Africk Trying to Put Brakes on Assisted Living Project

Updated with quotes from Karen Turner and Harvey Susswein.

Second ward councilor Cary Africk has asked the township attorney to draft a resolution to hire an outside consultant to study a project to build assisted living in downtown Montclair. He said that first ward councilor Rich Murnick has agreed to second the motion. The Planning Board  gave its go-ahead to the project on Monday.

Africk, reached by phone this morning, pointed out that the firm proposing to build the new facility, Fountain Square Development, has “asked and answered their own questions” about the impact of the project on downtown Montclair, but he’d like to get someone not vested in the project to answer those same questions.

“I’d like to talk about the impact on the neighborhood,” Africk said. “I want to talk about the economics. I want to to talk about the demographics.”

Africk is concerned that the project will be so expensive that only wealthy families will be able to use the facility. And he’s also upset about the loss of 86 parking spaces that would occur. The spot is currently home to one of Steve Plofker’s private Montclair Parking lots.

See the letter from Fountain Square to township manager Marc Dashield about the project here. See the Kensington’s price list here.

Despite the planning board’s okay, the project is very controversial. One opponent is Church Street property owner and developer Dick Grabowsky. “The LAST THING we need at that location is assisted living. Whose vision is that for the Business Improvement District?” Grabowsky said in an email conversation with Martin Schwartz, Africk, planning director Janice Talley, Jerry Fried, Karen Turner, Harvey Susswein and others. “No one I know thinks this is a good idea. It is disingenuous for the seller of the property to try to convince us that the shoppers we need are the visitors to, or orderlies from, such a use. The new council should be the ONLY ONES passing decisions on this project.”

We have asked all three mayoral candidates to chime in on whether the new council should be making the decision on this project, and what they think of it.

Karen Turner says there shouldn’t be an “artificial deadline” of July 1 for the project. “If the due diligence hasn’t been completed by July 1st, then it should carry over to the new council,” she adds. “Real Progress Montclair would like to see the current town council pursue the analysis that Cary is seeking.  The town needs to be sure that this project best fits the town’s long term planning objectives.”

And from Harvey Susswein:

Speaking for myself, assisted living is far from the “highest and best use” of one of the few remaining vacant properties (the old Hahne’s parking lot) adjoining our central business district.  The Council should not approve assisted living as an addition to the downtown redevelopment plan simply because a developer has proposed such a project.

I know from first-hand experience that assisted living facilities are not happy places.  Many of the residents have physical or mental disabilities;  walkers and wheelchairs traffic the corridors.  Contrary to the Virginia developer’s testimony, families visiting residents will not frequent Montclair’s bustling restaurant scene—a quiet dinner with loved ones in the facility dining room is often the path of least resistance.

Support workers at assisted living facilities have big hearts but small pocketbooks.  Except for a few managers, they are not highly paid.   This is not a group that will spend their off hours shopping on Church Street or nearby stores, again contrary to the developer’s testimony.  The facility will contribute little to re-vitalize our downtown.

The argument has been made that the Hahne’s lot has been vacant a long time and that any new ratable is better than no ratable.  It is tempting for the town to grab the short-term revenue.  But we can and must do better before losing this valuable piece of downtown—particularly as the economy shows signs of recovery and other proposals are likely to come forward.

The township council should not allow the assisted living proposal to go forward.”

 

 

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Although I don’t know who Cary is to decide what the price of the services will be or should be, I’m grateful for any reason to slow this project down and not have it rammed through.

    Thanks Cary.

  2. Where’s the master plan? There are so many interrelated issues that are not being addressed.
    Parking-We have a deck that is under-used. Why? Is it because getting out of it at a busy time is so frustrating. No credit card option; no EZ pass option.

    So losing those parking might be a disaster. Where are the employees of assisted living supposed to park? What about the visitors? “Oh, let’s not visit mom today, it’s too hard to park!” Visitors and employees shopping here? Who knows. Christ Church might have almost 1000 people attend each Sunday but I see no evidence of the church goers descending upon the local stores (though Valley Road is virtually impassable on Sundays due to illegal parking–have a parking authority person working on a Sunday could earn the town $$$$$.)

    If I am wrong about the deck utilization why not make the lot a two or 3 level parking area (keeping under the height of the surrounding buildings) while adding 50-100 spots?

  3. What about a 55 and up building. Empty nesters looking to down size from thier homes, with no added children to the school system. Active working adults with disposable income that would rather go out to dinner and a show. These are the people you want to keep in town.

