Ousted Bloomfield Zoning Board Chairman Sounds Off

Bloomfield Council members recently voted to end John Lazar’s 15-year tenure as Zoning Board Chairman. Was this a result of constituent complaints or is it politics as usual? The council’s vote is just the latest signal of trouble brewing at city hall. Lazar sounded off with a biting response to Bloomfield Life:

“They’re a disgrace,” said Lazar, dubbing the four √¢‚Ǩ‚Äù Janice Maly, Patricia Ritchings, Bernard Hamilton and Patricia Spychala √¢‚Ǩ‚Äù “the most incompetent council people I have ever seen in my life.”
Lazar says the need for “a change” makes little sense, as the zoning board is solely concerned with legal issues. “The law is the law,” said Lazar, adding there can be “no fresh view” on zoning issues.

The fact that the four chose to oust Lazar (as well as board of health member Lisa Jasinski) without public discussion has stirred controversy.[Councilman Ray]Tamborini said it is “quite obvious” that the four members “have gotten together on this.”
The same four acted similarly last June, when they voted without discussion not to re-appoint longtime Township Attorney Vincent Pirone.
“It smells like a violation,” Tamborini said.

The ousting reportedly shocked Mayor Ray McCarthy, who questioned why Lazar was booted out.

“Is it to embarrass me?” McCarthy asked. “Is it to disrupt the community? I don’t know. I’m stunned.”

Lazar hinted that his exit from the zoning board might not mean the end of his tenure as a township official. He said this latest “stunt” by the council might actually advance him in his political career. He did not elaborate, however, saying he has not decided whether to run for mayor in 2007.

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38 COMMENTS

  1. Dear John,
    They were elected. You were not.
    You are the disgrace.
    I attended zoning board hearings on the Broad St. apartment development and have never seen such a bias for the developer over the citizenry.
    The developer was allowed to call a 4story apartment building a 3 story building. They were allowed to submit an 18month old traffic survey that was done on a weekday afternoon. They were allowed to pretend that the sheds in people’s back yards that abutted the development would block out the 4th story.
    They were allowed to submit renderings that were blatantly flawed and that ommitted the nail parlor building that will continue tobe where it is now.
    They were allowed to pretend that they had enough parking spaces when in actuality they did not so they pretended that some of the space for the nail salon could be used for the apartment development.
    and so on and so on.
    You were rude and pushy and during breaks hung out with the developer and his entourage. You were especially nasty to the Bloomfield residents who testified.
    Go ahead- run for something – those of us who have seen you in action will do everything that we can to make sure that you aren’t elected to ANY office.

  2. Goodbye John,
    Don’t let the door hit your back. You may have known EVERTHING about zoning but you’re not a particularly nice person and you don’t treat people equally.
    The tazpayers should be represented by the xoning board not the developers.

  3. yes! He bent over backwards to push the apt through, granting many variances which the developer requested and the residents were against. On top of that, he was obnoxious at the meetings. I’m only sorry he wasn’t let go sooner.

  4. ‘The law is the law,’ said Lazar, adding there can be ‘no fresh view’ on zoning issues.” Who is he trying to kid? Those of us who attended the 1242 Broad Street hearings watched the developer’s trained Town Planner re-write the Master Plan and zoning ordinances as he went along, aided and abetted by Chairman Lazar. You could almost hear Sinatra singing “I Did it My Way” in the background.
    Councilman Tamborini needs to wake up, too. Lazar ran his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Mayor McCarthy in 2004, so now here is Ray a couple of years later standing up on his hind legs and praising Mr. Lazar for running a tight ship. I think they really believe that the best way to run a government is without any participation by the governed. There is a name for that type of government; can’t recall it right now but I remember that one of the benefits is that all the trains run on time…

  5. As a new resident of Bloomfield, I can’t really comment as to the recent workings of the zoning board. However, it is OBVIOUS TO ANYONE DRIVING AROUND THIS AREA THAT BLOOMFIELD NEEDS A CHANGE. The downtown area, especially by comparison to Montclair, is a disgrace. Nail shops? Cell phone stores? Discount clothing? These are of course important businesses, but what about nice restaurants? Coffee shops? Bookstores? Anything that might bring more money and more reason for pedestrians to window shop? Bloomfield’s downtown needs a bit of urban renewal.
    Of course, some will complain bitterly that this would be gentrification designed to drive out lower income folks. Not at all! Let’s just make Bloomfield a more desirable place to visit and live.

