Linda Cranston is co-founder of the Save Upper Montclair Facebook group
An opportunity to publicly comment on the Revised Master Plan is Monday, May 19, 7 pm at the George Innes High School Annex on Park St. Speak louder Montclair. They did not hear you. Bring a sign stating what you want. Tell your elected councilman too.
Montclair Master plan (also called Unified Land Use and Circulation). Who are our elected officials and planning board listening to? It must not be the residents. We need to speak louder.
Last year the the planning board and town council heard public outcry against the master plan’s re-zoning for high rises up to 10 stories in Montclair business districts and in highly used parking lots. We are glad to see some decreases but want to see more.
They heard that residents did not want high rises, built higher than current heights. According the the revised plan’s color coded zoning areas:
Bloomfield Ave still has up to 7 stories and 10 at Lackawanna Plaza, now is mostly 2-4 stories.
Walnut St up to 3-5 stories; now is mostly 2-3 stories.
Watchung Plaza up to 2-3 stories but suggested 3-5; now is 1-2 stories.
Upper Montclair up to 3-5; now is mostly 1-2 stories.
Upper Montclair residents spoke out the most at meetings. Re-zoning was only reduced by 2 stories. Residents with addresses in other neighborhoods were not heard from at meetings so the Mayor Jackson stated that those neighborhoods were not against the high rises. Is this true? You need to speak out or bring a sign.
In addition to this re-zoning, a developer can go even 2 stories higher if they have money to pay the town to do so. This is referred to in the revised plan as density bonuses or incentive zoning. This will encourage town leaders to seek bids from large developers who can pay for the right to build higher. The town may not have the benefit of smaller developers who may be willing to build smaller, at lower profit margins or come with experience building for a historic town feel.
Residents said they did not want development in parking lots we use to support our local business and enjoy our town. In Upper Montclair a major lot is still being developed across from Anderson Park.
The mayor understandably is interested in increasing the tax base with more condos in town but this does not necessarily assure a positive income for the town. If this is the goal, then financial analysis and caution is required for new development. Building bigger does not always equate to
more tax riches.
For instance, if we currently have the resources for required utilities, staffing and facilities, each household unit/ apartment costs the town over $5000 to set up services. But the Montclair Times reported we are running out of water supply now. Of course new costs will be in the millions for any new facility, etc, etc. This is just for water.
Additionally, if there are public school children in an apartment, each child costs Montclair over $18000 per year — if they don’t need special services. Any affordable housing is also subsidized by the town taxpayers.
Historic towns across the country preserve their business districts and neighborhoods. It’s wonderful for the town’s economy and the reason people live there. Montclair needs to continue to especially attract buyers for large beautiful homes that makes the town so special for everyone to enjoy. In less attractive towns, large homes are divided into apartments, setting a downward cycle for the town. Historic neighborhoods and towns are more able to survive national economic downturns since they offer much more than housing. Lots of research supports this and can be googled easily.
Montclair needs to do the same and quickly. Buildings have been going up in Montclair for years with no regard for the nature of the neighborhood or business district. Even with public concern, there still is no historic preservation component protecting the town and our officials are not doing so. Development should add beauty as well as functionality to our neighborhoods, not detract or destroy it. Town officials and planners need to hear this louder and from all neighborhoods. They have need to represent town interests.
One or two influential officials can lead the destruction of a town. It happened in my hometown in upstate NY. In order to get urban renewal funds, they promised the residents businesses would come back if the whole downtown was demolished. Not one business did. The town never recovered and still has blocks of blacktop on Main Street 40 years later.
Tell our planning board and officials again. “No higher anywhere”, “No development in parking lots” and “Preserve historic Montclair”. Email a letter to Janice Talley, PB Director to be distributed to members of the planning board.
To see the “revised” Unified Land Use and Circulation Plan (Masterplan ) go on the Facebook Save Montclair site or go to town website montclairnjusa.org. You can find your neighborhood in the table of contents. Find your elected councilman’s email on the town site also. They need to keep hearing what you want.