Bloomfield Council Votes to Rezone Hartz Property

BY  |  Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012 12:40pm  |  COMMENTS (22)

The Bloomfield council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to rezone the Hartz Mountain property on the corner of Bloomfield and Watsessing Avenues at last night’s conference meeting.

The 16.5-acre site, formerly a manufacturing and R&D facility for Hartz Mountain pet products, was originally slated to be replaced with a “big box” supermarket once the last employees leave early next year. However, the developers of the property stated last evening that they were abandoning that plan, citing “sensitivity to the downtown redevelopment” pending in Bloomfield, which will also include a supermarket.

Instead, they propose building a mixed-use development comprising both residential and retail elements. They envision the area becoming a “small neighborhood” that will tie in with the nearby Watsessing train station. The residential portion of the site will be mainly 2 and 3-bedroom rental apartments in low-rise buildings of 3-4 stories in height. The developers requested that the council rezone the property to accommodate this plan. The council voted unanimously to do so.

During the public comment period, resident Carol Humphreys questioned whether the council was taking into account the effects all the new development will have on the township. “How do these proposals affect people who live here?” she asked, saying that someone should “step up” and say, “Wait, how will that impact the density?” She cited traffic on Belleville Avenue as an example of the crowded environment, stating that “it takes five minutes to go a block” on that road.

Mayor McCarthy responded that the Planning Board would play the “devil’s advocate” and hire experts to help them make decisions on proposed developments.

Township Administrator Yoshi Manale initiated a discussion of the 2012 budget, which will be introduced at the April 23 council meeting. As currently outlined, the budget, if passed, would result in a +5.13 percent increase in taxes, which he explained was the second lowest increase in the past ten years. Although there is a state-mandated budget cap of +2%, items such as pensions and health care expenses are not included in that restriction.
The council voted to move forward with promoting four additional fire captains, replacing men who had retired previously. These promotions will enable Engine #1 to remain open approximately 65 percent of the time, according to Fire Chief Joseph McCarthy. The council rejected two other options that would have saved more money but would have closed Engine #1.

The controversy over Parking Authority appointments continued last evening. Mayor McCarthy once again nominated Joe Catalano, who had previously served on the Authority’s board for seven years, to the open one-year spot on the board. The nomination failed to move, as Councilmen Venezia, Joanow, Chalet and Bernard all voted against it, with council representatives Dunigan, Hamilton and the Mayor voting in favor.
Councilman Joanow nominated Matthew Yar for the open term, but was unable to get a second on his motion, so no vote took place. Councilman Venezia then nominated Mark Remollino, but was also unable to get enough votes. The seat on the board remains open.

The next council meeting will be a regular meeting held on Monday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.


  1. POSTED BY kit schackner  |  April 10, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

    The number of rental units isn’t mentioned here, but it seems to me that when this project is combined with the 332 rental units in Oakes Pond and however many downtown, Bloomfield is rapidly acquiring a large transient population without a vested interest in the community, putting pressure on schools and municipal services without fully supporting them due to tax abatements. Or am I making incorrect assumptions about renters versus homeowners? The proximity to Watsessing Station does make sense for residential use, assuming 1) Bloomfield does something to make that station less scary, and 2) the tenants would commute to NY. Neither the Oakes Pond location nor the Watsessing/Bloomfield location lend themselves to ‘luxury housing.’

  2. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  April 11, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    I heard 392 apartments at Hartz Mountain. Add that to the 332 at Oakes Pond and the 104 at Scientific Glass and you have a whopping 828 new apartments and at least that number of cars. Most families in the are have 2 cars per family.

  3. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  April 11, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    I should also have mentioned the 30 YEAR TAX ABATEMENT FOR OAKES POND. And the ???? hundred apartments for the downtown redevelopment.

  4. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  April 11, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I’m a renter who wants to be invested in Bloomfield, but clearly Bloomfield doesn’t want to be invested in me. I’m not sure where rent control stands, my landlord is going to have to up my rent to play his taxes covering these deals the developer will be getting. Every new plan seems more ghetto then the next. 2-3 bedrooms ? And when will they become section 8 housing? Or when will they be crammed full of rowdy students from the college? Not very useful to young urban professionals, which I thought was the target.

    Let me guess – this development too already has 2/3rds promised to dream neighbors for whom we have not a scrap of demographic information. What a joke.

  5. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  April 11, 2012 @ 11:35 am

    Every abandoned factory & brownfield cite in Bloomfield will be zoned for housing. There’s nothing else the town can figure out to do. Sort of predictable when most of the council people are in the real estate businesss.

    The town can zone something any way they please. But it doesn’t mean anyone will live in the apartments. Is there demand for them?

