The Bloomfield council voted to amend the township’s ordinance governing the Phase I and Phase II Redevelopment Areas to require that future developers in the designated areas must fund an escrow account to pay for a fiscal impact study as part of the approval process.
These redevelopment areas encompass a region centered on the Six Points intersection at Broad Street and Bloomfield Avenue, and include several projects that have already been approved, such as Glenwood Village, the mixed use residential development across from the train station, and the Bloomfield College dormitory at the intersection of Broad and Franklin Streets, among others.
Prior to the vote to amend the ordinance, Bloomfield Planning and Zoning Board attorney Michael Rubin explained the options available to the council to further regulate future developments and to help them understand the legalities involved. Rubin said that the council could only directly affect developments that are in designated redevelopment zones.
He said the zoning ordinance could be amended to change permitted uses to conditional uses that would require a fiscal impact study as part of the process. In that case, he said, there would have to be specific, quantitative criteria in the ordinance to ensure that the developer would know ahead of time what results would be acceptable for approval of an application. For instance, the town could require that the fiscal impact of a project on the township would have to be neutral or positive in its impact on the town’s finances.
Rubin said that developments that have already been approved, such as the residential project at 225 Belleville Avenue, cannot be affected retroactively by the results of any new fiscal impact studies. He said that in the past, towns were allowed to pull approvals right up until the time a developer took out permits for a project. That was changed in 2010, when the “time of decision rule” was modified by the state legislature to become a “time of application rule.” Once an application for a project is filed, no further changes in the zoning or other requirements can take place to affect that application. He advised the council to look ahead, and not backward at any previously approved projects.
He said future redevelopment areas could also be designated with the requirement of a fiscal impact study. These projects would be those that are more than just rehabilitating an existing building, but those that are significantly increasing the square footage of the building.
For now, he recommended the council start by amending the existing ordinance governing the Phase I and Phase II redevelopment areas, as he said this would be the easiest way to begin the process. He had drafted an amendment requiring the developer to perform a fiscal impact study as part of the process. However, he said, in discussion with Community Development Director Glenn Domenick, they decided to recommend instead that the developer open an escrow account and fund it so that the township could hire the consultant to do the study, to be consistent with what has been done previously.
Councilman Bernard Hamilton moved that the council amend the ordinance with the recommended change regarding the escrow account, and the motion passed unanimously. The amendment will be on the agenda at next week’s regular council meeting for approval on first reading.
In other business, Councilman Nick Joanow proposed the council pass a resolution rejecting the expansion of the Transco Pipeline through Bloomfield. Bloomfield resident Jane Califf presented information about the subject during the public comment period. She had also recently written an op-ed piece in Bloomfield Life opposing the +13% increase in pressure that is planned for the 50-year-old pipeline.
During discussion, Mayor McCarthy questioned whether the resolution would do any good, given that Transco had already received federal approval for the increase in pressure planned for the line, and suggested instead to try to bring representatives from the company in to answer questions about their plans. Joanow pointed out that Nutley, which had also passed a resolution opposing the plans for the pipeline, had been unable to get any information from Transco. He said banding together with Bloomfield’s neighboring town might be more apt to get results, and that the resolution calls for Transco to meet with the township’s governing body and residents to address their concerns. Ultimately the resolution passed unanimously.
Also at last night’s meeting, Township Engineer Paul Lasek announced that the project to revamp the North Center streetscape had to be rebid due to an error in the bidding process. Councilman Michael Venezia announced that residents had volunteered for the committee he is forming to plan activities for next year’s Superbowl Week, and that their first meeting would be held on May 29th, at 6:30 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement Building.
The next council meeting will be held in the council chambers at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20, 2013.