Montclair’s valuable undeveloped “park front” property has been an issue First Ward councilor Rich Murnick has been actively involved in — the Wildwood Ave. property adjacent to Brookdale Park and owned by the town is part of his ward. So he was surprised to learn of a new item added to the agenda for this week’s meeting — a resolution supporting recommendations by the Housing Commission for the Wildwood property involving affordable housing — when fellow council knew in advance he would be out of town on a scheduled vacation.
Murnick, who hopes the agenda item is postponed until he returns, say it’s a slap in the face to have a vote on an issue regarding the Wildwood property when he is not in town to attend and represent the interests of his ward. “It’s like voting on an item about bicycling when the Mayor is out of town,” says Murnick. “The only reason to sell the Wildwood property is to help lower taxes. I agree with affordable housing, but I don’t believe in giving away lots when we need tax relief.”
The Montclair Housing Commission is recommending that two of the lots be auctioned to the highest bidder for construction of single family homes and two of the lots be sold at negotiated prices to a builder of two affordable houses. One of the affordable houses would be sold to a “low income household” described as earning 50 percent of the area’s median income. The other affordable house would be sold to a “moderate income household,” one earning 80 percent of the area media income.
Murnick can’t imagine any developer paying top dollar for the lots only to “give one away,” and adds that the area is not near the trains and transportation, factors you consider when creating affordable housing. The properties, if designated affordable, will also bring in less taxes per year — another loss for the town, says Murnick.
This map details the undeveloped Wildwood lots. Lots 1, 2, 3, 4 on page 2 are the properties to be sold.