Grabowsky Victorious in Assisted Living Conflict of Interest Suit, But Kensington To Ask Current Council For Re-Approval

Grabowsky Victorious in Assisted Living Conflict of Interest Suit, But Kensington To Ask Current Council For Re-Approval

On Friday, April 1, 2016, in the lawsuit Richard Grabowsky vs. The Township of Montclair, the court ruled for the plaintiff Grabowsky that a conflict of interest, due to Councilor Jerry Fried and Nick Lewis being members of the church adjacent to the planned Kensington Montclair Assisted Living property was present in the previous township council.

Kensington said today in a press statement, that “despite that litigation has delayed the start of construction for 4 years, we are committed to bringing best-in-class assisted living to Montclair at 65 Church Street. Our mission is to ensure that Montclair’s seniors have a vibrant, centrally-located assisted living option that enables them to remain an active part of the community they helped create. We will request re-approval by the current council and are excited for the chance to be a part of the Montclair community.”

We’ve reached out to Dick Grabowsky for comment and will update when we hear.

So what do you want Montclair’s current council to do?

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  1. “Our mission is to ensure that Montclair’s seniors have a vibrant, centrally-located assisted living option….”

    I have never heard the word ‘vibrant’ used in the context of an assisted-living facility. Maybe he meant to say – “The building will be full of colorful walls for these folks to stare at while confined to beds and wheelchairs.”

    Boy that Fried group is the gift that keeps on giving to this town.

  2. ‘vibrant’ is up there with ‘bespoke’. Words that will soon be completely devoid of meaning, and therefore, only useful in real estate ads.

  3. This is a great decision. Kudos to Dick Grabowsky for taking this on.

    A totally unfounded suspicion: I get the feeling that the reason that the hotel slated for Orange Road has yet to break ground is because the developers were waiting for this decision. I smell a swap: the Orange Road site for Senior Living and Church Street for the hotel.

    Hey Dick: now that this is out of the way, how about you get a tenant for old Rascal’s/Red Cheetah that has been vacant for 10 years right in the middle of downtown?

  4. Re Relax People: Lol at Grabowski filling a vacant lot ever. The company is almost solely responsible for the Swiss cheese nature of businesses in the downtown.

    I have mixed feelings about this decision. Certainly this was a very poorly conceived project from the start from a much-maligned previous administration, so I’m happy with this decision, but at the same time now Grabowski is evermore emboldened to sit on his swaths of property in our town and let them rot.

    Mayor Jackson, do us a favor and eminent domain this guy back to the Stone Age. -Just please refrain from then handing the properties to your wink wink buddies…I mean Pinnacle…and you’ll have some serious rounds of applause from the town.

  5. Fried and Lewis should have to pay back the town for hiding their connection to this Church – it seems even from their own attornies. Every idiot government official knows that if you have a leadership, or ownership position in a property next door that you have a conflict of interest. Were they really that dumb not to know this?

    They just cost Montclair hundreds of thousands in legal fees we have to now pay back Grabowsky, let alone the loss of tax dollars from tying this whole project up.

    Whether the building makes sense there now is another story. Can’t see a drooling Alzheimer patient strolling Church Street with their aid, becoming much of an economic driver for the entire downtown economy. And that’s what the building was supposed to do. Help revitalize the downtown. Not just be a new tax rateable. It was supposed to add a lot of new purchasing and shopping traffic into the mix.

  6. Hahne’s closed 27 years ago in 1989.

    The redevelopment plan written in 2003 by the Russo administration’s Planning Board (and the previous Town Planner) is obsolete and out of date. As written, it is economically unfeasible and we would have to restart the process of creating a new Redevelopment Plan. Both the Russo and Remson administrations let their desire for a hotel to cloud more financially prudent choices & decisions. The redeveloper at that time was the one that brought the ALF concept to the table because all the other better uses were unworkable – primarily due to parking requirements. The Fried administration reduced the parking requirements to the absolute minimum, both for residential (1.1 per unit) or ALF uses (0.5 per unit). Then they sold off the remaining 20 municipal parking spaces for fifty cents on the dollar.

    A 5-story mixed use- with appropriate stepbacks – can’t be done properly, so we’re looking at a 3-4 story max height. Furthermore, the Planning Board just recommended a Master Plan Amendment to reduce heights to 3 stories for the nearby Church St commercial core. It would seem a stretch to argue for all new construction, within the historic district, should be zoned at 5 or 6 stories.

