MONTCLAIR, NJ – The Glen Ridge and Montclair Planning Boards gathered Monday evening for a joint meeting at the Montclair firehouse to discuss the redevelopment area surrounding HackensackUMC Mountainside Hospital.

H2M Consultants presented to the combined planning boards and made recommendations based on the hospital-owned property and surrounding area.

The preliminary investigation and subsequent public hearing resulted in recommendations as to whether the HUMC/Mountainside Hospital Redevelopment Study Area meets the statutory criteria for designation as an “area in need of redevelopment.” Also discussed was whether it qualifies under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) of the New Jersey Statutes and/or whether the properties within the Study Area meet the statutory requirements for an area in need of rehabilitation.

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The Study Area in question pertains to 21 lots located in both Glen Ridge and Montclair.

H2M Associates presented findings from an analysis of existing and historical conditions, including a review of land use, building conditions, utilities, infrastructure and environmental conditions. They stated that they conducted interior and exterior property inspections and met on several occasions with representatives from HUMC Mountainside Hospital.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, area residents accused HUMC Mountainside representatives of allowing the properties to deteriorate in order to obtain the "area in need of rehabilitation" designation. These accusations were met with rebuffs from the panel.

The properties include the former HUMC Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing site, the hospital’s main parking facility, vacant land, and nine residential properties. The former School of Nursing site is owned by Partners for Health, Inc., formerly known as The Mountainside Health Foundation, Inc. 

The main parking facility is owned by MPT Legacy of Montclair, LLC. Both properties are leased to the Hospital under long-term lease agreements. The vacant land and eight of the nine residential properties are owned by the Hospital and its affiliates.

H2M told the residents that the Study Area consists of 21 tax lots with approximately 8.5 acres in the area north and west of the main HUMC/Mountainside Hospital facility. The 21 properties include the former Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing site; residential properties and vacant land along portions of Walnut Crescent, Claremont Avenue, George Street and Sherwood Street; and the Hospital Parking Garage site off of George Street.

The municipal boundary between the Borough of Glen Ridge and the Township of Montclair runs through the Study Area. The boundary line exists so that the former school of nursing school property and the Hospital’s surface parking lot off George Street are split between the two municipalities. All other study area properties are located within Montclair Township.

The main HUMC Mountainside hospital facility, which is not part of the designated Study Area, is located fully within the Borough of Glen Ridge.

The evaluation of the Study Area revealed that all, but one property within the HUMC Mountainside Hospital Study Area falls under the statutory requirements for designation as an area in need of redevelopment. The recommendation was made that the entire Study Area does fit the qualification for designation as an area in need of rehabilitation.

It was stated that although the parking garage does not meet unique deterioration criteria, since it is located in the area in need of redevelopment, then it should be included in the redevelopment.

The properties include:

Block 91, Lot 1, HIGHLAND AVENUE, Surface Parking

Block 4207, Lot 1, BAY STREET, Surface Parking

Block 4207, Lot 2, SHERWOOD STREET, Deck & Surface Parking

Block 4207,  Lot 30, 34 SHERWOOD STREET, Dwelling

Block 4207,  Lot 31, 32 SHERWOOD STREET, Dwelling

Block 4213,  Lot 1, 2 WALNUT CRESCENT, Vacant Land

Block 4213,  Lot 2, 4 WALNUT CRESCENT, Vacant Land

Block 4213, Lot 3, 6 WALNUT CRESCENT, Vacant Land

Block 4213,  Lot 4, 8 WALNUT CRESCENT, Vacant Land

Block 4213, Lot 5, 12 WALNUT CRESCENT, Vacant Land

Block 4213, Lot 6, 14 WALNUT CRESCENT, Vacant Land

Block 4213, Lot 7, 16 WALNUT CRESCENT, Dwelling

Block 4213, Lot 8, 18 WALNUT CRESCENT, Dwelling

Block 4213,  Lot 9, 20 WALNUT CRESCENT, Dwelling

Block 4213, Lot10, 22 WALNUT CRESCENT, Dwelling

Block 4213, Lot 11, 8 CLAREMONT AVENUE, Dwelling

Block 4213, Lot 12 , 12 CLAREMONT AVENUE, Dwelling

Block 4213, Lot 22, 4 GEORGE STREET, Dwelling

Block 4213, Lot 23, 2 GEORGE STREET, Vacant Land

Block 4215, Lot 1, WALNUT CRS.& ROSWELL, Nursing School

Block 106, Lot 15, 311 BAY AVENUE, Nursing School

 

Block 4207, 4213 & 4215 are located in Montclair Township and Blocks 91 and 106 in the Borough of Glen Ridge. At the close of the meeting, Glen Ridge Planning Board members stated that they would decide during a subsequent planning board meeting held on Wednesday.