  6. POSTED BY whowantwhat  |  April 11, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    I think the residential rental development is a great idea, but I agree with hrhppg. It really depends on the product. Higher end rentals are a better trade, because owners have to do more in terms of upkeep, and more often stay committed to the project. With respect to “young urban professionals” such a project is far more attractive when compared to levering into a struggling SFR market with taxes that seem to ratchet higher despite values and values that continue to fall giving unfavorable macro (jobs, falling incomes, FCL backlogs, changing agency regs) conditions.

  7. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  April 11, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    The developer said that modern households tend to want an extra ‘bedroom’ for use as an office or computer room; they also said the 2-3 bedroom plan is not set in stone; this is a preliminary plan and will no doubt have many changes before ever being approved by the Planning Board. Residents will have an opportunity at that time to voice their opinions about the project, which are part of the evidence the PB will use to make decisions about the project.

  8. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  April 11, 2012 @ 11:44 am

    Regarding demand for housing, my personal opinion is that there will always be a need for housing in the inner suburbs like Bloomfield. Unlike many other suburbs, we have the mass transit to commute to the city in less than half an hour; this is a huge advantage. Right now Bloomfield may not be attracting a lot of people between the recession and the downtown situation, but as the recession ends and the downtown is finally rebuilt, it will become attractive again. In addition, I recently read an article about how the “ex-urbs” that had been so popular for so many years are now on the downturn and people are coming back to the suburbs and cities where they can walk more places and use mass transit. High gas prices are a factor, as well as empty nesters and young people who are not as enamored of the car as previous generations. Interesting article, I think in the NY Times.

  9. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  April 11, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

    240 apartments in the downtown redevelopment!

  10. POSTED BY kit schackner  |  April 11, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    I did a drive-by of the site, which is now industrial. There is residential (I believe in Newark) to the east — modest housing, maintained. There is also more industrial & vacant land to the south and west. This is very unlikely to become high-end housing. At best, mid-priced garden apartments. Does anyone know the capacity at Carteret School?

    Bloomfield’s Master Plan calls for “rentention of industrial,” yet the council seems to leap at every opportunity to re-zone & grab ratables without consideration for what pressure additional housing puts on the rest of the community. Industrial would put less stress on services, create jobs, allow a labor force to commute via the Watsessing station, and not put significantly more cars on the road. But it’s less revenue.

    Meanwhile, 1000+ units adds at least 2,000 people & 4,000 cars. Bloomfield is going to look more & more like Queens. That objective wasn’t mentioned in the Master Plan.

  11. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  April 11, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    Bloomfield schools are full to the gills. It would be great to tie a developer of one these sites to the expansion of an elementary or middle school.

    We desperately need the state to revamp its funding formulae for schools. It’s tragic Bloomfield has to pay into Abbott districts when we can’t fund our own schools properly.

    The town won’t attract families to buy in Bloomfield if the school system doesn’t improve.

    Bloomfield as the next Queens would be great as long as we get the good restaraunts, too.

  12. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  April 11, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    “modern households tend to want an extra ‘bedroom’ for use as an office or computer room;”

    I’m sure in some areas that is true, but in our area it will become a family of 5 to 10 people living in each 3 bedroom unit. My friends rented the first floor of a small house in WO. When it was put up for sale the realtor giving the tour called any room without a sink in it a “potential bedroom”, including the sun porch.

    The area doesn’t inspire people with disposable income for a home office or media room, I know from my own such neighbors fleeing the town and a family moving in their apartment. Also the appeal of city workers to move here is BEYOND exaggerated. I know of 1 in the 15+ years I’ve lived in town to move close to here – my dad to an apartment in GR after selling the house in Montclair. That is it. Every sibling and friend I have who works in NYC wouldn’t move to Bloomfield for a free unit, never mind the abundance of fast and cheaply thrown together that is coming. Those people want weekend service in and out of NYC and we don’t really offer that.

  13. POSTED BY kit schackner  |  April 11, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    I was stunned to learn that a planning board can’t consider school capacity in its decision. Not in their purview. They also can’t consider the financial impact of a project in their decision.

    So who can? The mayor and council? The zoning board? Here’s the potential impact: 1,000 families move in & put several hundred children into the schools. Bloomfield then has to bond for new or expanded schools (in addition to paying for the high School expansion which presumably has years to go before being paid for) and staff those schools, and everybody’s property taxes go up –except the developers, who will have received exemptions.

    Insane — and it’s not just Bloomfield. What a price to pay for a “remediated” brownfield!
    I use quotation marks because since 2009, the NJDEP is no longer in the business of remediating brownfields, or even overseeing their remediation beyond a cursury review of paperwork. That responsibility has been turned over to the developers.

