PLAINFIELD, NJ — Plainfield’s Planning Board approved two “In Need of Redevelopment” studies Thursday, one In the downtown area, and another on South Avenue.
Both were prepared and presented by Steven Martini of the Nishuane Group, LLC, who also had to field questions during a public hearing on the findings. Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey reminded the crowd in City Hall Library that they were hearing, “studies, not plans.”
Board member Siddeeq El-Amin asked Martini about a negative finding at the Burger King site: Only four cars on a 50-car lot.
“Did you go back later?” El-Amin asked. The answer was “no.”
El-Amin said all Burger Kings were upgrading their facilities and fast food places were turning toward delivery.
“Isn’t it true they have drive-through?” Scott Bey asked.
A resident said her daughter, an EMT, said it was the “single most place she had gone” to answer calls about fights.
But Laura Abanto, who identified herself as an “area coach for BK,” said, “We have had construction on South Avenue for two years” that had affected the usual flow of business. She also noted that for landscapers and others with large trucks, “It’s the only place they can come — that’s another viewpoint.”
Resident Kendall Sprott questioned the redevelopment process, specifically whether an owner could get involved with the plan. Scott Bey said they could, but reminded Sprott there was just a study so far, not a plan.
Resident Inez Durham asked whether there hadn’t already been a couple of studies on the area and shouldn’t they be considered first.
Having heard from the public, the board found two of the three sites studied were in need of non- condemnation redevelopment. A gift shop/interior design establishment was found not to be in need of redevelopment. The study goes next to the City Council, which may ask the board to prepare a redevelopment plan.
The second study covered several city parking lots, some downtown stores and an apartment building. Martini again gave criteria for each site. The Supremo supermarket site was found not to be in need of redevelopment, but the parking lot behind Bill’s Luncheonette; the Strand Theater; an Orange Place apartment building; the parking lot currently serving the Plainfield Cultural Arts Center; a vacant lot where a store burned down years ago; and more were found to be in need.
Martini provided copious details in his report, ranging from taxes owed and Health and Inspections violations, down to “pungent aroma of smoke” in a store.
Among members of the public who spoke, Timothy Priano reminded the board that development of lots behind some store will impact a trail that is being created along the Green Brook.
An owner of two East Front Street properties asked what was the city going to put there, and Scott Bey replied, “We have no idea, it’s only a study, not a plan.”
Sprott asked, “Does the city have to go through this process to redevelop its own property?”
Scott Bey said, “It becomes a city option.”
The issue of revenue from city parking lot permits and meters was raised, but not pursued.
Jiacomo Fiorenza, an owner, said he had plans for a laundromat on the vacant lot, but added, “We keep getting knocked down.”
Scott Bey suggested that Fiorenza should bring his plan “formally to the Planning Board and you will be heard,” but Fiorenza said he had already done so, twice.
The board unanimously approved the study after public comment.
Having changed its starting time from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the board still had to honor the later start Thursday because it was on a public notice of the hearing. After a few announcements, Scott Bey declared a five-minute break to fill the gap before the meeting could start. The board’s next meeting is 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.
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