  4. The conclusion that $10K a month assisted facility would be a buzz kill for the dynamics of vibrancy for Montclair Center is a no brainer.

    I LOVE what these developers and their architect Sionas are doing and would be interested to know how they would re develop the parking lot and the surrounding vintage buildings. https://www.northjersey.com/topstories/montclair/147226995_Hillside_Square_joins_the_neighborhood.html?c=y&page=5

    My solution would be a couple of levels of parking, with some kind of elevated per course, like the Highline in Chelsea https://www.thehighline.org/ that would connect pedestrian traffic with the other side of Bloomfield Avenue, as well as the Crescent Parking Deck. On top, a panoramic rentable events venue with a parklike rentable roof plaza https://www.jalc.org/about/2004_galleries/Facility_Images/images/allen-room-mezzanine-right.jpg

  5. 55 and up building? Montclair can’t even get the likes of toll bros. or hovnanian to develop something like that here. Too expensive and too much AH. Montclair is black-listed.

  6. I believe the key part of this ordinance is approving a new developer – not allowing a new use or the new parking requirement factor sections. I would think passing this ordinance would void the previous agreements, including the parking provision that had payments going to the MPA in return for the Township giving up a fair number of public parking spaces. A new parking agreement would have to be agreed upon. Furthermore, since the MPA did not fully agree with the facts submitted by the previous parking study, and the MPA did not testify at the last two Planning Board meetings on this ANR, there are open questions that the public could not address. The Planning Board is the proper forum for this expert testimony and public comment, not a TC meeting where there are no land use experts.

  7. ROC,

    The prices for the assisted living facility were those submitted by the developers in their material. The base suite started at approximately $5K per month, going to $9K. Fees for actual assistance could add another $2K. Arrangements for those with memory loss were more.

    By the way, to make absolutely sure people understand me I am NOT opposed to Assisted Living facilities, but believe there are other, better, locations in Montclair. How about the corner of the DCH development sight, for example? The place where the used car lot was, at the intersection of Orange and Bloomfield?

  8. If an Assisted Living facility is such a great idea for the Church Street lot, I’d like to see Steven Plofker make the argument with a straight face. He was noticeably absent during the pitch at this week’s Planning Board meeting. He did originally win the right to develop the site with his hotel idea. Would he have won with a vision for assisted living?

  9. Wouldn’t the Bierman site been a good one for assisted living? It certainly wouldn’t have impacted parking in town! At least assisted-living will not add kids to the school system (at $15K per kid) – unllike the plan for the DCH property.

  10. I think this is a wise and preferred path to determine exactly what this project is or isn’t. It seems that it is on the fast track without anyone truly understanding exactly the numbers, how does it help Montclair financially and etc. Why doesn’t this town do the intelligent thing and look “under the skirts” of these proposals. Is it such a novel idea to really understand what a project truly is? Our past history says they just love to look at “the wrapped and pretty package” and then say, Yeah that looks good. Not a good way to run a town.

  11. “The prices for the assisted living facility were those submitted by the developers in their material. The base suite started at approximately $5K per month, going to $9K. Fees for actual assistance could add another $2K. Arrangements for those with memory loss were more.”

    I’m not suggesting you made up the numbers. I’m sure they’re accurate. My point is, it’s not up to “us” to decide what the prices “should” be. The township council is NOT a controlled pricing panel.

  12. “The base suite started at approximately $5K per month, going to $9K. Fees for actual assistance could add another $2K. Arrangements for those with memory loss were more.”

    Getting older and needing this kind of care sucks and is super-expensive. I’d be more interested in the figures of what revenue this brings to the town. I assume this is a for-profit facility that would be paying taxes (?)

  13. ROC,

    Of course. I was just surprised that given this Council’s sensitivity to “affordability” that no one would even be interested in the target market.

    This is the Town where Councilors objected to a FIFTY CENT increase in pool feels. Now people are saying this facility is “ideal” for people who can no longer live in their homes but are looking to live in Montclair. Pleas are being made to give someone an option to “age in place.”

    Many people I know struggle to care for the elderly relatives. They try and keep them at home, and utilize nursing/health aid care. Many people I know don’t have $100K plus per year.

    Mind you, that’s not our business as a Council.

    But again I do think there are better locations.

  14. Stand back! STAND BACK definitive position coming through:

    “Karen Turner says there shouldn’t be an “artificial deadline” of July 1 for the project. “If the due diligence hasn’t been completed by July 1st, then it should carry over to the new council,” she adds. “Real Progress Montclair would like to see the current town council pursue the analysis that Cary is seeking. The town needs to be sure that this project best fits the town’s long term planning objectives.”

