Montclair Planning Board: Parking Study “Not A Good Fit For Montclair”

The Montclair Planning Board
The Montclair Planning Board

Members of the Montclair Planning Board had a few words to say about the long-awaited parking study produced by Nelson/Nygaard, but none of them were very good.

Board member Carole Willis opened discussion on the parking study at the Planning Board’s August 8 meeting – the first time the board has examined the study since it was presented to the township council on July 26 – and she expressed concern that the plan did not jibe with the objectives laid out in the town’s master plan.  Willis explained that the master plan has drawn land use and circulation into a unified element, and that the findings of the parking study tended to lean toward more dense development than what the master plan as passed provides for.  Her specific concerns included the recommendation of a 50 percent reduction in the number of parking spaces that the master plan requires developers to provide, it recommends that parking needs in Montclair’s growth centers be met through a payment in lieu of parking (PILOP) option,  it recommends a low one-time PILOP fee and  the shifts the burden of building and maintaining parking spaces to the township parking lots and residential streets, seeks to increase overnight parking on residential streets and neighborhood thoroughfares, and favors parking maximums converted from minimums.

Willis thought the study had some worthy ideas, but proposed that an impact analysis of these particular ideas be pursued.   She noted that approvals for large projects without parking requirements had been tried in the late 90s and failed, and the rush to build now and provide parking later only exacerbated traffic problems; she was also afraid of the quality-of-life impact on residential neighborhoods.

Board members present (Tim Barr was absent) readily agreed that the plan was not a good fit for Montclair.  Board Vice Chair Jason DeSalvo called the study in relation to Montclair’s needs a “land-use disaster,” adding that it deals only with parking in isolation.  Martin Schwartz said he was shocked that the study’s creators were not guided sufficiently by the goals set forward in the Planning Office.

“They focused on the transportation-based needs of the township, which is effectively a high-density build around train stations, we rejected that ultimate philosophy, with the exception of some density and development,” Schwartz said. He noted that Montclair has six railway stations, as opposed to many towns that have two, so there is a greater interest in such towns to build around train stops.  Schwartz added that Montclair was different in that it was developed to encourage residential neighborhoods not transit villages.

Anthony Ianuale said that the parking study seemed more like a wish list than a plan, noting the emphasis in the study on cycling and walking that would lessen the need for parking.  Ianuale said that, despite the value of cycling and walking, neither was going to solve the township’s transport issues.

Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager, as the board’s council liaison, explained that the council had adopted the study for review and eventually come back to it. DeSalvo said that the board ought to review it more closely to compare it to the master plan, and Councilor Schlager said the council would appreciate such input.

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” De Salvo said of the apparent disconnect between the two bodies.  “We’re functioning as a town, we’ve got a lot of talented people, but one arm doesn’t know what the other arm’s doing.”  DeSalvo said he would welcome the council’s request for a review of the study by the board – what board attorney Arthur Neiss explained was a “referral from the governing body.”

A perfunctory discussion of the by-laws of the Planning Board preceded the parking study discussion. Schwartz had trouble with language saying, as he interpreted it, that board members were constrained to consider, when reviewing development applications, only the evidence, statements and other opinions presented in support of and against such matters only at board meetings.  He said it was not in keeping with court rulings that allowed board members to talk to members of the community affected by such applications.

“There is case law to that effect,” he said, “and really, the only area of bias that seems consistent in my review of the information that Art [Neiss] has presented in other cases is that you can’t have a personal conflict of interest connection to the proceeding.”  He cited the approval of the Kensington project by the Fried Council with then-mayor Jerry Fried himself and then-Third Ward Councilor Nick Lewis, members of the adjacent Unitarian church, as such an example.

Other members had their own interpretations.  Keith Brodock said he saw it as thus: Board members come to the hearing, no matter if you have a predisposition, as long as you hear the evidence at the time of the application. When Schwartz said it was preventing board members from engaging in discussions beforehand, Brodock countered that, as there was no application before the board beforehand, it wasn’t until the applications was presented that the constraints took effect.

