MONTCLAIR, NJ - The fourth ward of Montclair gathered this week at the Pine Street firehouse to discuss the many concerns with redevelopment in the area.
The community meeting was hosted by Councilwoman Renee Baskerville on Tuesday, June 27 and attracted a room full of Montclair residents to express their opinions. The redevelopment projects up for discussion included townhouses possibly being built at 360 Orange Road and the much-talked about Lackawanna Plaza apartments.
The first redevelopment plan discussed was 360 Orange Road, where the developers hope to build three townhouse buildings -- one building with three townhouses and two buildings with two townhouses each. One issue with the plan is that the space is an R1 zone, meaning that its use is intended for single-family homes. Residents also worry that the buildings would change the historic makeup of the neighborhood.
Co-chair of the Montclair Housing Commission William Scott, spoke to the large crowd at the meeting and said that if it does not match the characteristics of the neighborhood, the commission would absolutely take a closer look at the proposal.
"If it's absolutely not supportive of the neighborhood, not supportive of the master plan," Scott said before stating the commission would ensure it matches the neighborhood. "We want to take a close look at this application."
Many residents also questioned the value of the property, the density of the area and what would happen to the green space currently on the property. Baskerville did not have exact answers but encouraged residents to continue to speak up and attend meetings.
"I don't want anyone to think that anything is a done deal," Baskerville said.
Another property that caused much discussion is Lackawanna Plaza, a plan that has residents concerned over the density of Bloomfield Avenue.
One resident asked if the township is trying to become urban with all of the redevelopment, and while most residents expressed disappointment in the possibility of being an urban town, one new resident offered a different outlook. He said that perhaps an influx of people would be a good thing but that of course there needs to be a balance. To that, another resident said most people cannot afford to share that opinion being that Montclair's real estate values are climbing.
"My question is why can't this redeployment be distributed across the entire community so that it's not concentrated in one area," a resident asked. "So that it doesn't change the makeup of Montclair as a whole."
Many residents also wondered why most of the redevelopment is in the fourth ward. Baskerville and Planning Director Janet Talley said that is because Bloomfield Avenue is the only street that can accommodate the redevelopment, and much of it is in the fourth ward.
In addition to discussing redevelopment, attendees discussed ways to make Montclair even better and what to do with empty storefronts. One resident suggested co-ops, to which Baskerville said that residents need to gather groups of people with similar ideas and bring their thoughts to the Economic Development Committee.
Regardless of the specific redevelopment plan, Baskerville stressed the importance of continuing to speak up, attend meetings and get involved in the community in order to see change.