  14. POSTED BY kit schackner  |  April 11, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    “Mayor McCarthy responded that the Planning Board would play the “devil’s advocate” and hire experts to help them make decisions on proposed developments.” The planning board CAN’T play devil’s advocate on school population or financial impact on the township, and Mayor McCarthy knows this.

  15. POSTED BY n44gp  |  April 11, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

    I have worked in Bloomfield center area for the last 30 years. Have seen it all and this is the worst it has been in all that time.
    Brick Sidewalks… oh yea that was all they needed to do to turn the center around.
    Overpriced pocket park (done twice) by Liberty St…yea that will do it.

    Our employees want to p/u food for lunch…we go to either Glen Ridge or Montclair.
    Got a customer coming into town you want to take to some place decent for lunch. Get out of Bloomfield Center.
    I am not sure what it is going to take to turn the center area around but the effort and money spent thus far has all been a waste.

    Now all they are doing is tearing down buildings. Nothing ever materializes. The center looks like a WWII bombed out city.
    We have potential employees come for interviews and they run for the hills after taking one look at this center. Who can blame them?

    On a nearby street we have a so called beauty school( we refer to it as a crack den) housed next to a daycare center. What a brilliant idea!

    Most of the stores that are left are basically crap. I have watched countless stores get renovated, open and then in 12-18 months they are gone. There is nobody from the area coming here to shop. During the day its a small contingent of local workers and transients coming through on the bus. After dusk it’s a race to get out of here. It is not a safe place to be.

    Town after town is able to turn their shopping centers around and create a vibrant places to dine and shop. I just hope the constant fighting and political antics in Bloomfield will not kill the center for good and prevent anything positive from ever happening.

  16. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  April 11, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

    Agree that the Planning Board does not have as much leverage to work with as the Zoning Board – and if they do rezone the land then the ZB would not have an opportunity to hear the application. But traffic would be within their purvue, I believe, so that should be taken into consideration.

    Re: the downtown, I agree in its current state it is a real turn-off. Am just hoping (for the sake of my own house’s value!) that it will eventually be finished. As for who moves in to apartments, the conversion of the Annin Flag Factory down the street from me has indeed attracted the professionals that were expected to come, and I never see any children there. Most are 1-2 bedrooms, so that is probably preferable to the 2-3 bedrooms they are talking about with this development. I agree some new industry would also be a good choice, but America in general is having trouble keeping industry and manufacturing as it is, let alone northeastern suburbs. We missed the chance to keep industry when Schering-Plough wanted to expand their campus and were refused. Instead we ended up with Home Depot. This development still beats having a Walmart. Keep in mind what the alternatives may be.

  17. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  April 11, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

    Just to be clear, I do agree there are plenty of issues with overdevelopment in Bloomfield, but at the moment our biggest problem is lack of development in the Center!

  18. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  April 12, 2012 @ 1:13 am

    1068 new apartments some of them 2-3 bedrooms and yet the developers are telling us that most of the people who will come won’t have kids ($11,000 per year to educate each). RIGHT!

    There are already trailers at Franklin School and trailers are being suggested at Brookdale and the Middle School.

    30 Year tax abatements given to a developer who then asks that the Planning Board reduce the amount of a required escrow fee that must be deposited in an account prior to bringing an application to the board.


    Doesn’t the prevailing wind blow towards Foley Field??

    Who is kidding who!

  19. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  April 12, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    The downtown development project will be huge as either a success or failure. Everyone’s hoping for success.

    It’s hard to be an optimist because people have seen so much failure here and the current crop of leadership is uninspiring.

    On April 17 we get to vote on the new school budget. It calls for $244 property tax hike for the “average” household. The main reason for the increase is the loss of ratables in town. Reversing the trend is essential. Hope springs eternal.

    n44–you don’t like Thai, Jamaican, Mexican food or sandwiches? And if you can’t deal with a beauty school or daycare, you have issues that go beyond Bloomfield.

  20. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  April 12, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    Agree the schools are very overcrowded; so it is important that people express their concerns at any public hearings on the project. While the Planning Board is not supposed to consider school capacity, public opinion often can sway the developer themselves to make changes before it even comes to a vote.

  21. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  April 12, 2012 @ 10:57 am

    In that case hearings should be held when it is convenient FOR the residents – AND RESIDENTS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 11PM TO HAVE THEIR VOICES HEARD

  22. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  April 18, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    Bloomfield’s population has been basically flat since 1980, according to censu figures from Wikipedia. It begs the question of just how many new residents will arrive. Population peaked in 1970. Is the town envisioning a return to the 70’s when there was an industrial base? The NYC commuting crowd has plenty of options so banking on those folks is a longshot.

    Hope springs eternal…

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