    So, while senior housing of any type would be anathema to the best and highest land use goals, the reality is that we are going to take a very significant financial hit from any alternative. The question really becomes what use has the highest, best use if we make revenue generation secondary?

  7. Unless you’ve worked this through fully with the Planning Department Frank, it does not appear you are right. A mixed use, residential building is allowed there with commercial and retail designated for the lower floor.

    Amendments to the Plan in 2011 broadened the originally desired hotel use, after it appeared the developers Herod (Brian Stolar and Steve Plofker) were not able to bring a hotel to that specific site.

    Further, an internal parking deck is allowed there and the original, municipal parking requirement of 106 spots was eliminated to supposedly help the previous developers build something. They were aiding by the Fried run Planning Board and Council (giving away too much of the store foolishly then in my opinion). Only 20 additional public spots are now required there on top of the necessary parking which must be provided by a developer to accommodate the building’s own internal needs under the Plan.

    What was wiped out by the Court ruling it appears was the assisted living use which at the time was not an approved there under the Plan.

    So unless I’m off or missed something in the paper trail, either the current, or a new owner (if the property is sold again, could build up to a five story residential building with ground floor commercial/retail — that would likely accommodate its needed parking within. And that’s without seeking any new amendments to the Plan it appears at least from my initial review.

    That the current owner wants instead to amend the Plan again and build an assisted living facility there calls into question whether that “use” accomplishes the various goals — specifically identified under this downtown economic development plan.

    The last review of their claims in support of the change was not done with sufficient due diligence on Montclair’s behalf in my opinion, having attended all of the public meetings at the time.

  8. Martin,

    I really don’t understand your defense of the plan. I know full well what is allowed…better, I think, then you do because you don’t see the problem if built to the plan. What is allowed is either technically unable to meet the parking requirements or would require the Council to approve “variances” (I think they call them amendments to the plan that can be quantified in $$$ lost to taxpayers – if one bothers) that are not politically tenable. You know this, so why are you taking this tack that you don’t support? Is this more backroom politic?

    Look at the scale of this building compared to its neighbors…all the neighbors. Especially the historical key contributing buildings bracketing the site. I get it is all about he money down in the 3rd ward, so I know none of what I’m calling out will be addressed. Actually, it will be a fitting exclamation point for this Planning Board’s continuation of the prior board’s mindset. Just like the Fried Planning Board sold out the parking, this planning board sold out on Gateway 2 parking with self-storage parking. Your Board just updated the packaging. Sleep well.

  9. Frank R. – you are like a re-occurring character in a Shakespearean play. You can always be relied on to point out what is wrong – but then lose touch with political reality to see what the party’s really want, or are willing to do — and then how to deal with the problem. Me thinkith you are blinded sometimes by your need to always be proven right.

    Read my response again above. I made no comment defending the Plan or saying what should, or could be. Only what IS — and what the current owner now faces to deal with it. That’s where we are now in relation to what they clearly want to do – which is assisted living.

    The “hotel” driven premise behind the thinking of the original Hahnes Street Redevelopment Plan to address the three properties at issue, the Church Street parking deck, the Sienna site and now the Church Street lot — may need updating. A new Plan Amendment may be called for. But is it to allow “assisted living” smack in middle of the downtown? That is the issue at hand.

    Where this goes, or should go — is another story. I was dealing with where we are now – at this moment in time with a property owner that clearly wants to do something not authorized under the existing Plan.

  10. Martin,

    You are wrong. I have never been in touch with political realities. I leave that to others. I do find the preoccupation with blaming the Fried Administration for all our current ills myopic, at best. This redevelopment parcel will shortly reach its 30 year milestone in this municipal land use odyssey – producing less revenue to the township then when we started. The 4 admittedly dysfunctional years of the Fried administration was just one chapter. BTW, the election of the Fried administration was the voter’s reaction to the Remson administration.

    More telling is the way you inadvertently captured the obsolete mindset with your statement about assisted living “smack in middle of the downtown”. Yes, when Hahnes was open and still viable during the 70’s and early 80’s, you could argue this lot was in the center of downtown. However, if one sees from the reruns of the Google “Flyover” Presentation, the planned redevelopment of the Bloomfield Ave corridor is moving the middle of Montclair’s downtown. This lot is arguably on the periphery of the new Montclair Center and is no longer an essential driver of its economic plan. It actually has the potential to be a contra revenue with additional legal actions and financial concessions.

    I’ll check back with you in two years.

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