MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair’s third ward community came together Tuesday night to discuss issues such as overdevelopment, traffic and town businesses.
Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller hosted the meeting at the Salvation Army on September 26 and was also joined by various guests throughout the hour and a half, including Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford, Councilors-At-Large Robert Russo and Rich McMahon and Sgt. Tyrone Williams of the Montclair Police Department.
Spiller opened the meeting by listing a number of updates to the town. Updates included the budget process moving forward, the paving of roads, the filling in of potholes, the planting of trees and the community policing unit being reinstalled into the department. Spiller also discussed a “great thing” regarding parks in town.
“A lot of local community groups are coming forward and said, ‘we want to adopt this park,’” Spiller said, adding that these groups are taking care of the parks in various ways, including pollinating the gardens and planting flowers. Mobile farm markets, such as the one at Crane Park, are also taking place at the parks.
Spiller also touched on the controversial Lackawanna Plaza development. Since the town does not own the property, they are unable to completely control what the property is turned into. They can, however, guide the developer in a direction the town would like to see the property go. Many residents would like to see a supermarket be put into the plaza, Spiller said, and he has heard that the developer was talking to Shoprite. He also heard, though, that the developer was considering putting in a fitness center. Spiller has not heard beyond those talks.
After listing his many updates, Spiller opened up the floor to the public and asked what questions and concerns they have.
The first question asked by a resident was a very short, direct question to spiller. He mentioned how Spiller did touch on many town issues, but he “didn’t hear how [Spiller is] going to lower taxes.”
Although Spiller said the town is always focused on lowering taxes, and taxes have remained the same for the most part, it is hard to perform work like filling in potholes, paving streets and adding police officers to the department, while also lowering taxes.
“That mix of how do you reduce and provide more, which is the expectation, is difficult to do,” Spiller said.
He also noted that because there are no busy highways or big industries in Montclair they are missing out on tax reductions that other towns with bigger businesses may have. Russo also pointed this out, comparing Montclair’s tax rates to neighboring Clifton’s.
“If we were like Clifton – Clifton has homes that are just about the same homes and half the taxes,” Russo said. “Why? Route three, huge developments along the area where there’s shopping. They have industry. They have businesses that we don’t have. We’re basically a residential community.”
In order to reduce taxes, Russo said development is necessary.
“We’re in a dilemma where we as a council cannot control county taxes, state, school burden on us,” he added. “We just cannot do anything, but maybe develop.”
Several residents spoke out on their concern with overdevelopment and overpriced apartments, and mentioned their worry that the town will lose its historic character as new residents come in. Russo said though that these new developments are not only for newer, wealthier people to come in, and that the council would ensure Montclair’s historical charm would remain.
“We’re also trying to provide some space for people to live who may want to get rid of their older, big homes – get out of a home and live in a condo or something,” Russo said, adding that he and his wife did just that.
One resident voiced her concern over the environmental effect new development would have on the town but Spiller said new developments along Bloomfield Avenue would only help the environment, since many residents living on the busy street would be taking trains or buses into New York City rather than cars. The goal of putting developments on Bloomfield Avenue is to make the properties more attractive to buyers and renters because of the proximity to mass transportation.
One final issue discussed was the Crosby bar on Glenridge Avenue. A resident who lives on Forest Street said bar patrons are constantly making noise, littering and causing disruption outside of the bar and its surrounding area. The valet parking is also an issue since the valet employees park illegally in parking lots in the area.
Spiller suggested setting up a meeting with the bar owner to discuss the issue, as well as enforcing the parking rules and perhaps even looking at the bar’s liquor license when it is up for renewal.
Regardless of the issues, Spiller said it is important for residents to attend council and planning board meetings and reach out to the council or police department to address their concerns.