Jason DeSalvo, a Montclair resident and CEO of Clear Mountain Partners, a general management consultancy based in Montclair, shares his thoughts on CentroVerde below. He placed these comments in the public record last night at the Montclair Planning Board meeting.
The planning board is expected to vote on the proposal to add two stories to building 1 of CentroVerde at their next meeting in two weeks.
What you are discussing tonight – the possible addition of two stories to the approved plans for Building I of CentroVerde – is one of those pivotal moments in our Town’s history that will help shape who and what we are for the foreseeable future.
Montclair is a precious place and one of our most lauded and valued attributes is the very delicate balance that we strike between being urban and suburban – close enough to New York that we share its sophisticated, cultured, diverse, forward‐looking sensibilities yet far enough away from the city to allow a relaxed, suburban feel with wide, un‐crowded sidewalks, parks, trees and views of the sky. Virtually every resident that I speak with cites this balance as being one of the primary reasons that they chose to make their home here.
Allowing LCOR to add an additional two stories to the first CentroVerde building along Bloomfield Avenue seriously threatens the very delicate balance that defines our Town. Our existing zoning ordinances – the very ones that this Board is supposed to uphold – limit development in this part of Town to no more than six stories and in our 145‐year history no building has been allowed to be taller. But more important than simply enforcing existing ordinances is respecting the reason that they were created in the first place – most of the residents living here chose Montclair because of the way it has looked and felt for a very long time. If we wanted tall buildings lining our main thoroughfare we could have chosen to live in New York, Newark or Jersey City.
The decision that stands before you this evening will define how Montclair residents remember this Planning Board and each of you as people for many, many years to come. Our answer to this challenge as a Town should not simply be about revenue. There are certain community values and priorities that simply need to be respected and protected regardless of the payments offered by developers.
Our Mayor has repeatedly said that allowing LCOR to add two more floors with 50 additional units in exchange for the development of a small park is a financial “no brainer” that will provide an economic windfall to our Town. Forgetting the fact that absolutely no detailed or credible financial analysis has actually gone into making such a statement, should the public’s trust in this Board’s willingness to uphold our zoning laws really be for sale for less than $150 per household and the creation of a postage‐stamp‐sized park? Yes, you heard that number correctly. Even if we were to receive a $2 million cash payment from LCOR for the
development rights of what is now a small, town‐owned parking lot and thus allowing two additional stories to be added to CentroVerde Building One, this only amounts to a token, one‐time payment of just $131 per household – an absurdly low sum ‐‐that given the way our Town historically spends money, residents would likely never even see.
But what every surrounding Town and all of us as residents will forever be reminded of ‐‐ as we stare for the rest of our days at the hulking 8‐story atrocity that will rise at the “gateway” to Montclair ‐‐ is that this Planning Board sold out one of our most precious virtues for mere pennies.
I urge all of you not have this be your legacy and to remember that most Montclair residents moved here to be near a city but not to live in one.