Montclair Council Conference Meeting Talks Redevelopment of Bloomfield Ave, Edgemont Park Pond

BY  |  Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (11)

The Montclair Township Council

The Montclair Township Council had another long conference meeting on November 20 and discussed an array of issues, with revitalization of Bloomfield Avenue the hottest topic of the night.

Montclair Planning Director Janice Talley spoke before the council regarding a trio of resolutions aimed at rehabilitating a block of Bloomfield Avenue at its eastern end in Montclair and completely redeveloping it near its western end, specifically on the corners at its intersection with Valley Road not affected by the CentroVerde project.   The former two resolutions would designate the Whitfield’s Shell service station, the Montclarion, and the Mount Carmel Holy Church.  Both properties are part of an urban renewal zone created in 1977, in which new multiple-unit housing was built and Cherry Street, which Mount Carmel Holy Church faced, was obliterated.

Talley said that rehabilitation would keep the properties as they are while addressing the improvement of the northern side of Bloomfield Avenue, the appearance of which she said was ignored in the urban renewal plan.  “What you have right now are fences, and trees, and parking lots that front Bloomfield Avenue,” she said, “and the intent is to revitalize the Bloomfield Avenue frontage.” She expressed hope that improving the frontage on the northern side would incentivize improvements for the southern side.  She said that if any of these three properties, especially the church, were to be sold, there would be the creation of a zoned district “with appropriate controls so that it [the property] can be redeveloped to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.”  Rehabilitating these properties, Talley said, would allow for the creation of a redevelopment zone in the area.

Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, whose ward includes the properties, asked how the resolutions differed from urban renewal.  Talley explained that several properties in the 1977 urban renewal zone had been taken out of the zone as they had been developed and sold.

“Rather than take that urban renewal plan and try to re-craft it to apply to three properties, I don’t think that makes sense,” Talley said.  “A better way would be to craft something new for those three properties.”  She added that the resolutions would allow the council to come up with design standards to refresh the streetscape.

Talley moved on to a resolution updating a proposal to redevelop the northern and southeastern corners of Valley Road, which would enable Montclair to take another look at the three corners and see how they fit the criteria for redevelopment while the CentroVerde project is about to get underway.  She cited the Leach Building, the stodgy storage tower next to the police headquarters, and storefronts adjacent to the Leach Building, and properties along Portland Place that may be considered.  The chief difference between rehabilitation and redevelopment, Talley explained, was that redevelopment would enable the township to acquire properties as opposed to setting standards for rehabilitation.

Township Manager Marc Dashield explained the process of condemning properties to facilitate redevelopment.  “It has to be designated as part of a plan,” he said, “so we identify those parcels that we would say . . .  we need to act to acquire. Then there’s the whole process in terms of acquiring the property [and giving] it market value at a reasonable price for acquiring that property. There’s a whole legal process you have to go through to do that.”

The resolutions would only give the Planning Board the opportunity evaluate the properties in question for rehabilitation and/or redevelopment and begin a process that would allow for any redevelopment plans to go forward.

The council also returned to the thorny issue of dredging the Edgemont Park pond, with a resolution for awarding a contract for a project up for consideration on November 27.  Dashield reported that there were few takers for the nearly 3300 cubic yards of material that would be dredged and could be used as fill by other communities or government entities.  The cost was broken down by the contractor to $138,000at $42 per cubic yard, with $64,000 for disposal of dredging material and $39,000 for the trucks used.   Mayor Robert Jackson said the township was negotiating the cost line by line with the contractor.

“If, from that perspective, that we can say to [the contractor], ‘Look, you get to do this job and we want to pull the trucking out because we can get that done [for less],’ then he just does [the dredging],” Mayor Jackson explained. “If there’s a company that will do it cheaper than this, then there could be savings.”  Dashield said that negotiations with the contractor would continue before the November 27 vote on the resolution.

These resolutions were among nineteen ordinances and resolutions previewed for the November 27 meeting, which also included changes to the café ordinance.  Among the changes are defining partitions as only delineations of the passageways for pedestrians and reducing the usages fees for sidewalk to $1.25 per square foot.

General discussion concerned the Montclair Arts Council and the query over whether the township should take over its 501(c)(3) tax exemption status.  Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager reported that the arts council would like to see its apparatus become an active and viable program, with its continued tax exemption, or else they will dissolve the 501(c)(3) status at the end of the year.   Dashield suggested that the township could appoint people to an community arts board that could act separately from the council, but without 501(c)(3) status.  Dashield also recommended that the new rule requiring the issuance of permits for the removal of trees greater than eight inches in diameter by a licensed contractor be delayed until January 1 to facilitate cleanup from Hurricane Sandy.  A measure allowing the delay is likely to be considered for the next regular meeting.

11 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Cary Africk  |  November 21, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    Many thanks to Steven for this post, and the others he has made in the past giving us detailed information on what transpires at these meetings! I love his writing!

