Updated: Montclair Township Council Discusses Master Plan, CentroVerde, Nishuane Well

BY  |  Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 7:30am  |  COMMENTS (10)

Montclair Township Council

Montclair Township Manager Marc Dashield sports his new clean-shaven look. He reported on the Nishaune Well at the Montclair Township Council’s October 29 meeting.

The Montclair Township Council made news at its October 29 meeting when Mayor Robert Jackson and his six colleagues all announced that they would not support two additional stories on Building 2 of the CentroVerde project.  Although there was no official vote taken during the meeting, the council verbally expressed their opposition to the proposal, which the Montclair Planning Board voted against recommending by a margin of 6-2 (with Mayor Jackson and Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon, the two council representatives on the board, abstaining), ensuring its defeat.  Township Manager Marc Dashield also made news by updating Montclair residents on the progress of evaluating the need to develop the Nishaune Well.  Public comment in reaction to both issues took over two hours of a three-hour meeting.

CentroVerde
In addressing CentroVerde, Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller summed up the attitudes of his colleagues when he said that he weighed the concerns of his constituents and the deliberations of the Planning Board  and concluded that he could not support the eight-story plan for Building 2.  “I think that while there are, of course, benefits to anything and of course potential problems to anything, when looking in this project in totality, I would not feel comfortable supporting the additional stories for what has been offered,” he said.  He did praise the efforts of Montclair Acquisition Partners to maximize the township’s assets with the idea of a public plaza, but he felt it wasn’t worth the price of approving their plans.    Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager said that she could not support it without public backing, which she concluded was mostly non-existent.  Councilor McMahon noted that there were already seven- and eight-story buildings in Montclair that were appropriate for their locations, but he felt the placement of such a tall building in Montclair Center would not work.

While residents praised the council for their unanimous opposition to the plan, many of them lamented the master plan for allowing more development that could possibly destroy Montclair’s character.  Pat Kenschaft and her husband, Fred Chichester, feared that more development meant would mean more cars exacerbating traffic jams at intersections like Grove Street and Watchung Avenue. Patti Grunther of Irving Street was pleased that the council listened to residents but expressed doubts about the sort of development Mayor Jackson, whom Grunther said she voted for, seemed to be advocating.  She was greatly troubled by the type of development that the master plan would allow in the form of high-density apartment buildings to accommodate more residents.

“This town doesn’t want that master plan the way that it’s written,” Grunther said.  How can you revise something that was devised in a wrong-handed way? The premises of that master plan are not solid, either economically, and certainly not in terms of the kind of development that this town wants to see.”  She said that she had heard some residents mention the possibility of recall elections for council members in reaction to the master plan.

Nishuane Well
Dashield’s report on the Nishuane Well noted that the township was still sifting through over three hundred questions from the public in response to the hearings on the issue held in January 2013. He said that the township was looking at possible ways to mitigate the impact of converting the well from a monitoring facility to a source of water for Montclair, and he was hopeful that developing the well could reduce the township’s dependence on reservoir water and provide a water source to fall back on in emergencies.  Montclair gets about 20 percent of its water from wells’ Dashield would like to increase that to 50 percent.

Once the public questions are answered, the answers will be posted on the township Web site as well as referred to the council for review.  The council would have to approve or deny a resolution supporting the Green Acres application and get it to the State House commission meeting for their meeting in May 2014.   An approved resolution would be forwarded to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Green Acres and be up before the commission for approval or disapproval.

“If the diversion is approved by the State House commission, the project will then require some financing,” Dashield said, “and we’re looking toward the New Jersey Environmental Trust Fund to finance the project.”  Dashield also iterated that Nishuane Park had been chosen for a potential well site because other sites in the water-rich geology of Montclair’s southern tip – Warman Street, Porter Park – had water of inferior quality.

Several residents questioned the wisdom of developing a well that Montclair may not even need and the expense of maintaining the well once it’s developed.  Resident Audrey Hawley was particularly incensed at that fact that nine months had passed without any questions from the hearings being answered.  She found the wait until April 2014 “unacceptable” and  voiced the opposition of many Fourth Ward residents who were exasperated by the undesirable public works projects located there.  “The Fourth Ward gets dumped on and dumped on and dumped on, and it is time for it to stop!” she said.

Debt Reduction
Under this council, Montclair’s debt has been reduced from around $220 million to $199,990, 349.15 after cancelling $2,957,512 bonds and notes previously authorized by bond ordinance, among other things. According to Katya Wowk, Communications Director, It’s a 9.2% drop since this council came to office.

