Tonight: Council Reviews Assisted Living Community Proposal

A graphic of the facility in White Plains. Courtesy of The Kensington's blogspot account.

On the agenda for tonight’s council session is a proposal to include an assisted living center on Church Street as part of the Hahne’s Redevelopment Plan.

It is described as a “Mixed-use building consisting of an 88- bed assisted living facility and first floor commercial use which may include retail sales and services; restaurant and eating establishments; banks; offices; and health clubs.”

According to a letter sent by Fountain Square Development L.L.C to Marc Dashield, Township Manager, they met to discuss the development of property at 63-65 Church Street. Fountain Square Development has recently completed The Kensington, a facility in White Plains, N.Y., which they describe as “similar to the 63-65 Church Street property.”

The facility has been called “The Kensington of Montclair” according to Fountain Square.

“The property has been exceptionally well-received by the community and is doing very well with 55 percent leased in only five months,” wrote Harley Cook of Fountain Square in the letter to Dashield.

“I can tell you this, it is very expensive,” said Cary Africk. Jeffrey Jacobson, For Montclair’s Third Ward candidate, questions the plan. “All we’ve heard is the idea that the residents of an assisted living facility will “shop” in Montclair, and that this is a reason to approve the proposal (which evidently will come with a tax break).”

“We should be putting that space to its highest and best use, measured by such criteria as what the town needs and the expected ratable impact.”

“This isn’t congress,” said Jacobson. “We’re all neighbors. I believe they [the council] are well-intentioned people trying to do the right thing. I get the sense that they’re trying to bind future councils in a way that if they think about it, isn’t the right thing to do.”

“It’s an important election,” said Jacobson. “People are attuned to the issues. There are certain things that the council needs to do and things that they don’t need to do.”

In yesterday’s Baristanet debate, Jacobson noted that all three mayoral candidates said the same thing- the next council should decide the assisted living issue, no matter who wins.

There is also a pending ordinance on the agenda that would allow homes to add a rental unit. According to the agenda, it was proposed in response to the need for affordable housing in Montclair.

“I see no harm in doing it,” said Africk. “I understand it’s been modified now to adjust to income levels.” When it was initially proposed, he said, this was not an option.

“Adding that on in so far as it takes away the landlord’s right to rent who he wants to rent to… The attractiveness of the proposal to a landlord is very small,” said Africk.

“Now that they’re putting this affordability clause on it, I don’t think one unit will be built.”

 

The council is also set to review an ordinance repealing the $535,000 that was provided for in a previous bond ordinance adopted in 2009 that was intended to be towards building a parking lot for police cruisers next to police headquarters.  The project was dropped due to the projected costs of an eminent domain battle.

“We’re not doing the project,” said Africk. “We decided years ago not to do the project.”

The council will meet at 8 p.m. tonight in the Council Chambers.

 

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57 COMMENTS

  1. Who in their right mind would build on or renovate their property, increase their property taxes, only to be restricted to rent it out for pennies on the dollar to a low-income renter? Does anyone actually think these ordinances through?

  2. Are you kidding, redrum?

    If your goal is to impress your buddies at Bluewave regarding your progressive affordable housing bonafides yet not actually change anything, it’s the perfect ordinance.

  3. While the tenants of a proposed assisted living facility might not shop at Urban Outfitters or run out for a yogurt, they are a demographic that spends heavily on healthcare. Healthcare services is one of four strong business sectors in this town and a key differentiator according to the Master Plan. While I do not have quantifiable numbers to cite here, I think a reasonable guesstimate of $5-10K in annual medical expenses for 88 tenants is a nice revenue stream for local professionals and support services.

  4. Why would the council approve an assisted living facility in the heart of what is supposed to be a vibrant downtown? The tenants are never going to shop or visit the restaurants. Those visiting the facility aren’t going to spend a lot of money in town either, and implying that they will in the “marketing” pitch to the council is ridiculous. This type of elderly care facility is needed, but not in the middle of the downtown business district.

  5. Frank, wouldn’t they get those services at the facility? Wouldn’t there be a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist the facility hires as an option for the residents?

    I could be wrong about this, but I think the affordable unit would not increase the homeowner’s taxes because it would be considered temporary. Maybe someone else can clarify. I can see a lot of these going up actually, if that’s the case. It would be easy to “rent” to a family member like a senior on a fixed income or young couple just starting or college students.

