This post first appeared over the weekend on the new Save Montclair Facebook page.
As a 25 year Montclair resident and business owner, I have lived in both the south and north ends of town. I would like to help inform Montclair residents of key points in the 2013 Montclair Master Plan to re-zone for high rise condos all over town.
THE CURRENT MARCH 2013 DRAFT OF THE PLAN’S PROPOSES RE-ZONING FOR:
1. up to 10 story buildings in center of Bloomfield Ave and Bay Street station area; a SuperStop bus center at Bloomfield and Park
2. up to 7 stories on 100 % coverage on both sides of Upper Montclair Bellevue Ave train station parking lots and in the Valley Rd business core.
3. up to 6 stories at Walnut station.
4.up to 5 stories at Watchung Ave station and along the tracks on both sides.
Its intent will alter forever our village life, creating “urban” centers focusing on commuting. A shuttle service will accommodate commuters going between the train stations on town streets. A SuperStop bus center will be on Bloomfield and Park Avenues. Congestion and parking problems will be exacerbated for residents and visitors. It more difficult to attract and keep businesses with less convenient parking. Many businesses will not survive major construction projects on parking lots.
Transit authorities promote the building of high rises next to train stations and station parking lots all over the country. Its called Transit Oriented Development or TODs. The intent is to revitalize downtowns and get more train passengers. As a NJ Transit official said: ” its about putting fannies in the seats”. In New Rochelle, NY some 20 years ago a major luxury high rise TOD was built. It is now low income housing.
Our mayor is a developer and says this Plan is right for Montclair.
During the July planning board meeting Mayor Jackson stated: Â “although there has been much discussion, I feel that it is a good plan with at least 90% consensus that we are going in the right direction. I would like to see this plan implemented”. During this August meeting, the Chairman of the Planning Board said that they will not spend more time for public comments or questions. This draft came out in March 2013 and there have been 2 sessions allowing for public comments and questions since then.
The Plan uses transit studies claiming the population growth to justify the need for high rises. The Planning Board’s own “Baseline Conditions” report (Dated 11/2011) this and says, according to Dept of Labor, Essex county has also lost 23455 residents from 2001 to 2009. In addition, the State of New Jersey has lost 2 congressional seats since 1980 and is expected to lose another this year.
Montclair’s population has also decreased from its 1970 peak of 44,043 to 37,699 according to the 2010 census. In 1933, Montclair’s Master Plan projected the population of 43,000 to increase to 89,500 by 1960, but it actually stayed about the same at 43,129. In addition, the “Baseline Conditions” by the Planning Board also states that in 2010 of the 15,911 total housing units in Montclair, 822 were not occupied.
For a town, the wrong development can mean more demand for already over-burdened municipal and school services as well the need for new ones.
It can cost the town more than it brings in with taxes. This Plan does not consider the impact on our town’s services: already over burdened schools, high rise fire equipment, sewer and water, traffic, preserving parks and open space and historic preservation.
According to NJ Dept of Education, during the Montclair school year of 2011/2012 it cost $18,100 per child or over $1500/month in tax revenue alone/ housing unit. Tax payers know that taxes have gone up substantially every year in the last 25 years, with the exception of one year it when it remained the same.
In addition, this Plan does not represent what town residents asked for or live here for.
NJ towns are required to develop a master plan every few decades. Part of the master plan development process is ” Visioning Workshops” to collect opinions from residents about what they want to see in the future. Montclair residents did not ask for high rise development in their vision for Montclair.
Montclair residents in these workshops voiced desires for the new Plan to include the preservation of green spaces, solutions for inadequate parking, improving traffic, preserving historic districts, adding affordable housing, improving town services and encouraging new businesses, according to the “Baseline Conditions” document.
The wrong development is irreversible. Montclair is historical and uniquely beautiful with its proximity to New York City. Each Montclair village now provides the calm and convenience of a small town. Each village neighborhood is embedded with majestic elms, oaks and maples dominating streets of stately 19th and 20th century Victorians and colonials. Residents enjoy the tranquility of these neighborhoods whether we live in them or not.
Montclair is also blessed with both Brookdale and Anderson Parks designed by Frederick L. Olmsted, the father of American Landscape Design. Neighborhoods are speckled with homes of past and present nationally recognized artists, social reformers and industrial leaders. Montclair has been a cultural and intellectual community since the 1800s.
Our elected officials need to represent our interests. THESE PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU. This Plan has to be stopped.
The Plan needs to:
Design development responsibly using unbiased studies relevant to Montclair.
Design development which provides a positive tax flow or enhances the quality of life.
Design development within current building heights in our villages which compliment and enhance existing architecture.
Improve parking, traffic and people flow to attract businesses that can thrive.
Preserve parks, open space and historical architecture so Montclair continues to be a uniquely beautiful and interesting town.
We need to tell our officials to table this Plan and do what is right.
Come to Council meetings and ask them to table this Plan. Write letters to Montclair Times, Baristanet, Watercooler and Montclair Patch. Contact Mayor Jackson and meet with your council member. Letters can go to the town municipal building at 205 Claremont Ave, 07042 and email:
Mayor Robert Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org is for high rises
Deputy Mayor Robert J. Russo: email@example.com
At-Large Rich McMahon: firstname.lastname@example.org is for high rises
1st Ward Councilor. Hurlock: email@example.com is against high rises
2nd Ward Councilor. Robin Schlager: firstname.lastname@example.org is against high rises
3rd Ward Councilor. Sean Spiller: email@example.com
4th Ward Councilor. Renee Baskerville: firstname.lastname@example.org