In order to designate a Redevelopment Area, both Planning Boards, by resolution, will need to determine whether the proposed area is a redevelopment area according to the criteria set forth in Section 5 of P.L.1992, c.79.  After holding the joint public hearing on this matter, the Planning Board makes its recommendation to the Governing Body that that the entire delineated area, determined portion of the delineated area, or none of the delineated, be declared a redevelopment area.

After receiving the recommendation of the Planning Board, the Township Council may adopt a resolution determining the delineated area, or any part thereof, is a redevelopment area. The Glen Ridge Borough Mayor and Council and Montclair Township Mayor and Council both had adopted Resolutions authorizing their respective Planning Boards to undertake an investigation to determine whether the area described in the resolutions qualifies as an area in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation.

The report presented to the community determines that the Glen Ridge Resolutions #113-14 and #71-15 and Montclair Resolution #R-14-102, which authorizes the study of the Nursing School site and a parking lot along Bay Avenue, state that each municipality “intends to use all those powers provided by the Legislature for use in a redevelopment area, including the power of eminent domain.” However, during the hearing residents questioned whether their properties would also meet this same fate. The planning board members denied that eminent domain would be exercised on the Montclair Resolution #R-14-102, which authorizes the study of all of the residential and vacant land properties. The Montclair Resolution states that the Township “intends to use all those powers provided by the Legislature for use in a redevelopment area, excluding the power of eminent domain.”

Also considered were existing and historical conditions of properties within the Study Area.  There was also a discussion of land use, zoning and master plan policies, building conditions, utilities, and environmental conditions.

The presentation also highlighted the review of records from the municipal tax assessors, building departments, fire departments, code enforcement, and police departments. Residents came forward to express concerns over that amount of taxes owed to the Township of Montclair since the Hospital became a for-profit entity and whether ther properties could be used for affordable housing.

Photos were displayed as part of the presentation showing interior and exterior property damage to the properties in the designated area. A determination was then made as to whether conditions met one or more of the statutory criteria for redevelopment.

After hearing that the property located at 34 Sherwood has been vacant for five years, Montclair resident William Scott approached the podium with a number of inquiries and said, “Why would we allow Mountainside Hospital to acquire land, allow it to deteriorate and then request a proposal to acquire more land?” He continued, “Did you look at any R2, R1 (property) beyond the immediate area? What kind of community feedback did you take into consideration?”

Janice Talley responded to some of Scott’s inquiries saying, that the purpose of public comment was “not to address all of the issues that came up, but to introduce the community to the process.”

“There’s the ramifications to the surrounding area,” said a resident, who lives 6 houses away.

“We have been trying to engage the public in the process,” said Chairman John Wynn.

After more residents from both communities came forward to express concerns, including the owner of 32 Sherwood, residents were told, “Eminent domain is not permitted in a rehabilitation area,” said Talley and the consultant.

Mr. Scott approached the podium to once again voice his concern over the dilapidation of the buildings on the property.

The joint planning board entertained a motion to continue this hearing on Wednesday, May 20 at 8pm in Glen Ridge, where the Glen Ridge planning board will consider the two properties located in Glen Ridge and make a determination as to whether the two properties meet the criteria.

After a short recess, the Montclair Planning Board voted on moving forward with the plan.

Wynn informed the audience of next steps. “As soon as the designation is made by both councils, then they will send it back to both planning boards to create a redevelopment plan,” said Wynn.

Additional business included a brief discussion on the resolution adopting unified land use and circulation portion of the master plan. This was then voted on and adopted before the close of the meeting.