Letter to Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams, reprinted with permission.
Thanks for all your email responses recently....Regarding the dumpsters, I was at the PB (Planning Board) meeting that Thursday night and saw that it got adjourned until November. It is an unfortunate situation and Mr. Norin was really rude to interrupt the ongoing hearing, and especially stating that it is a quick change....which it is not.
Mr. Norin's recent letter assumes that the new proposal solves all the issues on the table...uh...no.
I saw the letter from the MVA and while it is well written, it is agreeing to a compromise to allow the dumpsters to be outside of the subject property, albeit in an enclosure. I cannot fathom all of this.
This is not just 1 dumpster - it is actually now 9 dumpsters, increased from 6 a few weeks ago.
The approvals for the building last year were under the condition that all refuse would be out of sight and within the building. And at that time a large restaurant was already under consideration - a "farm to table" restaurant if you recall. All were aware of this and in fact there were discussions during the hearings about venting of exhaust fans from restaurants. A condition of the approval was also that there would be no sidewall vents. So a restaurant was definitely on the table. already.
Further, the developer promised the people of Maplewood that the building would have 4 main facades, and no actual "back of the house" area, so all as seen even from the train platform would be pleasant...and the renderings reflected this. Well, putting dumpsters back there, whether on town land or behind the building, creates a back alley, and a definite back of the building. and not a pleasant thoroughfare or view as was represented. Wasn't the tunnel and that area supposed to be of preeminent importance in this project?
The current revised proposal is still egregious, even worse - 9 dumpsters now enclosed in a masonry bunker with metal doors taking up 3 precious parking spaces...all of which can still be seen in a sight line from Maplewood Avenue through the VCS lot and blocking the view to and from the path to the train at the rear of that lot. And the olfactory greeting when walking to or exiting the tunnel will be quite a lovely welcome to the Village (not). No matter how clean they say they will keep it, it will definitely smell bad- can't be helped. I am attaching some samples I created of how this will look (approximately). Also, aside from taking up 3 spaces, in order to accommodate this change, the other parking spaces will be reduced to 8.5' in width. With the large cars/trucks that folks drive these days (not me), that would not be a good idea.
And $5,000- what's up with that magic number? Maybe $5000 a year lease ongoing, but not a one time payment - that is a pittance for Forgione and Kalafer who will flip this building and earn millions (and you all know that). It is the same pittance of a price they paid to get us (not so sustainably) to chop off a piece of Ricalton Square for their loading space. A parking space costs between $20,000 - $30,000. So how does $5,000 square it?.
Couple all that with the proposed grease traps being placed just adjacent to the pedestrian path from the train tunnel- why? Have you even smelled a grease trap? It is more than gross! You wouldn't want to be walking by as you exit the NJ Transit tunnel when they are collecting that waste. Believe me I know, I have been present in restaurants for construction inspections when such a grease trap is open. These should be concealed, and moved away from the public access (and noses)...they should be in the building.
So what is the answer? The PB should push back and tell JMF to do what was agreed to last year.
I must say that I am more than disappointed in the mayor negotiating this deal. At the April meeting with the merchants, which you attended, he stated emphatically that the town had no power to negotiate anything related to designation of tenants and would not get involved, unless the building department finds a code issue. But fast forward and now he, in his role as mayor, has (hypocritically) personally negotiated a deal for Mr. Forgione to bring in a huge restaurant- made the match for him and negotiated it- those were his own proud words (paraphrased) in the local media. And he has stated in public that this is more important than parking and dumpsters. Well, there has to be a balance and there needs to be a call for holistic planning. (A 16 ounce jar cannot hold 32 ounces of liquid- it's a fact- and Maplewood Village is that 16 ounce jar.) So why do we need another (16th...?) restaurant? A large scale, 4000 SF restaurant generates a huge parking demand at least 100 parking spaces for an extended time period- there are no calculations or preparation done for this as far as I have seen. The parking issue is being ignored. and now 3 spaces will be lost for dumpsters. If nothing else is accomplished, the 3 spaces should be lost behind Mr. Forgione's building, not in sight from Maplewood Avenue...on his property not our taxpayer owned property. But we cannot afford to lose any parking at all.
Such a restaurant produces a huge amount of refuse (the subject on the table now)- which Mr. Deluca has decided doesn't matter even though there were constraints placed with approval by PB last year. So what does it really mean when the PB makes a decision?- if the PB approves this change allowing trash outside the building, and perhaps on public property, it means the decisions of the PB have no weight and hold no water. The PB will have no legitimate authority anymore.
While it has been published (Village Green) that a lease is signed for a restaurant, that cannot be quite so. No savvy tenant finalizes a lease until the demised space is actually built and square footage documented. So it is not like there is a point of no return here. So what to do? Again, tell JMF to do what it agreed to last year. No compromise, just require the restaurateur to comply with the already standing agreement- no visible refuse. - and to be creative and smart- sustainable too - including compactors, cold storage, recycling,and more frequent refuse pick up. Hold Mr. Forgione's feet to the fire. And tell DeLuca to cut it out.
The mayor plays a negotiating game. He has a strategic, deceptive pattern. He proposes something so egregious that the compromise seems like a fabulous idea. It is a classic tactic that he often uses...but it is transparent. We have seen it before many times. For example, propose a 5 story building then negotiate it down to 4 stories, when it really should be no more than 3 in a low scale town like this. Then say- what a hero Deluca is to get us 4 stories (overnight)! hurray!
I was told by a township official that "He was never gonna let that be 5 stories". So there is his game.
One could ask- what's in it for him?
So what's the next game after this? Oh well ti has already started...create so much loss of parking that a parking structure would now seem rational in this tiny town...?
So here we are now- Deluca + Co (Forgione, Keller, and Norin) propose an incredibly egregious location for 9 (9!!!) dumpsters. He also negotiates with an adjacent property owner to solicit his support by including his refuse in that location too. (Then also he can do what he did with the ridiculous Ricalton loading space - say that it is not just for JMF but for the town in general- bullcrap). So you will meet Thursdaynight and you will see the brilliant new and improved scheme which has increased the number of dumpsters and moved them about 15 feet south...DeLuca will push for an immediate vote (as is the pattern)...and you will all have defeated yourselves, and you efforts of last year...and the PB will have no integrity moving forward.
Again, Tell JMF to do what it agreed to last year- no visible dumpsters. And tell the mayor to cut it out. You and your PB and TC committee members are so much better than this.
And along with all of this, Victor DeLuca must recuse himself from this hearing of the PB regarding JMF and the dumpster...not just abstaining, but recusing and not be present in the hall at all. This is a conflict of interest for him as he was, as he has proudly boasted, a principal in this negotiated restaurant lease.
In the words of Seth Godin (oh how timely), it is time to "govern in favor of our best instincts, not our worst ones."
Thanks for considering my long winded view of this issue,