    The great irony here is that affordability is such a key component of the personal goals of this council yet the focus is on how to build and provide less expensive housing rather than focus on the one major affordability factor – which is taxes. Even a very recent Wall Street Journal article praising the virtues of Montclair clearly noted the one major drawback to living here. The taxes are exceptionally high.

  6. To me, it is a question of mix and what the site offers. These facilities do not have professionals on site, just support services. They are taken to radiologists, interns, ophthalmologists, dentists, SDS sites, etc. by staff or contract car services. They have prescriptions filled locally. They need legal services.
    Also, there are many different levels of care needed in an assisted care facility. The trend in sunbelt states is placing them in mixed use developments.
    Being the suburbs, I would think professionals would want to live close to where they work.
    I want to recall the Mayor quoting that it costs Montclair $25,000 per parking space to build new deck parking. Considering that we don’t have a lot of open space to build, it seems allowing an income generator that has below average parking needs is a good element in the CBD mix.

  7. This proposed modification to the Hahne’s area redevelopment plan (assisted living instead of a hotel or retail) may be a good idea and provide Montclair with some spillover ancillary revenue for other downtown businesses to improve their valuations. At the same time, it could be a very poor substitute and the only thing the property owners can come up with to unload the lot at this time. That’s especially so if there are any tax breaks contemplated.

    We would not know this however, until the plan gets fully analyzed, possibly even by a few independent planning pros.

    Consequently, to jump on this now is just another knee jerk reaction by the Council. They should not even think about voting a first passage tonight. Instead, they should just pass the plan on by resolution to the planning board for a full review without a vote. They should mandate the board report back within a set time frame what this change to the redevelopment plan there will entail. That’s the way to professionally handle the developer’s proposal.

    Let’s not make the same mistake again to either jump when someone puts something on the table because it seems ok on the surface, or conversely, sit on our butts and rotate by talking so long that we blow the opportunity.

    Pass it on to the planning board for a full review with outside consultant(s) which the developer pays for, and let the next Council make an intelligent call based on those deliberative and vetted impact results.

  8. Assisted living structures, from my experience, bring in an economy of spending to businesses like CVS, dollars stores, florists, cinemas, bookstores and ice-cream/goodie shops…not clothing or hairdressers….or exotic restaurants. When you are a care giver, you really are not in the mood for spending because you always are conscious of the ten thousand dollars a month costs. An assisted living business would indeed bring money to Montclair Center, however i feel that it is a self contained economy that will not benefit the types of existing businesses in the neighborhood. The residents of the facility will populate the streets and public spaces since Montclair Center is pretty vacant and quiet, but this will not increase money circulating in Montclair Center. Assisted Living structures have a pretty high priced self contained economy.
    An ideal addition to Montclair Center that would generate economy would be (ideal…in a perfect world sense, I mean and its just an idea that I am offering) a NYC Skyline panoramic events/convention center. The building would have to be high enough to offer the view, and the view would be the selling point (and one of Montclair’s most desirable characteristics.) The building would need several levels of self contained parking. This type of business is always booming these days and would bring a vibrant crowd that would be more suitable for spending in the surrounding existing businesses. The Montclair area has beautiful and successful events structures in historic estates but a panoramic all glass facility would offer one of Montclair’s most spectacular features…the view of NYC.

    https://jalc.org/about/2004_galleries/Facility_Images/images/atrium.jpg
    https://www.jalc.org/about/2004_galleries/Facility_Images/images/allen-room-mezzanine-right.jpg

  9. Martin,
    OK, it’s good to stick to the same process. I think you are unfairly painting the Council as not doing this when they did this exact process last year for this same property (O_11_015).
    I would suggest an improvement to that process and the PB can draft the proposal as part of their report and then RFQ to the outside consultants and the Council selects.

  10. Clarification: the Council would have to ask for the RFQ as the PB has no official standing on the question of use in an ANR. It would be like asking the HPC to comment on use.

  11. Love the idea of an events/convention/cultural center for that space. Great place to host the Film Festival, etc. It would definitely progress the vision for a vibrant downtown. Completely opposite from a nursing home.

