Vice Chairman Jason DeSalvo expressed concerns about vacant storefronts during Monday evening’s brief Montclair Planning Board meeting.
The Board continued the discussion of the Montclair Master Plan re-examination, which was broached at last month’s meeting.
At that time, Planning Director Janice Talley had explained that the purpose of a re-examination is to review the land use policies and development regulations, and prepare a plan of action for the next 10 years based on that review, a process that is required to be done every ten years.
At the July meeting, “point persons” were chosen from the Board members to assess each element of the Master Plan, including Housing, Land Use, Historic Preservation, Transportation, and Economic Development, as well as addressing zoning issues.
At Monday’s meeting, the Board members had an opportunity to bring up questions and issues pertaining to their specific areas of concentration.
Vice Chairman Jason DeSalvo, who had volunteered to address the Economic Development element, said that vacant storefronts on Bloomfield Avenue are a major concern. He said he had taken a long walk, starting at the South side of Bloomfield Avenue by the Montclair Art Museum, all the way down to Lackawanna Plaza, and then returned via the North side of the street.
He made an informal survey and counted 169 storefronts altogether, 123 of which were occupied, and 46 that were unoccupied, resulting in a 27% vacancy rate. He said the occupied storefronts included those that advertised specific retailers as “coming soon.” He stated the western portions of Bloomfield Avenue after Park Street had a higher vacancy rate than the remainder of the area he examined.
Director Talley said she would look into the ownership of the vacant properties to delve into more detail. Chairman John Wynn questioned whether size of the storefronts could be a factor, which DeSalvo said could be the case, as a number of the vacant properties are small. Talley said it could be a situation involving a developer interested in assembling land. She told DeSalvo to let her know if he needed further resources for his examination.
Board member Carmel Loughman, who is the point person for the Housing element, stated she had a meeting scheduled with the Housing Commissioner to obtain input.
Martin Schwartz reported that changes to the traffic light at South Fullerton Avenue are moving ahead. The county will provide three options for the proposed modifications. The ultimate modifications must tie in holistically with the Seymour Street redevelopment area.
The goal for the Master Plan re-examination is to have all recommendations provided to Carole Willis by the next Planning Board meeting on September 12, when they will work to prepare a draft report to be ready by September 26 for discussion.
The Board finished the meeting with some housekeeping, voting unanimously to pay a number of invoices before adjourning just after 8 p.m.