  6. As a new resident of Bloomfield, I can’t really comment as to the recent workings of the zoning board. However, it is OBVIOUS TO ANYONE DRIVING AROUND THIS AREA THAT BLOOMFIELD NEEDS A CHANGE. The downtown area, especially by comparison to Montclair, is a disgrace. Nail shops? Cell phone stores? Discount clothing? These are of course important businesses, but what about nice restaurants? Coffee shops? Bookstores? Anything that might bring more money and more reason for pedestrians to window shop? Bloomfield’s downtown needs a bit of urban renewal.
    Of course, some will complain bitterly that this would be gentrification designed to drive out lower income folks. Not at all! Let’s just make Bloomfield a more desirable place to visit and live.

  7. Variances are supposed to be granted gingerly..or that is what I thought but it doesn’t seem that the zoning board follows that concept.
    The zoning board seems to treat residents’ complaints as annoying rather than something to consider.
    Remember how they gave Cosimo the variance to open ANOTHER Italian restaurant in Bloomfield.
    The council still has more house cleaning to do in my estimation. Demirino will probably become the chairman and he is a county worker thoroughly trained by lazar just as Casper Mole trained Lazar.
    It is curious that Lazar works at former mayor Jim Norton’s insurance agency.

  8. Hi Pork, if anyone is interested in being appointed to any of the boards in town, they should make their wishes known to their council person and submit a resume’; and the next time an opening comes up they will be considered.
    Serving on a board can be demanding but rewarding. I hope more people will consider it as the town definitely needs more qualified people on the boards.

  9. OMG the same old crowd assembles over and over and over again, protesting anything other than “green spaces” in Bloomfield, and then they wonder why they’re on Lazar’s (and others’) last raw nerve. I for one am sick and tired of all the self-proclaimed “community activists” who never met a tree they didn’t want to hug or a building they didn’t want to oppose.

  10. And the same people objecting to ANY form of activism and community involvement.
    Oh you want to build on the flood plain- OK
    Oh you want to build where it will create traffic congestion- OK
    Oh you want a variance for a lot that will have a driveway coming out of the lot on the corner- a real danger- OK
    Oh you want a vraince for ANYTHING imaginable- OK
    It’s not OK by me- see you at the zoning board and town council if you dare

  11. There seems to be some problems if he’s overly willing to just grant variances, whether usage or otherwise. Variances should be hard to get and only if the owner shows that they are negatively affected by the current zoning standards on the lot.
    I don’t know about the specificities of the project, but having an 18 month old traffic count really isn’t that big of a deal since traffic patterns don’t change so drastically over that period of time. The timing of the traffic count is questionable though, but usually counters are put down for at least 3 days to get accurate readings.
    Renderings and what they show or doubt show are generally immaterial because only the technical site plan document is reviewed for problems like parking, etc. the parking issue may have been agreed upon based on peak usage of the nail place. If the nail place is generally closed when the apartment dwellers would be parked there, it shouldn’t be an issue, and is more efficient than having to build more parking spaces while an adjacent lot goes unused. then again, that might not have been the case either.
    One of the biggest problems with downtown Bloomfield stems from the fact the circulation element is a little screwy. The mess of one way streets and can’t turn here signs doesn’t exactly make driving downtown inviting for a potential customer. The Bloomfield, Glenwood, Broad Street intersection is particularly troubling.

  12. CRIKEY yaddayadda! you are for one mayte! lazar was a regular ‘roos behind just like his bud the maya! we who tried to talk nice to the bloke about the apts on broad st were rewarded with sneers, jeers and the bite of a croc! what goes ’round finally comes ’round i always says. them what dish it can’t usually take it. run for somethin’ mayte and see how far ya get!

