PLAINFIELD, NJ - After a busy section of South Avenue near Terrill Road was declared in need, and a redevelopment plan was ordered, Plainfield's Planning Board moved Thursday to advance the project to a vote by the City Council.
There are 6.72 acres, for a total of nine parcels in the South Avenue East Redevelopment Plan area; five are commercial, three are residential, and one is a vacant lot. The goals of the plan are to promote transit-oriented development and activity, improve economic development, manage parking and traffic, and increase sustainability.
According to the plan, permitted uses that would "enhance the vitality of South Avenue and the gateway entrance to the City" include:
- Mixed use structures
- Studio, one and two-bed room apartments over retail uses
- Child care facility
- Retail uses (first and second floor only)
- Personal service establishment
- Art studio
- Art gallery
- Bank, without drive-thru facility
- Health and fitness club
- Parking structure
- Rooftop wireless antenna
- Fraternal organization
- Cigar lounge
- Retail convenience with fuel service
It's the last point that garnered a robust discussion at the meeting. Board member Sean McKenna said, "While some cities do these plans to attract certain kinds of development to come in, sometimes these are backed into." He asked, "Which one are we?"
Chairman Ron Scott Bey said, "I don't know. This actually came from Economic Development. Do they have developers in mind? I would hope so."
McKenna said, "All these permitted uses are pretty typical for the plans we’ve done, except all of a sudden we’ve added a gas station and a convenience store. Oddly we’ve given a variance to somebody that doesn’t exist for a pylon sign, which is a little odd, to give somebody a variance for a sign in a plan. So, my question is, if we’re going to discuss this, we should have an understanding of what the intent is, because you’ve got homes along East 7th that are suddenly going to have a giant gas station with canopy, with lights shining in their yard.”
Scott Bey noted, “We know with every redevelopment plan there will be permitted uses that will probably never be developed. So when you see this list, this list doesn’t say that every single one of these is what should and is going to be developed."
William Toth said, "I’d suggest that we do amend this proposal so that parking structures and gas stations are only allowed on the north side of South Avenue."
Maritza Hall was concerned that the plan had contradictions, i.e. a bank can't have a drive-thru, but a gas station that provides for vehicular traffic is allowed.
Horace Baldwin, Carmencita Pile, Charles McRae, and Bey voted yes to advance the plan, while Hall, McKenna, Toth and Siddeeq El-Amin voted no. Anthony Howard abstained, so Alternate Barry Person broke the tie, voting yes.
The City Council meets on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Download the agenda.