  12. Frank Rubacky: The Council has wide latitude for how it obtains information and opinions. My understanding would be that it does not need to formally vote for a resolution or ordinance to change the plan just to to review a proposed modification to the redevelopment plan.

    The problem with a first reading vote to change the plan, and then in accordance with statute formally passing it over to the planning board, is that it requires Councilors to vote yes just to get the ball rolling. We’ve seen this before, where Councilors first say they voted for or against something to begin the process, when they would have voted differently, and then statutory timing issues come up later which have burned the Township in the past.

    It’s best here to proceed without a yes or no vote on the substance and a time clock behind use. Let town attorney Ira K. create language for a resolution or ordinance if needed to pass the proposal along to the planning board for review with outside help as needed. They can then fully vet this proposal compared to best use economics from what was originally planned at the site. And when the report is done – the PB can come back to the Council for action or not to make any change to the redevelopment plan.

  13. MS:
    What am I missing?
    “WHEREAS, on March 20, 2012, after hearing a presentation by the designated developer and Fountain Square Properties on amendments to the Plan, the Council referred amendments to the Plan to the Planning Board for its consideration and recommendation, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-7(e);”

    Also, a small detail, but the Council should reverse themselves on allowing banks & offices as a permitted ground floor uses.

  14. Here is the proposal for the zoning ordinance for accessory dwellings:
    https://www.montclairnjusa.org/dmdocuments/O_12_029.pdf

    These accessory units have been called “mother-in-law” units, but If I am reading this correctly to be allowed to have your mother-in-law (or any family member) take up residence, she’d have to be at the top of the township’s list for affordable housing. Is this accurate?

  15. FR: there is a time clock attached to that I believe for when and what by that statute. So instead of being specific to the modifications needed from the developer proposal, the Council should request a general redevelopment review by the PB of the site for alternative uses — not connected to this proposal but including the use and various elements requested. Don’t quote me on this but I believe the way it is structured now still requires a yes vote on the proposal to change the plan by Councilors to move the thing along.

  16. Townie, your interpretation of the ordinance is correct. Mommy dearest needs to be on the AH list to rent a “mother daughter” on your own private property under this ordinance.

  17. Townie, it’s not really clear, but in order to rent it out it does appear it has to be rented to someone who meets the affordable criteria. So if you want to build one for your mother-in-law, and she earns more than the “affordable” income, she can’t live there!

  18. FG: I scanned the statute quickly. It could be that there is a 45 window and a PB hearing required…but maybe not. Don’t have the time to research and read this in full but that’s the problem. A potential time clock for the PB to complete its actions before freeing up the Council to make a decision without full due diligence.

  19. Incorrect. My reading of the ADU ordinance specifically exempts owners from this list.The ADU also does not count towards AH levels. The only requirement is to AH deed restrict the ADU.

    This ordinance is to allow senior homeowners to stay in place.
    Example A: any homeowner with annual income up to about 50k could move into an ADU up to 800sf (net) and rent out their house to anyone, any income as long as it meets the current R-0, R-1 zoning and they have off street parking for 2 cars.
    Example B: same, except homeowner remains in main residence, but ADU tenant has to make less than 50k.

  20. So Frank, it’s not really a “mother-in-law” apartment at all. It means seniors who cannot afford their own homes can rent out a small unit and rent the house for a below market rate fee (why not sell and move??) or they can rent out the unit to someone who makes less than $50k, again for a below market value rental. So in either case, the homeowner doesn’t get much additional income. And it does nothing to help middle class families who might actually need to have a parent move in?

  21. Or…and I can’t believe anyone would do this, you rescind the ADU designation after one year and you have a fully furnished apartment for storage space. Further, if you sell the house, you have the problem of trying to market your home with a useless fully furnished apartment – clearly bringing down the value of the house. Ummm. A real stumper.

  22. “…they are a demographic that spends heavily on healthcare. Healthcare services is one of four strong business sectors in this town and a key differentiator according to the Master Plan”

    This may be true – IF said providers accept Medicare! I can think of at least one provider in town that accepts No insurance whatsoever! Otherwise, the folks will be getting on the bus and heading to Mountainside, or Clara Maas.