    Really? Ms. Turner?

    “If the due diligence hasn’t been completed by July 1st, then it should carry over to the new council”

    You can’t even say definitively and with conviction that this project (whether good or bad) should NOT be pushed through in such a rush?

    We’re in a heap of trouble, folks.

  15. (a REAL issue erupts onto the scene during a campaign. Something more and more care passionately about, we look to the candidates, someone hands her a microphone, and she says “maybe so, maybe not”)

  16. “Mind you, that’s not our business as a Council.”

    yet it reads as one of your chief complaints against the project.

    Does anyone know what tax incentives are being promised, if any?

  17. Mind you, at least she said something. I’m not sure a something that’s nothing is worth a lot more than a nothing that’s nothing. Is Mr. Jackson still in the race? Out of town? Helping Ted with his cape? Paging Mr. Susswein to the microphone….

    Really, though anyone seen the Montclair2012 slate? Are they still in it?

  18. Better locations?

    1) The Marlborough Inn
    2) The Biermann House
    3) The two demolition sites on Orange Road
    4) The ex St. Vincent’s Hospital
    5) The ex Washington St YMCA
    6) The ex DMV at Label St
    7) Re addaption of the Hotel structure at the corner of North Mountain and Claremont.
    8) Re addaption of the Le Brun House at 8 S Mountain and Bloomfield Ave.
    9) The property of the beautiful old house for sale at Afterglow Way (leave the historic house….but re use some of the acreage thats already adjacent to the existing health care structure thats on Sunset Ave in Verona)
    10) Hawthorne Towers (many of the existing residents are ready for assisted living)
    11) The site of the Rockcliffe Garage (build more parking levels with assisted living floors above)

  19. Ooops Frank that is me outside enjoying the sun. I’m looking a bit greenish blue no?. I wanted to be your #1 but I will settle for #8.

  20. Darling!!! (#1 – #10) ……enjoy the BELLISSIMA sunny day!!! oxoxoxoxo (greenish/blue? …LOVELY!!)

  21. I don’t know ROC. Karen Turner’s response sounds logical to me. ‘there shouldn’t be an artificial deadline of July 1st. if the due diligence hasn’t been done it should carry over to the next council’.

    isn’t that saying the project shouldn’t be rushed through just to get it started before the current TC leaves office? I think Cary is right to ask for a thoroughly vetted, independent business plan. I feel like most on the council now are operating in their own little green world and are less concerned with other important aspects of large development projects. The town should have some entity (not the developer) doing its due diligence.

  22. Call me crazy, roscoe. But for a project like this and the even larger project at DCH, I don’t think a 90 day review, comment and study period is unreasonable. The rushed timing of this project (at the end of a lame duck council’s term) is no accident I believe.

    She’s also a candidate for Mayor, and if the message she wants to send is basically “I don’t want to get too involved” that’s her prerogative, It’s not what I’m looking for in a Mayor, but to each his own.

  23. ROC – I agree the time frame needs to be sufficient to do a real business case analysis. I don’t personally know what the correct time frame should be – 90 days? more?

    I saw her comments to mean ‘a complete analysis should be done – the project shouldn’t be rushed through just so it is finished before the current TC is out of office’. which made sense to me.

    Do you know if anyone in the town (PB? TC?) has done any kind of business case, or has it been wholly provided by the developer? (which i then discount as a real analysis).

  24. “‘a complete analysis should be done – the project shouldn’t be rushed through just so it is finished before the current TC is out of office’”

    That’s not what she said at all. She has no problem if it’s done by July1 as long as “due diligence” is done. “Due diligence” is a term of art and can mean whatever is legally required (the minimum). Or it can mean considerably more if the TC want’s more “Due Diligence”.

    She gives us no indication what she means. She’s not getting too involved. It’s like her “promise” to put a moratorium on “non-essential” debt without giving us any idea what she considers non-essential.

    These are empty statements meant to sound like positions when they are not.

    Here’s what an involved candidate might have said. (they handed her a figurative microphone for goodness sake!). A position might have sounded like:

    “I don’t know without looking at an independently derived analysis of this project if it’s good for Montclair or not. But, based on the information available, I’m concerned. I think July 1 is too rushed and will not allow for enough time for such an important development to be studied appropriately. I call on the current council to commission a financial study independent from the developer’s, to make public immediately the terms of any PILOT agreement or other tax incentives which have been offered, and to commit to at least a 90 day period for the community to research and comment on the project AFTER all the terms (including incentives) have been negotiated. This project will have a long impact on our business center and we should not rush headlong into anything simply because the council’s current term is soon to expire.”