Other Business
The township council also voted unanimously to  send to the Planning Board a review of a proposed resolution designating properties around the CentroVerde project in need of rehabilitation, which includes the old DeCozen auto showroom.  Two houses on Portland Place would only be included with the approval of the owners.   A plan to allow AT&T to install communications facilities on utility poles was tabled when Councilor Spiller wanted more information on who is responsible for maintaining the poles and Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville expressed concerns on the wires interfering with private properties and compromising the aesthetics in certain neighborhoods.  A first-reading ordinance added at the last minute established the position of a police director, with Councilor McMahon casting the only vote against it.

Mayor Robert Jackson (center) and other Montclair Township Council members receive congratulations from Bike and Walk Montclair for the honoring of the township as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists.  At left is Bike and Walk Montclair co-founder and former Mayor Jerry Fried.

Mayor Robert Jackson (center) and other Montclair Township Council members receive congratulations from Bike and Walk Montclair for the honoring of the township as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists. At left is Bike and Walk Montclair co-founder and former Mayor Jerry Fried.

Montclair is as Bicycle Friendly Community 
Bike & Walk Montclair also presented Mayor Jackson and the council with the bronze medal from the League of American Bicyclists, designating Montclair as as Bicycle Friendly Community for its efforts to improve the safety of cyclists.  Mayor Jackson thanked Bike and Walk Montclair’s Jerry Fried, his predecessor as mayor ,for his leadership in promoting cycling while in that office.

10 Comments

  1. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 30, 2013 @ 7:45 am

    Mayor Jackson and the Town Council should be congratulated for having listened to the town’s people regarding Centro Verde.

  2. POSTED BY frankgg  |  October 30, 2013 @ 9:36 am

    I am so pleased to hear that the Mayor and Council are responding to this important community wake up call. Now its time to review what’s been already been put into place regarding the buildings’ setbacks and what the Centro Verde building blocks’ rear facades will look like as seen from uphill, since they will be a prominent obstruction to a major view corridor, perhaps the most important characteristic of Montclair.

    I really cant believe how all of this Centro Verde decisions were made by a Mayor and Council who had ran on a preservation platform…its so absurd that they could even conceive of doing something like that. Then, I was busy caring for my 105yr old grandmother and it just slipped by me.

  3. POSTED BY frankgg  |  October 30, 2013 @ 9:48 am

    The newer buildings on Bell Street are 6 storey building blocks and they don’t seem to impact the surrounding environment badly because they are articulated correctly with pitched roofs and other features that respect the surrounding neighborhood. The addition on top of the Public Service building also works well with the surrounding environment. Re development in Montclair Center is necessary and can be good if it’s done intelligently. I wish that we could turn back South Park Street back to the way it was… before spending all of that money unnecessarily. It was so much better looking and more useful and lively with the parallel parking.

  4. POSTED BY whippersnapper  |  October 30, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    Frank – What are the chances they are only providing renderings for the streetscape because they dont want people to see what the rears of phases 1 and 2 look like? If this is the case I bet its based off the fact they Ferraras held out and the developers still have “hope” that they can squeeze him out of there. Then phase 3 or 4 will cover it all up..

  5. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 30, 2013 @ 11:00 am

    So Centro Verde is lying bloodless on the floor with a stake through its heart?

  6. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 30, 2013 @ 11:15 am

    “A first-reading ordinance added at the last minute established the position of a police director, with Councilor McMahon casting the only vote against it.” Is this the way to make such decisions in Montclair? Does Montclair really need a Police Director? To what end? Or is this simply (and very expensively) a way to AstroTurf the feud between Town Manager Dashfield and Police Chief Sabagh?

    Seems like a bad idea.

  7. POSTED BY Austin Millbarge  |  October 30, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

    idratherbeat63 – I think the Police Director’s position is being established so the PD can finally have someone competent running that place. From what I hear, this guy is running our PD into the ground. Just my opinion though…

  8. POSTED BY frankgg  |  October 30, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

    I’ve never really seen any appropriate rendering documentaion that would allow for the public understand the bulk of these projects.

  9. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  October 30, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    Kudos to Mayor Jackson and Town Council for rejecting the two additional Centro Verde stories, particularly Robin Schlager, whose opinion, “she could not support it without public backing, which she concluded was mostly non-existent” hit the nail squarely on the head when reflecting public sentiment.

    Pat Kenschaft and Fred Chichester – I agree, if the MPB and TC can just figure out how to revise the Master Plan the way it is currently written that would be real progress!

  10. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 31, 2013 @ 12:30 am

    Under this council, Montclair’s debt has been reduced from around $220 million to $199 million. It’s a 9.2% drop since this council came to office in July 2012.

    That should make for, what, like a 4-5% decrease in debt service costs going forward.

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Sad. Let's hope that this is not its "Last Tango." One of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in town. Valentino, Garbo, Keaton must have played there.

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