    My MIL recently moved into a senior building. Not assisted living, but senior-restricted. Anyway it’s pretty clear that the folks in that building are going to wait for the senior bus to take them to Shop Rite once a week instead of buying groceries at the convenience store across the street. Also, MIL quickly pointed out where all the Dollar stores are, and the “expensive” “farmer’s market like Corrados”. She and her new buddies are not likely to have dinner at the restaurant on the corner. I can forsee her doing a lot of browsing at the mall (which she compared to Garden State Plaza as far as appearance, store selection, and clientele)…and not much spending.

    FWIW, my two cents.

    (By the way, the ADU thing wouldn’t help my MIL either, since we’re in the wrong zone, and there’s not enough setback. Seems to me like it might be a feel-good ordinance that is mostly inapplicable.)

  23. And I calculate the max rent allowed to be $1,397/month and Comcast won’t install a separate cable a/c in an ADU.

  24. Maybe the ordinance can require window stickers for the fire department:
    “Mother-In-Law in garage”

  25. Downtown needs revitalization, renovation, energy etc. It does not need an assisted living facility. Worst idea in the history of the galaxy. Someone mentioned a tunnel from the museum to the Glen Ridge border in another post, that is a better idea than this.

  26. “Downtown needs revitalization, renovation, energy etc. It does not need an assisted living facility. ”

    Unfortunately we cannot conjure up developers willing to invest. So what’s the other option? Waiting another year or 5, with an empty lot?

  27. Frank Rubacky, great idea. Fortunately, my mother in law is very nice.
    Others, not so lucky, might want to schedule their mother in law for standard garage maintenance, conveniently located downstairs from their granny flat – perhaps a rear end job, or the topping off of her fluids.

  28. “Unfortunately we cannot conjure up developers willing to invest.”

    How do you know if you don’t even try? How do you know if you have not issued, advertised, and circulated a formal RFP for ideas/proposals from developers??

  29. In NJ, if the originally selected developer of an ANR project makes good faith efforts (metric?) that are all rejected by the governing body over the years, can the municipality replace the developer if their is no exit clause in the original agreement?

  30. “Unfortunately we cannot conjure up developers willing to invest. So what’s the other option? Waiting another year or 5, with an empty lot?”

    It’s still serves a purpose as the most-used parking lot in Montclair.

  31. “How do you know if you don’t even try? How do you know if you have not issued, advertised, and circulated a formal RFP for ideas/proposals from developers??”

    An RFP? The township isn’t commissioning the work.

  32. “Someone mentioned a tunnel from the museum to the Glen Ridge border in another post, that is a better idea than this.”

    I think a tunnel underneath Montclair is actually a really terrific idea–and by charging tolls both ways, this can potentially be a great revenue source. Most of the crazed drivers flying along Bloomfield Avenue are people simply using the street as a high-speed thoroughfare to get from Verona to points east, or to get from Bloomfield to points west. Call me nuts, but what about a tunnel starting at Ray’s Pizza on rt 23 and ending at the car wash on the Glen Ridge border? In fact, the tunnel exit can be the actual car wash! This way, cars can not only avoid all the stop lights and pesky pedestrians, but they can also get cleaned and detailed along the way.

  33. Hahne’s Redevelopment Plan: Uh, The Hahne’s building was already redeveloped. It’s called Sienna. Are we talking about the parking lot next to South Park Grille (or whatever that bar is called these days?) This is a plofker property, right? My guess is that he is going to start with the idea of a Nursing home, and once approved he will say that he cannot get JCAHO certified and then ask for a variance to build a hotel or condos.

  34. $200k…decommission the arena like the mountainside tennis courts.
    Solar panels? $150k bonded already.

  35. “An RFP? The township isn’t commissioning the work.”

    Sorry, I thought people understood the process under redevelopment statutes. Indeed the Township does designate (or “commission” if you will) the developer per statute for redevelopment sites like this. Municipalities typically do this through an RFP, soliciting developers for proposals under an approved redevelopment plan, or for alternate ideas. In fact, the current developer was so designated via an RFP to develop something other than assisted living on this site, but has failed to fulfill this contractual obligation. Also, I understand from before my time that this developer was in effect created by the Township by directing two competing developers to form a joint partnership. (The point being, the complete authority a town has in “commissioning” developers in redevelopment matters.) In any case, when a developer fails to deliver a contract, the contract is typically terminated and a new RFP process begun.

