SUMMIT, NJ - The commitment of $1,200,000 from the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund for project acquisition and construction costs of 12 units of affordable housing on the 146 Morris Avenue site of the Summit Italian-American Club received unanimous approval at the first March meeting of the Summit Common Council.
The 12 units will be constructed by the Morris County Habitat for Humanity, which constructed another affordable housing unit at 39 Morris Avenue.
Habitat Chief Executive Officer Blair Schleicher Bravo thanked the City for its cooperation over the last five years in getting the 39 Morris Avenue project off the ground and said she was looking forward to working with Summit on the new project.
In response to a question from Ward II Councilman Patrick Hurley, Summit Department of Community Services Director Paul Cascais said the state would not be able to recoup any of the money currently allocated in the City’s affordable housing trust fund. There had been a legislative proposal to allow for this, but this proposal was defeated.
Cascais said currently about $1.6 million remains in the trust fund.
Ward I Councilman David Naidu noted the Italian-American Club site is one of the areas proposed for affordable housing in the housing element of its Fair Share Plan.
In addition, according to Council President Michael McTernan, the 12 units at the 146 Morris Avenue site will count towards the city’s non-binding goal to construct a total of 50 affordable housing units to meet its goal in an agreement recently signed with the Fair Share Housing Center.
The agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center will guard the City against so-called “builders remedy lawsuits” until at least 2025, if approved by state courts next month.
In another action at the first March meeting, the Council unanimously accepted a $47,800 donation to the Summit Fire Department from Atlantic Health System, the parent organization of Overlook Medical Center.
Overlook Medical Center President Alan Lieber and Dr. John Halperin of the Overlook Neuroscience Institute thanked Summit Fire Chief Eric Evers for his department's assistance in getting the hospital’s helipad up and running. The helipad, in operation for about 100 days, transports stroke victims to Overlook in emergencies.
In an update presentation on Summit’s recently-completed update of its Master Plan, Krzysztof Sadlej, director of project management for Topology -- the consulting firm which spearheaded the master plan revamp for the City -- noted that, after about 2,500 public comments both online and in-person as well as several of public presentations, six goals were identified:
- Guided development aimed at maintaining the character of the Hilltop City;
- Maintenance of the City as a dynamic and vibrant community;
- An improved community that will provide a healthy atmosphere for its people and in its places;
- The promotion of a city that is welcoming to people of all ages, genders and ethnicities;
- Building of economic vitality and support for reinvestment
- Preservation of the City’s environment and natural surroundings for future generations;
Under the first goal, Sadlej said those who commented wanted to see Summit’s buildings preserved with structures similar to those already in the city with brick as a major component while maintaining the community’s historic character.
Dynamics and vibrancy, they felt, would be maintained through art, great public spaces and a dynamic downtown with great retail and entertainment spaces and the possibility of 24-hour access and evening venues.
A healthy atmosphere would be attained through a city that is pedestrian- and cycle-safe, and where neighborhoods and green spaces are easily connected.
The welcome mat would be welcoming to all, respondents said, if residential development enabled residents to 'age in place' and there if there was a great deal of affordability and more public transportation.
Economic vitality, they believed, would be promoted primary through fair taxation and excellent services and maintenance of the economic position of the City.
There were many proponents of baseball, Sadlej said, who felt the city should be doing much more to promote the sport and facilities devoted to it. Many respondents also were in favor of more sustainability and expansion of green spaces.
The planner said the next steps in the process would be work through a committee established by the planning board in prioritizing action strategies, deciding on funding needs and implementation.
Naidu, who sits on the planning board, thanked Sadlej for focusing the efforts and producing the revised master plan.
Ward I councilman Robert Rubino added that the Summit Park Line, which would begin with the first phase of its development at an area adjacent to Overlook, would help the City fulfill each of the above goals, Rubino is the President of the Park Line Foundation, as noted on the organization's website.
In another action at the meeting, Mayor Nora Radest presented a proclamation in honor of the American Red Cross as 'Red Cross Month in Summit' to Christine C. Hodde, president of the New Jersey Crossroads Chapter of the Organization.
The council also heard a presentation by a representative of Uber detailing the city’s six-month pilot program allowing residents to take advantage of discounted rides to and from the Summit Train Station.
The experiment, aimed at easing the strain on local parking lots, has received a relatively tepid response by Summit commuters, when compared with original usage forecasts. The program has attained about 25 percent of the projected 4,000 rides it sought to procure, according to the Uber representative, adding that ride capacities usually were good during the expected times of morning and evening rush hours.
High ride volumes were seen during October, the first month of the pilot program, then trailed off in November and January, but were high in December.
The representative could not provide concrete statistics about how many cars the experiment kept out of Summit’s parking lots however both she and City Administrator Michael Rogers said they would work together with surveys taken by both the City of Summit and Uber to come up with more specific data.
Although Hurley expressed support with continuing the program beyond its April 1 cut-off date, the council took no formal action at its first March meeting.
On another matter, the governing body approved a settlement with Jersey Central Power & Light Co. on tax appeals over power stations and repair facilities the utility owns in the city.
Naidu voted against the settlement because, as he told TAPInto Summit after the meeting, he felt the taxes that would accrue to the City under the agreement were less than the amount which the City should expect.
On another matter, the First Ward representative expressed continuing concerns about the installation of “faux cobblestones” on Beechwood Road at a cost of more than $300,000.
Naidu had reservations about the project when it was introduced last year, but said he voted for it because he thought it would attract more pedestrians to the downtown and help Summit businesses.
However at the March meeting, before money is spent on the project, he said:
- The City should meet with residents of the Beechwood Road area. Naidu said at Summit Downtown, Inc.'s February meeting there seemed to be a consensus against the project by property owners and tenants.
- What will happen to the 'cobblestones' when utilities make cuts in the roads, and will snow plowing damage the 'cobblestones' and how much will replacements cost.
Naidu said the 'cobblestones' are supposed to be “decorative and artistic” and, if they are not able to be maintained or suitable replacements found, “not only will this be an unnecessary expenditure, but will, in fact, have a detrimental impact on streetscape.”
He concluded, “From struggling on this concept, to now having grave doubts on the need for it, I think what I have outlined tonight should be used as a guide for further discussion.”