The Montclair Township Council, meeting in conference on a Monday at an earlier hour, heard from representatives from the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and the technical-engineering firm NV5 on the town’s Complete Streets program. DOT planner Bill Riviere and NV5 engineer Mike Dannemiller explained to Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors presented a plan of implementations with a slide show that is slated to appear on the township Web site. They were introduced by Township Engineer Kim Craft, whose office would oversee the plan’s implementation.
Dannemiller did most of the talking, explaining how the study was funded by DOT. The objective, he said, was to formulate a plan that would take the interests of both cyclists and pedestrians into account. To push these efforts further, Montclair submitted an application to the Local Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Assistance Program to get help for implementing pan. The objective, Dannemiller said, was to review the township’s previous efforts at a plan and identify a network of streets for cyclists and pedestrians that could be applied wit h input from the public and could complement the master plan.
The plan mapped out takes residential areas, commercial zones, schools, and parks into account. The main recommendation was a quite simple one – buy paint and implement a network of enhanced street crossings, shared-lane markings (the chevron-type markings called “sharrows”) and improved bicycle lanes. On narrower streets with limited space, it may be necessary to eliminate some parking, but any impacts on parking would be determined in the final design. Some streets would be treated differently; Glenridge Avenue, Dannemiller said, would be treated one way where it is a two-way thoroughfare but treated anther way in the block where it is a one-way street emptying onto Bloomfield Avenue.
The presentation did recommend other ideas, such as parklets, pedestrian-scale lighting, and warning lights, but most of the improvements could be achieved through mere restriping, which would cost little. Any funding needed could conceivably come from private interests, impact fees, and the like. Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo, citing the lack of support for the federal government and difficulties in state funding (which he hoped would be alleviated by the incoming Murphy Administration), asked how much municipal funding would be needed. Dannemiller replied that each unit in the plan had a unit cost; for example, a two-mile stretch of Grove Street would cost X amount of dollars based on the dimensions and the amount of striping involved. Craft said that she wanted the Planning Board to review the Complete Streets, and a member of the Planning Board had in fact been on the steering committee that oversaw it. She did not say whom.
Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager wanted to see an outreach program aimed at cyclists to get them involved in the bike/walk program and get a better understanding at the rules of cycling. Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville said there needed to be algorithms that set up standards for where traffic-calming devices in the program should be installed, and she added that there should be community outreach to deal with some residents who may not want such traffic-calming devices. Mayor Jackson said it would depend on the level of seriousness of intersections where traffic-calming devices are needed, but he agreed with Dr. Baskerville on the need for an algorithmic approach to the issue.
Parking came up yet again with a proposed amendment of an ordinance in handling cars illegally parked in spaces where cars should never be parked – fire zones, bus stops, et al. – and punitive measures such as towing the cars or immobilizing them with blocks on the tries. Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller objected to the inclusion of overnight parking on the list of illegal spaces prepared by Township Attorney Ira Karasick, saying that anyone parked on the street between 2:00 AM and 5:00 AM should not be punished with a tow or immobilization of the car, or “booting.” He thought that ticketing would be more appropriate for such violations.
The issue of parking in spaces where cars should never be parked came up in p[art because of the incidents of parking in illegal spaces because of shows at the Wellmont Theater. He thought booting cars would be more effective, because a towed car would be missed by someone coming out of the theater and not be noticed as an illegally parked vehicle. But if the car were booted, and someone came out of the theater and were to see a booted car, it would send a powerful message against parking in a space where a car should never be parked.
The council agreed that something should be done, but Mayor Jackson thought it was prudent to allow the Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee to vet the proposed amendment before the council took it up. The council did take up final passage of the ordinance passed on first reading on October 24 establishing speed limits, including a lower 30-mph speed on Grove Street. It passed 4-3, with Councilors Spiller, Rich McMahon (AL) and William Hurlock (First Ward) voting no. The trio had voted against it before on October 24 on the grounds that enforcement of the speed limit on Grove Street had been improved (said Councilor McMahon), that pedestrians needed to take more responsibility when crossing the streets (said Councilor Hurlock) and that traffic calming devices would be a better way to slow traffic (Councilor Spiller).
The council also added two items to the agenda – a resolution approving and authorizing the execution of a shared-services agreement between Montclair and Cedar Grove for local public-health services from 2018 through 2021 and a resolution approving and authorizing an agreement with the group Friends of the Montclair Township Animal Shelter for the provisions of supporting services and funding for the shelter. Both were approved by voice vote, thus authorizing Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford, who read out the resolutions, to enact then immediately.