  25. If ROC applied his “lets-give-the-gubmint-a-colonoscopy” standards to the free market ( not to mention the black market) , the entire world would shut down.
    But, fortunately, ROC is as biased as the next guy, so we need not worry.

  26. I have no idea what that means spiro, but i’m not surprised that the landscape of your cogitation has a colonoscopy as part of its geography.

  27. I agree with ROC on Turner. All the candidates need to start telling us what they really believe. Voters appreciate straight talk.

  28. So ROC, I know nothing of your past, or who you actually are. But you are an active commenter on B-net with a clear interest in local government and politics. Why don’t you run for office and put your posts to practical use?

  29. Kit, ROC has been asked to shed his hidden identity by Cary Africk on B’net more than once, and to serve the town in plain daylight, accordingly.
    ROC has always declined. He probably knows that community service is far more demanding than community kvetching. He did the math.

  30. Well, I “second” your question, Kit. ROC is too roc for me, not to mention an inveterate gadfly, more interested in complaining than sticking his neck out and solving. In that way, ROC is a doppelgänger of Cary! One public and the other anonymous, but both consistent and almost gleeful in finding flaws in others and their plans.

  31. Silly ROC, your favorite plan is the South Park Street reconstruction. And now you seem to suggest this plan (among others ) does not exist, apparently for the sake of a rhetorical flourish featuring a word in ALL CAPS. You remind me of the young child who covers his eyes and thereby thinks he is invisible. Happy Friday.

  32. you consider that a plan huh? I think a plan would have planned for at least a 10% contingency, I think a plan would have considered $131K in design expenses (still not included, as far as I can tell). I think a plan would have had benches and trash cans in it (recently added to “the plan”, according to Africk). I think a plan would have included some study in the “it will pay for itself” department more than the BID tossing out a 10% figure.

    If that’s what counts as a “plan” we’re doomed.

  33. more interested in complaining than sticking his neck out and solving.

    … he says, complaining about ROC.

    One of the many things I love about this site is watching people make assumptions of other posters, based pretty much on nothing.

  34. Wonderful walleroo,
    Until ROC reveals his true identity, it is a fact that nothing he writes here will ever constitute sticking his neck out and solving. Same for you, most others posting on Baristanet and me, too. You cannot compare anonymous posting to putting your actual name in front of your posts/insights/critiques/recommendations and experiencing the personal and professional impact of your statements. On that score, Cary has it all over most of us posting here.

    Taking it a step further, how many people posting use their real names and are actually involved in shaping a public budget, approving a site plan, or negotiating a fire service contract? Very few. Again, hats off to Cary, who revels in gadflying AND takes a public position AND adds his name (or not) to legislation with actual consequences for the rest of us. Maybe you know something special about ROC that I don’t, but to me, he’s “merely” a persistent, buzzing voice, neck protected and solutions speculative. I suspect even the dour, logical ROC would agree with me. That leaves you, walleroo, alone on your high horse.

  35. I like Cary, and I have great respect for him. You’re right, he is a gem. (Oh jeez, here I go getting all choked up.)

    What anonymity gets you is people adding voices to the mix who otherwise wouldn’t, perhaps because they post during their day jobs, perhaps because they feel freer to say things, give opinions and info, with no attribution. This is generally a good thing. The intimacy of small towns creates pressure to conform and sometimes people are reluctant to state a political opinion because it would create awkwardness with neighbors, social groups, employers. A blog where citizens post with consistent but anonymous identities promotes a freer exchange. Less groupthink. It’s messy and noisy and people aren’t always as respectful as they should be, but that’s what happens in a democracy.

    You were saying that the anonymous posters don’t do things, but you dont known what they actually do, because you don’t know who they are. For instance, it’s been an open secret for years that ROC has many connections to powerful people on the BoE and is himself quite wealthy. I happen to be a world renowned brain surgeon who has invented a technique for removing tumors without damaging the surrounding tissue. JerseyGurl is the Gertrude Stein of Bville with her intellectual soirees. Etc. My point is, you don’t know to whom you are talking. That’s the charm of the whole kebang.

  36. walleroo,
    Thank you for taking my comments seriously and not reaching for the flame button. I agree with your first and second paragraphs but we have a misunderstanding after that.