  13. Hello. I think people are missing the point. Yes, the town council is elected and as such has the power to make or block appointments. However, how proper is it, and how much faith do you have in a town council who miraculously comes in with the majority in sync about a vote, without any public comment. Even Ritchings, in the Life article, stated (to the effect) this was worked out ahead of time. Well, if it was worked out ahead of time by the four, then in my opinion, humble as it may be, the four did some fancy footwork around the Open Public Meetings Act by arriving on this decision outside of a properly assembled public meeting! That, my friends, is the biggest concern I have in all of this.
    I hear the four calling for a change; they should heed the words of Ghandi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

  14. Just read the Bloomfield Life article in full. Lazar didn’t make a very graceful exit. I understand local politics can get very personal and after 15 years of service I’m not surprised there are hard feelings.
    We need to conduct ourselves more professionally and improve the image of Bloomfield.

  15. From my reading of the Life article, it sounded as if Ms. Ritchings merely said that the four of them “communicate.” That isn’t the same as meeting secretly in violation of the Open Public Meetings Law. If anyone thinks that council members never give a hint to one another what their thoughts might be before a public meeting takes place, then you are naive.

  16. Come on, the proceeding was conducted in an open meeting. The council does not need to debate the issue and it is within their right to make appointments and dismissals. You’ll have a hard time finding a procedural error. And if you do the result will be the same. They’ll debate it quickly followed with a dismissal.
    Mr. Lazar has been on the zoning board for 15 years. It is time for some turn over. Not being on the zoning board does not mean it is the end of his service career. There is many things he can do for the town of Bloomfield. I hope Mr. Lazar shows up to ever zoning board meeting and gives them a run for their money. He may like dishing it out better than taking it.
    I will say this, the ball is the quartet’s court. They better get the right person for the job.
    Again, be professional and make the town look good!

  17. Sorry, I don’t buy into that “gee aren’t the 4 great communicators” — however, it was my bad… it wasn’t in the Life, but rather in the Press. Here’s the quote: “I think, from the meeting, it’s pretty clear that it was all decided beforehand,” the councilwoman (Ritchings) said.
    It was all decided beforehand. By four members of the town council. By a majority of the council.
    Maybe that’s the “change” that some people in town want, it’s not the change I’m hoping for.
    They can’t break the rules to get their desired results and then hold themselves up on a pedestal. Their ends don’t justify their means.

  18. Lasermike, I think the more recent appointments to the Zoning Board have been good ones. As for who will replace Lazar, it is not up to the Council to decide that. The Zoning Board votes on the new chair among themselves at the first meeting of the year.

  19. Well I tried. No one here responded. Believe me I will try to be the change. Can’t you all see that Bloomfield in comparison to Montclair and Glen Ridge and even Verona and the Caldwells just looks run down, old, and uninviting? Only reason I live here is because initial home purchase was cheaper, but the taxes are just as bad as the substantially better looking communities. And don’t even get me started on the schools!!!!

  20. “The Point,” you are incorrect. I dug out last week’s Independent Press. Pat Ritchings never said it was decided beforehand. The statement you are quoting was made by Councilwoman Dunigan. Because it came on the second page of the article you must have misinterpreted the reference.

  21. Fresh Arrival, I doubt you’d find any Bloomfield resident that would disagree with your assessment. We’re just trying to find the best to improve the town’s downtown. The full redevelopment that had been planned was one way people were trying to do just what you are saying. Since it does not appear to be going forward, then we must find another way.
    However, just to clarify, zoning is not the issue in downtown Bloomfield. The Zoning Board has no control over what stores or other amenities are in the downtown; they only have control over whether to grant variances to existing ordinances. It is a much larger and more complex issue to get the downtown revitalized.
    However, do check out the North of Broad Street – lots of revitalization up there. (Restaurants, etc.) It’s happening naturally and perhaps that will happen for the other end of town as well now that the threat of eminent domain is receding.

  22. Fresh Arrival,
    I live in a beautiful section of Bloomfield.
    Yes my house was cheaper that what we priced in Montclair and yes I am paying significantly less taxes than in Montclair or Glen Ridge but the area that I live in looks no worse than any of the surrounding towns. As a matter of fact, I’m proud of our wide streets and good looking trees – did you know that Bloomfield and Glen Ridge use the services of a certified arborist- Montclair does not and it shows.
    I also get better town services in Bloomfield.
    Garbage is picked up on the scheduled day as are recyclables. When it snows the streets are plowed. I live on a cross-through street and you can see where Glen Ridge starts- streets barely plowed. And where Montclair starts- streets not plowed at all.
    Bulky waste- we can call the town and they come and pick it up. In Montclair you put it out and pray.
    Yes there are areas that need improvement- one of them is the Animal Shelter.
    Caving in to developer demands is not the WAY.

