Bloomfield Planning Board Approves Amended Redevelopment Plan

BY  |  Thursday, May 31, 2012 2:48pm  |  COMMENTS (11)

Chairman LaQuaglia hears testimony at last night's Planning Board meeting.

Last night the Bloomfield Planning Board unanimously approved an amended site plan and subdivision for the previously approved Bloomfield Center redevelopment at Lackawanna Place (also known as Block 228, Lot 1). The approved plan was modified from the original application to exclude additional retail/restaurant space.

The amended plan application originally submitted by Bloomfield Center Urban Renewal, LLC (the applicant) and the Bloomfield Parking Authority (the property owner) called for a reconfiguration of the apartments to include three-bedroom units (a total of 46 additional bedrooms) and an additional 20,000 square feet of space to be used for restaurants or retail establishments on a second floor mezzanine area.

At the beginning of the meeting, which was continued from May 8, the Planning Board’s traffic consultant, Joseph Staigar, P.E., testified that the additional 20,000 square feet of retail space would cause traffic problems at the intersection of Lackawanna Place, Conger Street and Glenwood Avenue. He stated that the additional trips generated, particularly if the space were occupied by restaurants, would cause backups as cars exited the garage at Lackawanna Place, or when cars made left turns from Conger Street onto Glenwood Avenue during peak traffic times. Staigar’s recommendation was to reduce the additional square feet of retail space by half to 10,000 square feet to mitigate the potential problems.

After Staigar’s testimony, attorney Elizabeth Durkin introduced traffic expert Hal Simoff to testify regarding parking and traffic. Durkin represents developer Cary Heller, whose lawsuit challenging the redevelopment plan was dismissed on May 24 by the Essex County Superior Court. Heller was seated in the audience during last night’s meeting.

Simoff said that his estimates for the number of parking spaces needed for the development far exceeded what was proposed by the applicant. He also stated in his testimony that tractor-trailer trucks could not deliver goods on Washington Street, and that chain stores such as 7-11, Walgreen’s and McDonalds all use this type of truck to make deliveries to their stores.

His testimony was strongly challenged by Board Attorney Michael Rubin, who pointed out that most of his testimony pertained to the original plan, which was upheld by the New Jersey Superior Court. Rubin told him not to “rehash” that again, saying that the court had already ruled on this.

Rubin also pointed out that the testimony regarding the difficulties of articulated trucks delivering goods on Washington Street was a moot point, since the original approval of the application included the condition that no tractor-trailer trucks travel on Washington Street. Chairman LaQuaglia also reiterated the point.

Simoff said that meant no chain stores could be located in Buildings A and B of the development, which face Washington Street. However, this type of store could be accommodated in Building C if desired. Simoff’s concern about chain stores was challenged by Rubin, who asked why there had to be a 7-11 on the site at all.

Later in the meeting, traffic expert Staigar stated that stores such as 7-11 do agree to deliver in smaller trucks if they feel the location is worthwhile.

Comments from the public focused on both the increased traffic and the possibility of school-age children living in the proposed three-bedroom apartments.

Resident Carol Humphreys said she believes families are going to move in to these apartments. She also said that the development is not happening in a vacuum and there are other developments taking place in town and in the area. She asked the Board to take into consideration the impact the amended plan would have on the town as a whole and on the schools.

Prior to the Board’s vote, the attorney representing the applicant stated his client wished to withdraw the request for the 20,000 square feet of additional retail space and go ahead solely with the reconfiguration of the apartment units.

Mayor McCarthy moved to approve the application in its final form. Board member John Zitka seconded the motion, and all voting members voted to approve.

11 Comments

  1. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  May 31, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

    Yes- design a retail space that can’t be delivered to. That’s the way we do it in Bloomfield.

    I liked when our mayor wanted to quiz Mr. Simoff on how many parking spaces would be used by the restaurant that hadn’t even been described in the application. He didn’t like the answer and decided to press Mr. Simoff who held up to the task quite well and told him to ask the developer for the restaurant specs.

    I was more than a little stunned that there was no questioning about how many parking spaces the apartment dwellers would need- and that the developer has allocated 1.2 spaces to each apartment no matter how many occupants there will be. I’d find it hard to drive .2 of a car. I also guess these folks won’t give parties or have friends over- at least not in the developers mind.

    It was an amazing array of suits and italian leather shoes sported by the attorneys and consultants that are making money off of Bloomfield.

  2. POSTED BY budmanzz  |  May 31, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

    You don’t drive 0.2 of a car. Some families have 1 car. Some families have 2 cars. Some might have 3 cars. And sometimes extra space is built in. And sometimes units are vacant. This averages out to 1.2. I’m not saying it’s the correct number. But it’s not wrong just because you can’t count it on your fingers.