    I absolutely do believe that anonymous posters do important and consequential things in the real world, but if those actions don’t align with or push the agendas posted here, then it’s as if those actions belong to an entirely different person. I’m talking about the difference between an avatar (the anonymous poster) living out a fantasy and a flesh-and-blood person (someone whose name we know) dealing with the complexities of life away from the keyboard. If, for example, ROC’s avatar musings aligned with his public actions, there would be no reason for him to hide behind his avatar. Excuse me; I mean there would be no need for him to remain anonymous online. If there is little or no alignment, which I assume to be the case, then his postings and his online identity are but sound and fury. You know: hot air, best guesses, bratty low risk behavior.

    I wish ROC would go public. If he attached his name and dedicated his time to espousing his point of view, the level of political discourse in Montclair would be richer and, perhaps, would lead to better planning and decision-making. He might also (assuming ROC is a he) discover how inept he is at providing leadership and crafting meaningful, productive, real-world solutions. But I get that. Most people have a fear of, or know they are not cut out for, the hot seat.

    So, while there may be a few open secrets about the true identity of various posters – and I am on the outside of that as I have to spend most of my time underground where I have spent a lifetime developing counter-agents to the different forms of biowarfare let loose by other nations – that doesn’t mean much. We anonymous posters are armchair analysts, at best. Maybe a few friends know better, but until The Daily Planet spills the beans, you won’t find me confusing Clark Kent with Superman.
    Charmingly,
    JandJ

    PS: If you think you can wrangle an invitation for me to join you at Gertrude’s place, I would be most appreciative.

  37. “What anonymity gets you is people adding voices to the mix who otherwise wouldn’t, perhaps because they post during their day jobs, perhaps because they feel freer to say things, give opinions and info, with no attribution. This is generally a good thing.”

    —highly debatable.

    free speech is always a good thing. saying every thought that creeps into your mind (which anonymity allows) is not generally a good thing.

    head over to nj.com, look at the hate-mongering that goes on there, and tell me that anonymity is “generally a good thing.”

    this isn’t a communist country—oops, forgot about Rep. Alan West’s “list”—anyone with a fear of retribution is engaging in a bit of self-aggrandization. par for the course in our culture today, sadly…

  38. There is a long tradition, in this country and elsewhere in the world, of people offering political and social commentary anonymously. Sometimes they do so because they fear for their safety, and sometimes it happens just because people want to remain unknown for their own personal reasons. And thankfully, in this country there is no obligation to put words into action — in other words, griping about things is a time-honoured tradition.

    It is just as likely that ROC’s opinions would be dismissed were he to make himself known. Someone who knows him might decide that he could not possibly have anything of value to say, while that same person might see a lot to like in his posts if he/she doesn’t know who is writing it. It works both ways.

    And I’m only stopping by Gertrude’s if Picasso will be there– he’s always surrounded by beautiful women.

  39. To your point, cro, I’ll be attending that secret meeting later tonight with Victor Laszlo. It’s pretty certain that Carl the waiter and Berger the underground guy from Norway will also be attending. Will you be there, too?

  40. Cro, I haven’t managed to conjure the dead yet, but when I do you’ll ne the first to know. Although I think I migh prefer to bring back his dachshund, Lump. Ih ave a fondness for the breed.

    Anonymity goes both ways, although a fictitious alter ego can often make it easier to poke fun at our collectively absurdity. But people do most often reveal their true selves. I did once try an avatar and persona at odds with my values and only lasted a few days.

  41. anyone with a fear of retribution is engaging in a bit of self-aggrandization

    Do you really think that in our culture anyone can be open about their political opinions and beliefs without fear of retribution, no matter what those beliefs are? Not so, my friend. What if, say, a teacher in the Montclair public schools believed segregation was a good idea? Or God forbid was a Republican?

    saying every thought that creeps into your mind (which anonymity allows) is not generally a good thing.

    Now you seem to be saying that certain thoughts and opinions are best left unexpressed. This doesn’t give me much confidence in your assertion that no one fears retribution.

    I think you are a conformist, one of those people who thinks that freedom of speech is fine for the right kinds of speech.

    No thanks.

  42. It’s funny how often the subject of ROC’s identity has come up on these pages over the years. I can only recall a few other times where folks here were called upon to reveal themselves. I can’t help think it has more to do with ROC’s innate ability to rile the local masses than anything else. For all people here know he may have his money planted right where his mouth is. What does it matter if what he is saying is valid?

    I agree with roo. While anonymity may dissolve some of the niceties, it allows for a level of candor that would not exist otherwise.

Comments are closed.