting the architectural aesthetic of the original structure where Pig and Prince is now located. Residents state that they don't want the four-stories to overshadow the architecture of the Lackawanna Station. Lackawanna plaza, although historic, is privately owned.
The universal concern raised among residents was density. With the fire station, train station, three apartment units and three housing developments all in the Pine, Glenridge, Bloomfield Avenue area, having another unit proposed on the lot behind the Montclarion and plans in review for the Diva Lounge area with a 6 - 7 story apt attached, area residents are frustrated with proposed plans.
In closing, Baskerville and the council made it clear that the night's presentation by the developers were not finalized.
Many concerns not yet explored during the presentation, but raised by residents, included senior and affordable housing, the percentage of jobs set aside to hire Montclair residents, impact on the school system, infrastructure and traffic.
It was evident that residents from the community were not happy with the plans presented in its present form and made it quite clear for the developers to take into consideration the concerns, needs and impact to the current residents.
Earlier in the meeting, other items discussed were as follows:
Several members of the community addressed their concerns and shared information regarding the waste disposal costs for the township to requesting support in identifying host families for foreign exchange students through the EF (Education First) program that places students in their homes while here in the US .
Joyce Goldman from the Executive office of Joseph DiVincenzo, invited the residents to attend an open house May 27, 2017 at Turtle Back Zoo from 10 - 2pm, to meet and greet the people that are employed by the county and learn what they do .
On the evening, several Proclamations were presented to the following:
"Moms demand Action" wearing the color orange, this is a local chapter of a nation wide organization formed after the Sandy Hook tragedy that focuses in bringing a greater awareness of gun violence locally and nationally across the USA recognizing June 2, 2017 as National Gun Awareness Day, presented by members of the council . Also mentioned the 100th birthday of JFK and the importance of Gun control laws and wording .
Peter Giuffra, long time resident and supporter of Montclair recognized by May in Montclair and an avid Elvis impersonator recognized for his for volunteerism and garden expertise.
Lt. Richchard Cavanaugh
Make Music Day recognizing June 21, 2017 as a day for this celebration
EMS, week celebrating Emergency Practitioners.