  23. Been Here is right, Bloomfield taxes are indeed much lower than either Montclair or Glen Ridge. For Fresh to say they are “just as bad” is certainly not correct.
    I too have had good experiences living in Bloomfield for nearly 20 years. Can it be improved? Of course. But I have certainly seen improvement over the past 10 years in my own neighborhood.

  24. Having moved to Bloomfield just about a year ago, affordability was the primary reason, as it was with many of you. I have no regrets (except perhaps that of not buying sooner), and I have found town services, especially garbage, recycling, and bulk waste pickup, to be very reliable and convenient.
    If what I read here is any indication, our tax burden seems lower compared to our neighbors. Our community has a blazingly bright future if we make the right decisions concerning growth and development. In that regard I have not been impressed with many of the decisions taken by the township council and zoning board over the last year.
    I truly believe that Bloomfield can benefit greatly from the gentrification of the surrounding towns, both from the spillover effect and as the relief valve for high-rent refugees (Copabananas, perhaps) looking for cheaper rents.
    I grew up in Monmouth County, and I can remember when Red Bank’s downtown had little to draw people in except perhaps for Jack’s Music and Prown’s, and there were almost no restaurants except for a few pizza joints and a McDonald’s. Now Red Bank has become a destination for many in the area and beyond, drawn by a variety of eateries and shops, and cultural opportunities. Red Bank’s experience is probably not unlike what has transpired in Montclair over the past 10 years.
    Downtown Bloomfield is truly a diamond in the rough. It has tremendous unrealized potential that should be thoughtfully cultivated and carefully nourished to create a vibrant and charming downtown, inspired by the type of creative vision so sorely lacking in the eminent domain plan that was anchored by condos and a supermarket.
    We need to create the conditions that will make downtown ripe for organic growth and development, instead of using a heavy-handed land grab that forces us to accept some big-time developer’s imposed vision of what downtown should look like. This is how the eminent domain-fueled waterfront redeveloment was done in Long Branch, and I think the result there has been synthetic, saccharin, and soulness – not to mention the tremendous injustices suffered by the long-time residents forced from their properties.

  25. All I can think of that now the hen has come home to roost. Finally, McCarthy and all his little cronies are starting to topple. The disgrace that these “public servants” have served upon Bloomfield is of epic proportions. The sooner they go the better. It’s too bad that the entire municipal building can’t be emptied out and refilled with people who really care about Bloomfield and not themselves.

  26. Hiding, you don’t even know who is in the Municipal Building. There are a number of people involved in the town (either on boards, hired positions or on the council) who do indeed care about the town. And if there are so many other people out there who care – and are also competent – why aren’t they running for office? I haven’t seen a huge influx of smart, caring people begging to be elected or serve on boards. It’s a lot of work — and it’s always easier to sound off on a blog than it is to actually get in there and do the work yourself.

  27. If you think you know who I am, Hiding, then you know I am very active in the community and serve in a number of organizations.

  28. I would volunteer to serve on town boards and committees in a heartbeat. Bloomfield could be amazing. But we’ve got to get cracking on fixing the middle school and the high school (just check the school report cards on nj.gov… why are all the elementary schools great but the middle school has failed three years running??) and making the downtown more attractive. You’ll hear from me. I am not a lurker… just getting settled.

  29. Good, Lazar was rude and abrasive and totally dismissive of any person who wasn’t wearing a suit.
    Let’s hope the house-cleaning continues.

  30. “The downtown area, especially by comparison to Montclair, is a disgrace.” – posted by Fresh Arrival

    Wait until you’ve lived in this area a while. I believe you’ll soon appreciate that Bloomfield beats Montclair in many respects: great diners open 24 hours (State Street Grill & Nevada Diner), plus other fine restaurants on par with Montclair’s, a variety of stores including Hallmark Gold Crown, Annie Sez, and Home Depot. We’re all fortunate to have the best of both places so close. Keep an eye on Montclair’s downtown: its eyesores are also disgraceful! There’s much room for improvement.

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