“And I would disagree with that,” Schwartz said, saying it would theoretically prevent Councilor Schlager from talking with constituents on a particular application.  Neiss said that the only constraint involved was that board members had to give developers a fair shake when application was presented and not let outside opinions interfere with the evidence presented.  Schwartz held firm on his position, but the other board members were not easily persuaded that the language he objected to needed to be stricken from the by-laws.  Board Chairman John Wynn said that it was important to avoid any situation where a bias might interfere with a fair hearing of the application.

DeSalvo ultimately proposed a motion that the language be kept in the by-laws with the intent on reviewing later for possible tweaking.  The board approved the motion with Schwartz opposed and Willis, who arrived late, abstaining.

The board delayed passing the resolution on approving Steven Plofker’s Glen Willow apartment house because Neiss wanted to go over and fine-tune shared-parking rules agreed to by Plofker with Plofker attorney Alan Trembulak.   Also, committee and subcommittee seats formerly held by Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon, whom Schlager replaced as council liaison, were re-assigned; Councilor Schlager takes over Councilor McMahon’s seat on the Planning Board Personnel Committee, Carmel Loughman takes over his seat on the Redevelopment Subcommittee, Willis replaces him on the Zoning Subcommittee, and  Brodock assumes his seat on the Communications Subcommittee.

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  1. An interesting & varied overreaction by the Planning Board to the parking study. Makes me wonder if they have recently reviewed their Master Plan or current parking ordinances.

  2. Counter intuitively, less parking tends to decrease traffic. People are more apt to use public transportation or walk/bike if they know a spot won’t be readily available.

  3. Redevelopment in Montclair seems like Chemtrails….something way over our heads that we don’t necessarily understand or want.

  4. Maybe we should all go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting this week or the HPC meeting later this week. Maybe the PB could actually do something positive and go testify against Stanton’s and Plofker’s applications.

    Seriously, the PB really needs to get better or just tap down, en masse. You continually lack any vision…just reactionary & tactical.

  5. And not for nothing, can the Council and the developers cram anymore big applications into the month of August? Seriously, does the BOE own September and that is why you schedule all these hearing & applications when everyone is away?

  6. Speaking of our land-use bodies not working well together, I’ll add the landmarked Georgian Inn as one more example. The Georgian Inn is also part of the residential Mountain Historic District. It originally had 55 parking spaces, but the developer’s 2015 variance request received Board of Adjustment & HPC sign-off to build another parking lot in the front yard (a feature objected to by our Master Plan) to bring the total up to 69 parking spaces.

    Now the developer’s latest variance request is to add an office use. This actually brings the required number of parking spaces back down to 55 – making the front yard parking lot superfluous.

    The BA approval also allowed 5 curb cuts, one within 30’ of the intersection right of way, that also conflicts with the MP.

    It shouldn’t take too long before most of this block is rezoned C-3 and all its related character.

  7. “Redevelopment in Montclair seems like Chemtrails….something way over our heads that we don’t necessarily understand or want.”

    Way over your head maybe, I can fully appreciate its purpose, the town’s thesis and the town’s approach to the process.

  8. Maybe you didn’t get the memo, but chemtrail denial is so 20th Century. Perhaps you don’t keep up with CSPAN (understandable), but Geoengineering and Chemtrails are now in the open as public knowledge and no longer something you can use to polarize, paralyze or simply to undermine the credibility of people who happen to hold opinions that are different from your own.

  9. We are all entitled to our opinions and its not just a matter of my own personal opinion because it seems more of a what most residents and people who care think. Most of the re development work realized to date, as well as the proposals, seem unacceptable, irresponsible and anti aesthetic.

  10. @frankgg:

    “its not just a matter of my own personal opinion because it seems more of a what most residents and people who care think.”

    —first of all, it IS your personal opinion that “most residents and people who care” agree with you on this issue. you have NO empiricism to back this up. NONE.

    second, it is obnoxious for you to say that those who disagree with you do not “care.” I assume you engage in this sad, willful thinking because it makes you feel better, wrapped in your insecurity. But that does NOT make it true.

    finally, frank,

  11. No not at all jcunningham. I stand firm on my statements and beliefs. You are a just a series of anonymous comments.

  12. motion to ban frankgg from commenting. biggest muppet in new jersey.

    stop flipping commenting as if you speaking or most people, you are grossly uninformed.

