Government

Scotch Plains Hosts Downtown Redevelopment Committee at SPFHS

Mayor Al Smith presented his vision of the future of downtown at the Scotch Plains Downtown Redevelopment Committee meeting on Weds, July 19. Credits: John Mooney
Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith explains the township's COAH (affordable housing) obligations. Credits: John Mooney
Map of downtown Scotch Plains Credits: John Mooney
Urban planner Credits: John Mooney
Deputy Mayor Llewellyn Jones Credits: John Mooney
Scotch Plains Deputy Mayor Llewellyn Jones points to an area of downtown redevelopment as he talks with residents. Credits: John Mooney
Although Scotch Plains has a mix of architecture styles, uniformity could be achieved through use of awnings such as those at the Cranford Hotel. Credits: John Mooney
Slide outlines how residents of Scotch Plains can get involved with downtown redevelopment. Credits: John Mooney

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith walked a crowded audience through a presentation that outlined his vision of the future of the township at a meeting of the Scotch Plains Redevelopment Committee on Wednesday, July 19, at SPFHS.

Mayor Smith began the presentation by explaining the township's COAH (affordable housing) obligations. From 1999 to 2015 COAH did not provide towns with guidelines on the number of affordable housing units they should add. In 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that towns must go to the courts to settle their fair share requirements including the gap between 1999 and 2015.  Courts have ruled that 15 to 20 percent of housing in each town in New Jersey must be designated as affordable.

"The courts don't care about our infrastructure, fire department capabilities or schools," Mayor Smith said. "I have no idea how (hundreds of new COAH units) will impact our school system. Some believe little impact to none; I don't believe it."

Sign Up for E-News

Mayor Smith explained that courts are monitoring Scotch Plains and all other towns in the state to ensure they meet their COAH obligations. While the township doesn't have a final figure, the total number of units Scotch Plains needs to build will be somewhere around 450. They should be constructed in the next 8 to 10 years. 

"At a 15% rate for new construction projects, we would see around 3,000 new housing units built in Scotch Plains to meet our COAH requirements. That would be about 6,000 more people," Mayor Smith explained, adding that the town does indeed need to add some affordable housing.

The mayor said the people living in the units would include a mix of "seniors who are looking to downsize and live downtown; low and moderate income families; Millennials just starting out on their own; and adults with special needs." He added that in Cranford, housing units that many people thought would be filled by commuters have been taken by empty nesters.

Smith introduced the audience to Victor Bonegra of Harbor Associates, who explained that Scotch Plains has to take a proactive look at its affordable housing obligations and address the issue first. He also said the township's downtown lacked uniformity with its mix of architectural styles, some dating back to the American Revolution. 

"We'd like to see some uniformity, such as the awnings at Darby Road," said Bonegra, adding that Scotch Plains has ample property on which to build.

Traffic problems were also addressed. Mayor Smith said that Union County considers Park Avenue -- an artery with just one lane each way -- to be a "primary road" in the heart of downtown on which 3,500 trucks roll each day. Meanwhile, Terrill Road is considered a secondary road. Approximately 2,500 trucks rumble along Terrill Road daily.

Citizens had the opportunity to come to the microphone towards the end of the meeting. They raised issues with the concept of eminent domain ("I don't like the government telling us what to do."), incorporations of the arts (perhaps a theater or a gallery venue) and the benefits of "inclusive architecture" that maintains the character of the township's history.

For the time being, the section of Scotch Plains for which eminent domain would be applied is  the Tier 1 section bordered in green on the map displayed at the meeting, which includes Park Ave. and parts of Second Street.

Former Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella  approached the mic and stated: "So many neighboring communities have made strides in their downtown areas. It's illogical (given Scotch Plains' demographics) that we have not," Gialanella said. "Our plan has to look at how the needs of commuters are changing. More people are working from home. They want to purchase goods and get services downtown. These are things that we have to get into the plan for the future."

TAPintoSPF.net is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNewsand follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

Support the Downtown on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25

Another shopping season is upon us here in Plainfield and shops downtown are open for business. Plainfield has a unique mix of mom-and-pop stores that offer trendy name brand clothes and shoes that compete with mall traffic and Cyber Monday deals, perfect for anyone looking for a bargain. The importance of spending locally has never been more critical as retailers and restaurants struggle to ...

A Stroll Through Echo Lake Park

This past Sunday, I joined the Freewalkers for its Stroll & Roll walking event.  Freewalkers Yohana Maria and Risa Olinsky organized the festivities, now in its second year. 

The walk, designed to be family-friendly, and for people of all ages and abilities, began in Echo Lake Park, another gem in the Union County Park system.  The four-mile round trip trek also cut ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_9d8e453cf3136a3d0129_rec_2017_hw_helper

Mon, November 20, 4:00 PM

Hannah Atkins Community Center, Plainfield

Homework Helper

Education

Carousel_image_9b2cbfad927ae1c24aac_community_choir

Mon, November 20, 7:00 PM

Shiloh Baptist Church, Plainfield

Join the Community Choir

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar

Carousel_image_9d8e453cf3136a3d0129_rec_2017_hw_helper

Tue, November 21, 4:00 PM

Hannah Atkins Community Center, Plainfield

Homework Helper

Education

Wardlaw + Hartridge Middle School Thespians Put on a Musical Show

November 19, 2017

EDISON, NJ -- Bravo to the Wardlaw + Hartridge Middle School students for entertaining the audience with two fantastic performances in The Little Mermaid Jr. in the new Berry Performing Arts Center last Friday.

Among the show's many stars were Sydney Racine of Piscataway as Ariel, Naischa Puri of Edison as Ursula, Aum Mehta of Edison as Sebastian, Julian Kaniuka of North Plainfield as ...

Canadian Aquaculture Giant Gobbles Up Last American Bait Fish Grinder as Major Decision Looms

November 10, 2017

In case you haven’t heard, a multinational fish farming company (Cooke Inc.) has made a deal to purchase Omega Protein Inc. and take them into the private sector. While the ink is not dry on this deal, it is obvious that the American fishing community will not be part of this new portfolio. There is no doubt that new, private ownership will continue to disregard the needs of the ecosystem ...

Brooklyn Company Moving to Paterson, Creating 50 Jobs

November 19, 2017

TRENTON, NJ- The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has approved a 10-year, $3,869,000 grant that will allow the Yoland Corporation, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer, to move its headquarters to Paterson.

Yoland, which has a contract with the US Defense Department to manufacture illumination parachutes and other textiles for the military, will receive the award thanks to the Grow New ...

Affordable Housing Program Helps Older Americans Make The Rent

November 10, 2017

While Barbara Ross’s income places her below the poverty line, she isn’t one of the nearly 2 million households with older adults in dire need of affordable housing. Thanks to a little-known federal program, Ross, 64, is able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Plainfield, N.J.

Through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) “Section 202 Supportive ...

The Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martins Griffin, 2016)

 

Author Lynda Cohen Loigman states, “The Two-Family House is a story I thought about for at least ten years before I ever wrote a word. I spent countless hours over a full decade thinking about how Rose, Helen, Abe, and Mort would behave in difficult situations, and how they would feel when faced with ...