After a contentious summer of fits and starts, Bloomfield’s town council resumes its weekly meeting schedule tonight with two major issues to discuss: Its long overdue budget, which shows no sign of a final passage, and the planned mega conversion of Bloomfield’s former National Starch Factory complex at 225 Belleville Avenue — across from Oakside Mansion. Recently christened “Oakes Pond,” a developer is proposing a high-end housing development with 390 rental units to replace a mix of about two dozen light manufacturing and back office facilities.
Nearby home- and business-owners can be expected to objet. And there’s also the fact that the council is considering a 30-year tax abatement for the developer. But Tuesday’s meeting could also bring out commuters from other Baristaville towns, such as Nutley and Belleville. Oakes Pond happens to be close to one of the few free entrances to the Garden State Parkway (northbound) in Essex County. Morning and evening rush hours are frequently a scene of gridlock as a growing number of frustrated Belleville Ave. commuters try alternate routes through side streets to avoid traffic backups. When Bloomfield’s Oakside Cultural Center or Bloomfield High School have big events, delays can quickly multiply. Along with flooding and tax abatement concerns, the addition of a fifth set of traffic lights in the 200 yards between State Street and the GSP entrance may be a concern.
The current plan by Garden Commercial Properties is to create two buildings along the lower bend of the Third River, four stories each with a parking deck beneath, to serve as luxury one- or two-bedroom apartments. The developer has said that the properties could begin as rental units and potentially become condominiums when the real estate market improves.
Reminded that she approved the bill when it first came up (along with the rest of the council), Council Janice Maly replied that the full scope of the project was not made clear. “I feel snookered,” she said when summarizing her traffic concerns at last month’s conference meeting.”I was made to think that this was all taken care of…I felt I was lied to.”
As residents in neighborhoods affected by the development become aware of the potential for increased traffic congestion on Belleville Ave, concern about the project is growing. Tonight may be the last time they may have a chance to air their concerns in front of the council before plans are brought to the the Essex County Planning Board and then Bloomfield’s Planning Board.
The council meets at 7:30 PM at Bloomfield Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of Town Hall.