  36. “In fact, the current developer was so designated via an RFP to develop something other than assisted living on this site, but has failed to fulfill this contractual obligation. ”

    Typical. Someone thinks this is a good idea. This developer (interesting tidbit about the history from JH) will get the variances needed to build something hideous (Siena) and get tax breaks. Has anyone presented concrete information or stats from other actual facilities like this in other town centers regarding the supposed economic benefits? Show me the money.

    I would like to see all the planning board and town council members actually visit a few of these places for a dose of reality. These aren’t country clubs or senior living centers with tennis courts and pools. The majority of the people in them cannot live alone because they can’t remember where they are, they can’t cook for themselves and need help with basic every day tasks. Like bathing and getting dressed.

  37. My post makes it seem as though I’m opposed to an assisted living facility in Montclair. I’m not. I would just like an honest evaluation of this development, instead of “build it and they will come”.

    Now I’m off to get a home equity line of credit for $75k so I can build a unit on the back of my house that’ll net me a few hundred dollars a month when I rent it out. Not to my aging mom, or my student niece or the young couple we know who would like a place in Montclair until they save enough for a down payment. But to someone who is likely not even living in Montclair who is on a list for an affordable unit. I hope all my neighbors do the same.

  38. what about a 55 and up building. There a many empty nesters that want to stay in town. If they down size from their homes they will have the disposable income and the ability to spend their money in town, and they won’t add children to the schools

  39. “Municipalities typically do this through an RFP, soliciting developers for proposals under an approved redevelopment plan, or for alternate ideas. ”

    There’s your problem. The geniuses at township hall can’t budget street beautification competently, and they are going to manage business development?

    We should STOP doing this. Let the market decide what would work in that space. The townsphip’s involvement should be limited to code enforcement and taxes.

  40. “There’s your problem. The geniuses at township hall can’t budget street beautification competently, and they are going to manage business development?

    We should STOP doing this. Let the market decide what would work in that space. The townsphip’s involvement should be limited to code enforcement and taxes.”

    ~ so absolutely true and the ONLY solution to the present looming total failure of Montclair Center’s re development.

  41. grewup – they already have a solution to that. Build a unit on your home, live in that and rent the house out as an affordable housing unit. Easy!

    Yes, I wish our town council and planning board would just stop trying so hard.

  42. I know South Park ain’t Central Park, ROC, but had the “market” decided what to do with the center of Manhattan without the interference of government intervention, the “market” would have filled what became Central Park with block after block of cheap tenements and sweatshops for the riff raff, and fancy mansions for the “job creators”. After all, trees don’t pay rent.

  43. Jersey its no secret that I’m on the FD, I’ve been too many calls to illegal appartments on calls to know they are already out there. Maybe if they were brought up to code and the rent money was declared as income the town would be a little less broke.

  44. Really, Spiro. I think only you would not be able to see the difference between a 100 ft by 100 ft paved parking lot and Central Park.

  45. ROC, like I said, South Park ain’t Central Park. You and I know Central Park is much bigger, right?

    Perhaps, then, ROC, in stating that there is a differentiation here between the two parcels, you believe that the government intervention to create Central Park was a good idea, considering, perhaps, it’s size.

    By extension, ROC, you might believe that, had the free market been given free reign from 59th St. to 110th St, and from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue, it would have been a fiasco.

    If so, it just proves that, when it comes to large parcels, even you, ROC, lack confidence in the unrestricted private sector, and believe that government intervention is a fine way to protect the many from the few when the stakes are high.

  46. i read it but really don’t understand the ordinance on renting out an apartment in your house. I have a small apartment over my garage that is not rented now (the prior owner rented it, i decided to get settled in before deciding what, if anything, to do with it). If I want to rent it out someday, am I capped on the rent and does it have to go to a low income person or family? Or is this ordinance only for someone building a new apartment on their property? Can anyone help on this?

  47. “There’s your problem. The geniuses at township hall can’t budget street beautification competently, and they are going to manage business development?”

    The approach many, if not most, municipalities take is to establsh a redevelopment agency as permitted by the statutes. Such an agency is funded through developer fees. The rationale is that such an agency would have the exclusive time and focus on handling development matters intelligently and professionally that a TC cannot have.

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