Montclair Planning Board Considers New Apartment Building For Church Site

BY  |  Tuesday, Sep 13, 2016 9:10am  |  COMMENTS (36)

The Montclair Planning Board met on September 12 to consider another application in the Eastern Gateway redevelopment area for a new mixed-use building to replace Mount Carmel Holy Church.  Although it’s not to be confused with Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Pine Street,  Mount Carmel Holy Church, its address now designated as 147-155 Bloomfield Avenue, did actually face Pine Street before that street was rerouted in the eighties;  the current front façade is in fact the church’s original side.

An artist's rendering of the Vestry mixed-use building on Bloomfield Avenue, from the southeast corner.

An artist’s rendering of the Vestry mixed-use building on Bloomfield Avenue, from the southeast corner.

Developer David Genova presented the plan for new apartment building with a retail shop at ground level with help from his attorney Neal Zimmerman and testimony from architect Paul Sionas, one of five witnesses scheduled to testify who, due to time constraints, ended up being the only witness called.  Sionas offered details of the five-story building – to be called the Vestry in recognition of the property’s current use for a church – in a PowerPoint presentation before the board and residents from the Eastern Gateway area.   The building is similar to developer Richard Polton’s Montclarion II apartment building, also designed by Sionas, currently under construction in the adjacent property.

The building is L-shaped, with a small parking area adjacent to the eastern side of the main building along Bloomfield Avenue and also fronting the eastern wing.  Sionas explained the tine intent of the design was to allow deeper penetration of interior light into the building and to pull it away from Montclarion II, and also to allow ease of traffic coming in and out. Most of the parking is on the ground-floor level behind the 1,628-sqaure-foot retail space, with a total of 47 spaces for 46 housing units, two of them Zipcar spaces.  Genova anticipates that not everyone who rents an apartment in the Vestry will need have a car of their own.   A rear path would connect the building with Pine Street and the Bay Street railway station.

The second through fourth floors would contain a total of 39 units, with each floor having two studio units, seven single-bedroom units, three two-bedroom units, and one three-bedroom unit, in addition to each floor containing four rentable storage units. The fifth floor would have seven units, including a 3-bedroom apartment with an outdoor terrace, plus a multipurpose room for al l of the tenants’ use.  Eight units – three three-bedroom units,  3 two-bedroom units, and two studio apartments – would be set aside as affordable housing.

An artist's rendering of the Vestry mixed-use building from the southwest corner.

An artist’s rendering of the Vestry mixed-use building from the southwest corner.

The design features a façade of expansive glass windows separated by brick pilasters.   A glass tower in the southeast corner of the main wing hoses a stairwell, with aluminum and glass entrances for the retail and residential access.  The fifth floor is set back from the faced with an open-roof terrace, while the recessed eastern wing features a saw tooth roof design on the fifth floor.   The saw tooth design, Sionas explained, breaks up the monotony of a flat roof while providing higher ceilings at the top of that part of the building.  A monument sign, buffered by trees and shrubbery would sit at the southeast corner to shield parking spaces and a transformer box from Bloomfield Avenue.

The requests for variances, deviations, and waivers were numerous.  Among the requests was a variance to allow a 17.2-foot setback instead of the 20-foot setback required by the redevelopment plan to adjoin with the Montclarion II building and provide more open space.  Also, the redevelopment plan calls for at least 25 percent of the rooftop to be used for open space; Sionas called for a variance to allow 20.4 percent of rooftop are for outdoor space to allow the multipurpose room.   A variance was also requested to allow the monument sign, six feet tall, to allow screening of the transformer and parking spaces.  One request for relief concerned Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) certification for a silver rating.  Sionas said he intended for the Vestry to be a green project, with high-efficiency windows and an electrical system as well as bicycle racks, but he said that Genova chose instead to defer this and work with the township to achieve the equivalent of silver certification because Genova felt that township understood the area and the needs of the project better than the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).  The council would work with a consultant, paid for by the developer.

Here, Board Vice Chair Jason De Salvo was perplexed by this, saying that a consultant deeming the building fit for LEED silver certification without actually getting it certified. Board Chairman John Wynn asked for the reason for that.  Zimmerman said they were looking for an “absence of arbitrariness” from the USGBC.  De Salvo replied that the USGBC is no less arbitrary than a consultant, and he noted that, if the LEED fee was an issue, it was nominal.

“There’s almost no cost savings as you lose all the benefit, because we’re going to hold you to exactly the same standard,” he said.

