Last night the Bloomfield Planning Board unanimously approved an amended site plan and subdivision for the previously approved Bloomfield Center redevelopment at Lackawanna Place (also known as Block 228, Lot 1). The approved plan was modified from the original application to exclude additional retail/restaurant space.
The amended plan application originally submitted by Bloomfield Center Urban Renewal, LLC (the applicant) and the Bloomfield Parking Authority (the property owner) called for a reconfiguration of the apartments to include three-bedroom units (a total of 46 additional bedrooms) and an additional 20,000 square feet of space to be used for restaurants or retail establishments on a second floor mezzanine area.
At the beginning of the meeting, which was continued from May 8, the Planning Board’s traffic consultant, Joseph Staigar, P.E., testified that the additional 20,000 square feet of retail space would cause traffic problems at the intersection of Lackawanna Place, Conger Street and Glenwood Avenue. He stated that the additional trips generated, particularly if the space were occupied by restaurants, would cause backups as cars exited the garage at Lackawanna Place, or when cars made left turns from Conger Street onto Glenwood Avenue during peak traffic times. Staigar’s recommendation was to reduce the additional square feet of retail space by half to 10,000 square feet to mitigate the potential problems.
After Staigar’s testimony, attorney Elizabeth Durkin introduced traffic expert Hal Simoff to testify regarding parking and traffic. Durkin represents developer Cary Heller, whose lawsuit challenging the redevelopment plan was dismissed on May 24 by the Essex County Superior Court. Heller was seated in the audience during last night’s meeting.
Simoff said that his estimates for the number of parking spaces needed for the development far exceeded what was proposed by the applicant. He also stated in his testimony that tractor-trailer trucks could not deliver goods on Washington Street, and that chain stores such as 7-11, Walgreen’s and McDonalds all use this type of truck to make deliveries to their stores.
His testimony was strongly challenged by Board Attorney Michael Rubin, who pointed out that most of his testimony pertained to the original plan, which was upheld by the New Jersey Superior Court. Rubin told him not to “rehash” that again, saying that the court had already ruled on this.
Rubin also pointed out that the testimony regarding the difficulties of articulated trucks delivering goods on Washington Street was a moot point, since the original approval of the application included the condition that no tractor-trailer trucks travel on Washington Street. Chairman LaQuaglia also reiterated the point.
Simoff said that meant no chain stores could be located in Buildings A and B of the development, which face Washington Street. However, this type of store could be accommodated in Building C if desired. Simoff’s concern about chain stores was challenged by Rubin, who asked why there had to be a 7-11 on the site at all.
Later in the meeting, traffic expert Staigar stated that stores such as 7-11 do agree to deliver in smaller trucks if they feel the location is worthwhile.
Comments from the public focused on both the increased traffic and the possibility of school-age children living in the proposed three-bedroom apartments.
Resident Carol Humphreys said she believes families are going to move in to these apartments. She also said that the development is not happening in a vacuum and there are other developments taking place in town and in the area. She asked the Board to take into consideration the impact the amended plan would have on the town as a whole and on the schools.
Prior to the Board’s vote, the attorney representing the applicant stated his client wished to withdraw the request for the 20,000 square feet of additional retail space and go ahead solely with the reconfiguration of the apartment units.
Mayor McCarthy moved to approve the application in its final form. Board member John Zitka seconded the motion, and all voting members voted to approve.