    For the “record,” this Council has the ability to televise, live, these “conference” meetings. The second floor conference room has this capability. For their own reasons, this Council has declined to make these very important discussions public via television and streaming video on the town website.

    Under OPMA, ANYONE can tape these meetings. I encourage other “public spirited” folks to bring their video cameras, and put the meetings up on Youtube so that we can all follow these discussions.

  2. POSTED BY nickcharles  |  November 21, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    It is a beautiful thing to not see Jerry Fried at the head of this table anymore. For this I am thankful.

  3. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  November 21, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    The table seems small.

  4. POSTED BY agideon  |  November 21, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    Am I the only one to see the irony here? While a pond is a “thorny issue”, the council is actually considering “condemning properties to facilitate redevelopment”? Until/unless something is done that addresses the town’s long-standing inability to properly handle such projects, and even ignoring the various issues of condemnation as a development tool, having the town take on yet another large project into which we can dump loads of wasted taxpayer money (which I view as completely different from money well spent on projects well managed) seems an invitation to further “thorny issues”.

    …Andrew

  5. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  November 21, 2012 @ 10:10 am

    Andrew, I completely agree with you. My jaw dropped when I read this. The town can’t figure out how to repair an existing pond for which most of the funds are available, yet they think they can handle the taking over of troublesome properties by condemning them and then….what? What will this cost the taxpayers and which developers will get the great deals at our expense and what will it look like? Are we going to keep tearing down pieces of our history to put up hideous new structures? Everyone’s hair should be standing on end, since there has been a single project in decades this town hasn’t managed to muck up in some way.
    Where’s Frank GG?

  6. POSTED BY kay  |  November 21, 2012 @ 11:40 am

    …sigh…

  7. POSTED BY mtcgma  |  November 21, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    I’m not sure I am understanding the reference to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Is the church itself in jeopardy or just the area surrounding the church designated for rehabilitation?

  8. POSTED BY frankgg  |  November 21, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    Its useless to complain….protest or even go to public meetings. If the residents of Montclair cared anything about preserving whats is good, unique, attractive or valuable about the Montclair environment, landscape or beautiful atmosphere…. they would have gotten out and voted for the right elected officials to preserve and re develop the good features that characterize Montclair. The current elected officials do not care and have no knowledge or experience to do so. They can only envision ordinary solutions that clearly dont work here. (the only good I see is what individual property owners do to preserve what they have….and also the ex Kathrine Gibbs, Banz and Hillside Square renovation projects.) It even seems to me that they cannot un do a deal thats already been done. I would only expect ordinary mediocre solutions from the current elected officials and Planner that will continue to destroy the good features that have attracted people to Montclair. Montclair Center is pathetic and a mess, compared to what it was, and the ugly Sienna Building and cheep South Park Project have made it even worse. If you want to be in an environment that you would expect Montclair Center to be like….go to Soho, Tribecca, Maplewood, Upper Montclair, Caldwell, Red Bank, South Orange or the Short Hills Mall. I live in nearby Essex Fells, where there is no town center and would GLADLY frequent and patronize Montclair’s Business district, but I avoid the annoyance because Montclair is following Yonker’s footsteps fast. Until the right elected officials are in place just expect decline and don’t even bother speaking up or complaining about it.

  9. POSTED BY agideon  |  November 21, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

    “they would have gotten out and voted for the right elected officials” Well…in the defense of many of our voters, I think it fair to remind you of the article printed in the NYTimes the day before the election (scheduled to offer no time for any form of rebuttal) in which dishonest implications were made about some of the candidates being tea-party members.

    Of course, the point could be made that those voters that cared would have already learned enough by then to recognize the basic dishonesty of the claim, so your point about insufficient people caring sufficiently isn’t really wrong.

    Does the South Park Street project look cheap? I was there a week or two ago, and I spent a few minutes just looking. Something did seem “wrong” about it to me, but I couldn’t put a finger on what exactly that was. It could just have been that it was different from how it had been (to which I’d grown used over the years). So…I just don’t know enough to say, one way or another. But, at least to me, it didn’t seen inviting for some reason I’m unable to identify.

    …Andrew

  10. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 21, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving Andrew.
    May I suggest the next time you are on SPark, ignore the sidewalks and street. If you like, imagine mature trees in 7 years. Then look at the rest. Voila! Indiana Jones & The Street of Doom.

  11. POSTED BY agideon  |  November 22, 2012 @ 8:11 am

    “mature trees in 7 years … The Street of Doom”

    I’m afraid I don’t understand.

    FWIW I *like* trees. I even believe that a grove of trees might make a good “entrance” into town, for what little my opinion on this is worth {8^).

    People cite numerous different reasons for being attracted to, or choosing to live in, Montclair. For me, what first caught my attention about this place was the treescape (and the set of parks).

    …Andrew

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