Residents asked about the feasibility of the project.  Local resident Alton Fortner noted the amount of sinkholes in the area, and Sionas said that soil tests would be conducted before any construction began.  Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, who had been a council liaison to the Planning Board with Mayor Jerry Fried and who also opposed the change of density rules in the redevelopment plan that allowed the Vestry application to go forward, conceded that Sionas did a fabulous job with his design.  However, she asked if parking access could have been provided from behind.  Sionas said that such an option was not doable.  When Haywood Woods, who is a resident of the Montclair Mews condominium complex adjacent to the church property, resident, asked how people with two or more cars could possibly park in the spaces provided, Wynn said that anyone with the option of renting an apartment that offered fewer parking spaces than needed would likely not do so.  Woods was skeptical, citing the autocentric nature of New Jersey that required even people who commuted to their jobs by public transit still needed cars for other trips.    The board also addressed the additional retail space in a town glutted with vacant stores, saying that high rents and plans to combine retail space contributed to the vacancies, and De Salvo said that any retail space could be leased immediately at the right price.

The one resolution on the Planning Board’s agenda, which would have allowed Steven Plofker’s Glen Willow project on the southeast corner of Glenridge Avenue and North Willow Street  to go through, was tabled.   Board attorney Arthur Neiss told Baristanet that, right now, the resolution is unclear about preserving the benefit of public parking in the project for local businesses and their customers.  The project would eliminate the current lot there and provide fewer parking spaces, and Neiss has to redraft the language of the resolution to ensure that the benefit is preserved.  A half-hour debate on the resolution as currently worded had proven to be futile. As for the Vestry project,  it will be taken up again at the Planning Board’s November 7 meeting.

36 Comments

  1. POSTED BY parkour  |  September 13, 2016 @ 10:20 am

    As talked about in other threads, another example of Montclair heading in a better and denser living arrangement. Another 46 units being build on a spot where there was nothing but an empty and ugly surface parking lot outside a closed dilapidated church. Add more bodies…add more retail..join the Montclairon II in extending the street wall further west. Let a developer with a sound record in town in Sions do the work…all is good and the revitalization continues.

  2. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 13, 2016 @ 10:36 am

    Parkour,

    Per my point in the bike thread about right of way (ROW), this project will – based on the rendering – require another County release of the ROW reservation. The reservation right provides the option to widen the ROW to include pedestrian/bicycle amenities. It is the same release the Montclairion II received and the Lackawanna Redevelopment Area will likely receive.

    If one advocates for a Complete Streets being applied one day to Bloomfield Avenue, giving this up space effectively reduces that option. Yes, there are other, lesser alternatives, but something to be aware of when this is approved.

  3. POSTED BY townie  |  September 13, 2016 @ 11:27 am

    Funny that the car ownership patterns of the hypothetical residents of these projects are so dissimilar compared with the patterns of current residents.

  4. POSTED BY frankgg  |  September 13, 2016 @ 11:32 am

    Paul Sionas is an excellent Montclair architect who has done very good design work in town consistently for decades. I believe and trust in his vision. I’m so glad he’s designing the Georgian Inn hotel its going to be such a great place!

  5. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 13, 2016 @ 11:48 am

    Good point townie. The zip car impact is not yet fully understood or researched.
    Our Shared Parking Plans assume Affordable Housing residents will use Zip Cars. That is debatable. If they don’t, then the effective number of parking spaces to market-rate units is around 0.8/dwelling unit. Quite a bit below our non-redevelopment requirement of around 1.4-1.8. Let’s call it 50% below. And the Parking Study said what?

  6. POSTED BY montclairgal  |  September 13, 2016 @ 12:54 pm

    As a long time Montclair resident I love to see new and positive progress being made in terms of housing and retail. Mr. Genova, along with Paul Sionas have developed a beautiful building in place of, as Parkour mentioned, an ugly parking lot on one of our busiest streets. The elements of tradition are seen in the brick structure, but the modern addition of metal and glass will allow this building to transition with future of downtown Montclair. I love the idea of adding affordable housing and allowing ALL residents the use of beautiful and well appointed apartments, common areas and Zip Cars. With the influx of New Yorkers heading to the burbs I think a lot more couples will opt for 1 car and the use of Zip Cars will continue to grow- we just don’t need as much when things are so close! The approval of this building, will, I hope; inspire more growth in an area that truly needs it. I think it is a bold, inspired, and courageous move on the part of Mr. Genova and his team to place so much trust in the continued growth and redevelopment of Montclairs’ urban area. Additionally, per Mr. DeSalvo’s comment, any retail area in Montclair is snapped up quickly, especially retail with Bloomfield Ave exposure, located within walking distance of the Bay St train station and DeCamp/NJ Transit buses. I think, this development, along with Montclairian 2 will add new life to an area often overlooked. I look forward to the day this redevelopment can be set in motion!

  7. POSTED BY redrum  |  September 13, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

    There is not nearly enough parking provided for this project. RSIS standards would require 87 parking spaces for this building’s particular bedroom distribution. Only 47 are provided, less two zipcar spots, is only 45 spaces for residents.