  13. What a disaster this planning board meeting was. After a useless 90 minute “discussion” on how it is imperative that the bias of board members not enter into the decision making process, the meeting concluded with the following examples of non-biased, empirically driven, impartial opining. Bottom line…we are light years behind other towns when it comes to progressive parking strategies and multi-modal forms of transport. Pure Auto centric, sprawl-centric antiquated thinking on display from the planning board…and as long as these board members are around…here to stay.

    Anthony Inuale – This is not Montclair. I’d like to make one other comment and this may not sound exactly right, but I am so…I’m very tired of hearing about bicycles.

    Carmel Loughman -I agree 100%

    Anthony Inuale – It’s not going to solve disabled peoples issues. It rains it snows. It’s dangerous. People are less attentive. We are not going to solve our, whatever, issues by walking. It’s great that we provide opportunities, biking opportunities are good. But it’s being given.

    Jason D- It’s a panacea.

    Anthony Inuale – Right. And I think we need to get real here. People are going to be in cars for a while

    Carmel Loughman – I’d like to second that. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

    Martin Schwartz – (jokingly) Jerry Freid’s on the phone for you.

    Carmel Loughman – Streets are dangerous. It snows. Bad weather. It’s completely ridiculous to be promoting bikes in this town.

    Robin Schlager – I grew up in New York. I drive. But lately, with the bike lanes, it’s treacherous. Trecherous. And we have the same bike lanes here.

    Jason DeSilvo – It’s a tool. It’s a part of a fix, but I agree. So we beat the comprehensive parking study. (laughter)

  14. Keep in mind that in total, all mentions of bikes and walking made up a relatively very small portion of the study that they completely trashed. 90% of the report was dedicated to structured parking, tiered parking, leveled parking, traffic studies, parking meters, parking signage….the car related conversation went on and on. Biking and walking was mentioned in the final 3 minutes of the 90 minutes of conversation, and in roughly 2 pages of a 100 page study? So, how does something that made up such a small part of the report and so little of the conversation time, draw so much ire and disdain from the board?

    No wonder 90% of every application this board hears is spent arguing about the movement and storage of cars, traffic and parking. As long as we continue to build with a focus on cars and traffic, we will continue to have too many cars and tons of traffic.

    Our roads will be dangerous. and people will not want to spend time (outside of their cars) there. Data reveals a very clear inverse relationship between the quality of life when focus is placed on creating streets as Places for people and rather than a high speed thoroughfare or storage for cars.

    As soon as the focus shifts away from cars, people flock to the area, and the community benefits socially and economically. This is proven and so many towns are correctly moving towards streets that enable multimodal transportation and share space with people traveling on bikes and by foot. These towns will surpass Montclair as destinations as they do. The PB is misguided and outdated, borderline archaic in their thinking on the importance of walking and biking and streets as civic places that foster multimodal transportation options.

    The parking report has some flaws for sure, but it’s general ideas are sound, data driven and would serve us well. The fact that the PB trashed the report from beginning to end tells me everything I need to know about why over 50% our downtown surface area is dedicated exclusively to the movement or storage of cars. Good places for cars….Bad places for people

    It is so distressing to hear such outdated opinions

  15. No worries parkour. Planning Boards are not involved in setting parking policy, ordinances operations, or enforcement. Yes, they readily grant variances from the parking requirements, but I don’t think you have an issue with them in this regard. Only the Council has the power, supported by their Parking & Traffic Advisory Committee (PTAC). I’m assuming the PTAC is generally open to exploring many of the recommendations from the study.

    I think the PB overstepped/forgot their authority when they made all of their emotional & highly personalized comments. Hopefully, the Council will not make a referral to the PB for their formal comments on the study. The Council should just let PB members come to Council meetings and speak during public comment like the rest of us.

  16. “I stand firm on my statements and beliefs”

    —oh, frank, no one doubts this. It’s precisely the problem. you haven’t changed your opinions since the original master plan was developed before you were even born.

    “You are a just a series of anonymous comments.”

    —as opposed to you, frank, an endless series of comments that say the same thing, over and over and over again, ad nauseum…

Comments are closed.