  3. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  May 31, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

    That is correct; the 1.2 is an average, obviously. Also, I neglected to mention, the new configuration also provides additional parking spaces to go along with the additional bedrooms.

  4. POSTED BY ilovecoffee  |  June 01, 2012 @ 6:09 am

    ” I also guess these folks won’t give parties or have friends over- at least not in the developers mind”

    Pat, i guess you want the town to start policing people having families and friends over for holidays and such. maybe you’d like every town to start this policy. Maybe everyone should not have anyone over their house/apartment because you’re so concerned that too many cars will be parked on the street. Your comment is unreal–so negative.

  5. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  June 01, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    ” I also guess these folks won’t give parties or have friends over- at least not in the developers mind”

    I’ve moved out of a building once due to the parking and because anytime I invited people over they had to spend half an hour circling looking for parking. This was a place in Bloomfield on Franklin Ave. I think Pat’s concern is legitimate.

    Parking is already a concern in town so unless it is addressed for each of these new developments we are shooting ourselves in the foot. I say this as a person who parks on the street every night and knows what she is talking about. Also if parking is a concern people won’t be coming to any of the retail shops that are being added to this development and the people who will work there won’t be able to park for the day.

    Common sense is actually free so pick some up.

  6. POSTED BY ilovecoffee  |  June 01, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    Parking is a concern in every town. I see it On bloomfield ave in Verona, cedar grove, the caldwells, montlair center, the shore, nyc Etc. The thing is, you deal with it or move to a town far away so these annoyances dont bother you on a daily basis. My husband and I park our cars in our driveway and walk to the train station. Remember, they are building a parking deck for 450+ cars which would accomodate those moving into these condos. Street parking will have to be dealt with like every busy town deals with it.

  7. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  June 01, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    That’s why the parking for this development should take into account how many cars these residents will be using. I never suggested that Bloomfield police how many kids live in a development or whether people should have friends a relatives over.

    What I’m suggesting is that Bloomfield not fall for the developer’s claims that there is enough parking allocated for the residents, restaurants, and retail stores for this development and that the developer be told that not being able to deliver products via trucks is not a viable solution to their design problems.

    It’s not negative- it’s proactive. Bloomfield should make sure that the development is designed properly. At the last Planning Board meeting Mr. Simoff pointed out repeatedly that for all intents and purposes the parking garage will be filled most evenings(definition 85%+ capacity) and that cars will have to circle around to find parking.

    This development won a NJ Futures Smartgrowth award in 2009 – it’s a shame that the plan no longer looks like what won the award and that the developer is being allowed to enlarge and change the plan to his own benefit.

    “Ultimately, the plan envisions “Six Points” as a pedestrian hub. With the addition of safe, well-lit mid-block pedestrian alleys and connections, visitors will have convenient and interesting ways of walking throughout the downtown. Bicycle lanes and conveniently placed bike racks will also encourage riders from intermediate distances to participate in the downtown experience without driving. …

    The plan also addresses public streetscape and open space improvements as well as a façade improvement program that will incentivize and complement the private developments.”

    https://www.njfuture.org/smart-growth-101/stories/2009-award/bloomfield/

  8. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  June 01, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    Different towns deal with street parking differently so to shrug it off is just asking for trouble down the road. We need our own plan and to consider the plans based on the actual circumstance not some if you build it they will come ideals.

  9. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  June 02, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    Those who are concerned about Mr. Simoff’s testimony about the amount of parking should keep in mind that he is representing a rival developer and that the Essex County Superior Court upheld the P’s decision to approve the plan with the developer’s parking estimates despite Mr. Simoff’s testimony last year to the same points he made on Wednesday evening. The revised plan includes a substantial number of new parking spaces and also connects what were three separate buildings, which will be an improvement for the residents.

  10. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  June 02, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    P was supposed to be PB , for planning board. Stupid phone.

  11. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  June 03, 2012 @ 2:20 am

    I thought that the Bloomfield Parking Authority was responsible for the parking estimates. That’s what the paperwork said.

    Mr. Simoff made perfect sense both last year and at this meeting.

    One of the intial plans for the parking deck had 740 spaces…now it has been reduced to 468
    https://www.bloomfieldtwpnj.com/documents/file/FinalParkingStudy-TraiStationArea.PDF

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I'm struck by how much attention is being paid to the details of a parking lot, as opposed to the attention paid to the future impact of the monstrous projects being planned.

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