    The notion that developers keep pushing out that residents will live without cars is pretty laughable, same for the idea that low income residents don’t have cars. This is New Jersey, and there isn’t even a grocery store within walking distance of this location. Even if a resident works in the city, they still need a car to get around. This project is a little overbuilt for the site – a few less apartments, and a few more parking spaces.

  8. POSTED BY parkour  |  September 13, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

    “The notion that developers keep pushing out that residents will live without cars is pretty laughable”

    While it may seem laughable now, and in direct contrast to the nationwide auto orgy we have experienced the last 60 years in our country, there are places in the world, in our country, and yes, evening Montclair where there does need to be 2-3 cars per household.

    The idea for this development is not that no one will need cars as you say, there is one spot for each dwelling, and while it may seem inconceivable to many that any family could survive without 2-3 cars per household, many do not feel that way. I do not even live in the core downtown and I and my family of four share one car. The people who will be attracted to and pursuing this living arrangement will not the one car allowance. People who cannot live that life style will not apply.

    The auto centric coding that we have had to endure for so long, and the 87 parking spaces you suggest are needed here is exactly what ruined downtown and cities since 1950. That is the parking minimum coding that gave us the wasteful and desolate expanse of Lackawanna parking lot….and every dead zone in our downtown can be attributed to the surface parking mandates of previous decades.

    Montclair has finally realized that the only way to maintain an aesthetically pleasing, vibrant and pedestrian friendly streetscape is to reduce the parking requirements and bury whatever parking will be provided underneath and out of site. Parking is ugly, wastefut environmentally unfriendly and detrimental to any downtown or city center. To be honest, it is ugly and wasteful wherever it is placed but has way less of negative impact if it is placed out on Route 46 in the big box arterial slums of exurbia.

    The bottom line is that this is across the street from a 33 minute direct train to NYC. You can still have one car and there is also zip cars for those who have no car. IN the coming years there will be a supermarket in walking distance at Lackawanna Plaza. A car-free or at least car-reduced lifestyle is possible in Montclair, and if that is not for you, just don’t live there and instead inhabit the other 99.999999999 percent of our country that is built entirely around and entirely dependent on the car.

  9. POSTED BY montclairskier  |  September 13, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

    It’s a beautiful building in an area that really needs it. It’s a shame the mews ever got built next door. The less gaps in the retail wall along Bloomfield Ave, the better. As to parking, the mass influx of people we’re seeing into Montclair right now are largely coming from Brooklyn. They’re coming here for the transit. With mostly 1- and 2-bedroom units, one space per unit seems perfectly appropriate in a location so close to the train station. Uber has changed the way people live in the suburbs. Open the app and look how many are available in town at any given time. With Uber and trains many people don’t even need a car anymore.

  10. POSTED BY redrum  |  September 13, 2016 @ 3:25 pm

    Parkour, I think you’re idealizing the kumbaya mentality that Montclair is this utopian society where no one needs cars. That’s not the case. There aren’t even enough parking spaces provided for each apartment – they are 1 short due to the zipcars. The 10 Pine/adjacent Montclarion, 11 Pine (Bay St. Residences) and 50 Pine (Montclair Mews Condos) are all short on parking. The Bay Street deck has a 5 year wait list. The Lackawanna lot appears underutilized because the property itself is underutilized. Not to mention, this will probably be built and everyone moved in long before a new grocery store ever moves into Lackawanna. We’re a household of two with two cars, and many guest cars. Maybe we’re car people – I’d image the bulk of Montclair is. Yes, parking is ugly and takes up space, but its necessary in a suburban setting.

    As a side note, don’t drink NJT’s koolaid that the Midtown Direct is a half hour into Penn. Peak inbound is solid hour these days, but that’s a separate digression.

  11. POSTED BY parkour  |  September 13, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

    “Parkour, I think you’re idealizing the kumbaya mentality that Montclair is this utopian society where no one needs cars.” – redeem

    no redrum…I have never said that Montclair is a town where “no one needs cars”. In fact, I specifically said that 99.99999999 of our society, less so in Montclair, but still most of Montclair is still a car oriented town and requires 2 cars per household for most.

    What I am saying is that in this particular part of town, immediately along the main commercial strip, and less than 100 yards from the train station, and well within walking distance to eventual food shopping and entertainment, a one car per household lifestyle is possible, and in some cases, young single people inhabiting studios can easily survive without a car and easily meet their driving needs through zip car and uber. There will probably be some residents who require two spaces, and some will require none so it will balance out despite the one parking space shortage you sited above.

