The Bloomfield council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to rezone the Hartz Mountain property on the corner of Bloomfield and Watsessing Avenues at last night’s conference meeting.
The 16.5-acre site, formerly a manufacturing and R&D facility for Hartz Mountain pet products, was originally slated to be replaced with a “big box” supermarket once the last employees leave early next year. However, the developers of the property stated last evening that they were abandoning that plan, citing “sensitivity to the downtown redevelopment” pending in Bloomfield, which will also include a supermarket.
Instead, they propose building a mixed-use development comprising both residential and retail elements. They envision the area becoming a “small neighborhood” that will tie in with the nearby Watsessing train station. The residential portion of the site will be mainly 2 and 3-bedroom rental apartments in low-rise buildings of 3-4 stories in height. The developers requested that the council rezone the property to accommodate this plan. The council voted unanimously to do so.
During the public comment period, resident Carol Humphreys questioned whether the council was taking into account the effects all the new development will have on the township. “How do these proposals affect people who live here?” she asked, saying that someone should “step up” and say, “Wait, how will that impact the density?” She cited traffic on Belleville Avenue as an example of the crowded environment, stating that “it takes five minutes to go a block” on that road.
Mayor McCarthy responded that the Planning Board would play the “devil’s advocate” and hire experts to help them make decisions on proposed developments.
Township Administrator Yoshi Manale initiated a discussion of the 2012 budget, which will be introduced at the April 23 council meeting. As currently outlined, the budget, if passed, would result in a +5.13 percent increase in taxes, which he explained was the second lowest increase in the past ten years. Although there is a state-mandated budget cap of +2%, items such as pensions and health care expenses are not included in that restriction.
The council voted to move forward with promoting four additional fire captains, replacing men who had retired previously. These promotions will enable Engine #1 to remain open approximately 65 percent of the time, according to Fire Chief Joseph McCarthy. The council rejected two other options that would have saved more money but would have closed Engine #1.
The controversy over Parking Authority appointments continued last evening. Mayor McCarthy once again nominated Joe Catalano, who had previously served on the Authority’s board for seven years, to the open one-year spot on the board. The nomination failed to move, as Councilmen Venezia, Joanow, Chalet and Bernard all voted against it, with council representatives Dunigan, Hamilton and the Mayor voting in favor.
Councilman Joanow nominated Matthew Yar for the open term, but was unable to get a second on his motion, so no vote took place. Councilman Venezia then nominated Mark Remollino, but was also unable to get enough votes. The seat on the board remains open.
The next council meeting will be a regular meeting held on Monday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.