After refusing to refer the impact of the height of the proposed MC Hotel on the Mountain Historic District in Montclair’s western hills to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), the Montclair Planning Board has reversed course. Having taken another look at the language of the Gateway Redevelopment Plan, Planning Director Janice Talley is preparing a formal submission of the plan to the HPC for review at its next meeting on July 24. The feedback from the commission should be ready for the Planning Board to consider by its July 28 meeting. Talley will be absent; she indicated a few weeks earlier that she would not be able to attend on the 28th. HPC consultant Pete Primavera confirms that the HPC will be receiving the plan.
The reason for the change? The following clause in Section 7.4 of the redevelopment plan, which states that “site plans for the construction of improvements within the Plan area . . . shall also be submitted to the Township of Montclair Historic Preservation Commission for review in an advisory capacity to the Planning Board.”
A source tells us Talley had overlooked this information, but agreed that it was necessary to involve the HPC in this matter after all once it came to her attention. Talley was unavailable for comment this morning. Members of the Planning Board, including Chairman John Wynn and Mayor Robert Jackson, had said during the last meeting that the commission would have raised concerns earlier had it had any.
Architect/historian Frank Gerard Godlewski raised the issue at the July 14 Planning Board meeting during the public comment period, voicing concerns that the process should have been submitted for the Historic Preservation Commission’s review.
“The ugliest issue regarding this building is no fault of the developer or architect, it is its height and monolithic building mass that was allowed by the township. This out of place, “in your face” building is the Township’s mistake,” says Godlewski. “It should be up to them to correct this problem that obviously nobody wants, now that the community realizes that this huge building mass is out of place. If the Planning Dept is only working in the interest of the developers, its the wrong Planning Department for Montclair. It has about six billion dollars of residents’ property values to protect.”
Residents have cited the redevelopment plan – sections 2.3 AND 2.3.3 of the plan – containing language about consideration of a building’s impact and importance to Montclair’s overall character and sense of place within a gateway setting. The Planning Board has not yet considered such issues as they relate to the MC Hotel’s design.
The involvement of the HPC comes as lawyers for both the hotel’s developers and the owner of 666 Bloomfield Avenue try to figure out a solution to the possibility of the proposed hotel’s eastern facade eliminating a window on the existing building as an egress point for escaping a fire. The HPC had originally provided feedback on the residential buildings a few years ago which was the first site plan for the project.