    I agree that a car per person is necessary in a typical “suburban setting” as you say, but this particular location is more urban than suburban in it’s density, walkability and proximity to public transit.

    p.s. In terms of trains times, I said 33 minutes, not 30. Secondly, I don’t know where you are coming from, and maybe from Mountain Ave to Penn during dead peak might push 55 minutes, I wouldn’t know, but…this building is proposed Bay Street so I was referring to that ride time.
    I ride to Penn every morning from Bay St and my ride averages between 33 and 36 minutes during off-peak and 40 during peak. Never has it taken an hour…not once.

  12. POSTED BY 3rdwarder  |  September 13, 2016 @ 6:36 pm

    The building is gorgeous, and one car per unit will be fine. From what it sounds like the building is heavily populated with studios and one bedrooms. Getting a retailer down there may be a different story, but I’d think it’s doable. Let’s hope this gets built!

  13. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 13, 2016 @ 7:19 pm

    I am also fine with a building of this scale. As a matter of fact, I would accept a 6-story bldg here in place of giving up the ROW reservation. It is really a very, very poor land use decision.

    The parking is adequate, but would just put a stake in the ground with the owner & residents: on-street parking for guests is not something he should count on beyond the next 5 years.

    The important takeaway here is the opponents of the Parking Study, with the right hand criticize, and with their left hand do exactly what the Parking Study recommends. It is just so gosh darn fascinating to watch.

  14. POSTED BY montmike  |  September 14, 2016 @ 2:25 pm

    Glad to see that approximately 20% of the units will be affordable housing.

  15. POSTED BY frankgg  |  September 15, 2016 @ 9:40 am

    https://1.bp.blogspot.com/_PnCPTb2jz6w/TN_Gc8YFBvI/AAAAAAAAAJs/NHrJv4GJIlE/s1600/Reiss+store+facade+acrylic.png

    https://ad009cdnb.archdaily.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/1289535220-taiwan-conceptual-tower-ooda-ooiio-01.jpg

    I love the design and think it would look fabulous if the glass skinned element were even more tall and pronounced, like a glass spire….an element that recalls a “church tower” and addresses the view of the NYC skyline. It would look so cool if it would glow at night!

  16. POSTED BY therealworld  |  September 15, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

    That glass insertion tower could either look totally cool..or totally out of place compared to the 1930’s industrial utility building feel accompanying.

    It will be interesting to hear what the Historic Preservation Commission has to say since I think this location is in the town’s downtown commercial historic. Also, there are older neighborhood commercial and residential buildings right across the street.

  17. POSTED BY spotontarget  |  September 15, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

    For all you 20% affordable housing fans, do you understand that it’s not just developers who have to subsidize and pay. Local taxpayer’s pick up the subsidy-deficit tab too.

    If there are 10 new kids from outside the township not already in the school system, the yearly tax cost is $195,000 per year. Against school tax revenues collected on say 5 affordable condo units of only like $10,000-12,500.

    So think economic impacts too when you jump to support all progressive social policies. There is no free lunch and that is still the one constant economic law that will not change.

    Montclair was already it’s way to going broke before from excessive debt taken on during the early 2000’s. We were lost in a nirvana, no fiscal reality bonding dream taking on everything that everyone wanted to do. Municipal and school system budgets jumped exponentially as did local taxes.

    It would not be wise to go there again.

  18. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 15, 2016 @ 8:22 pm

    The sawtooth roof design is just weird. Look at the two renderings. They go perpendicular to each other. I do wonder what is the proposed roofing material. I can just see the ice/snow accumulating in the 2nd rendering (north/south orientation). I admit I don’t understand the current preoccupation with creating a factory motif where none existed. Yes, it will be interesting to see the HPC’s consensus POV.

  19. POSTED BY nonfatwithwhip  |  September 15, 2016 @ 9:50 pm

    You guys don’t appear to be familiar with how things go in “the projects”. In the projects, there’s at least 3 cars per apartment. Look no further than Otto Kretchmer Towers in Newark and the issues they have with residential parking. See also the study done on parking space allotments in Mount Prospect Village in Newark. I’ve known people who live in one section 8 apartment and have 7 cars parked outside. You can look at some of the low income apartment complexes here in town, and you will find that not only do the two older children have cars parked on the street (because Mom’s one parking space is used by her car), but Auntie and her boyfriend have a car that they park on a residential side-street in front of someone’s house. NYCHA has major issues with residential parking, permits and an overabundance of cars. And, NYC is not car friendly. In New Jersey the situation is much worse. So, residents (on and off the record/housing contract) will be parking in the surrounding neighborhood and on residential streets in a 2 block radius.

  20. POSTED BY jcunningham  |  September 16, 2016 @ 11:09 pm

    “You guys don’t appear to be familiar with how things go in ‘the projects'”

    —perhaps, but at least “we” have the good grace not to proudly parade our ignorance around like you, nfw…

  21. POSTED BY dan tanna  |  September 16, 2016 @ 11:15 pm

    There has never been an era that has produced such awful architecture as this one. This building is ugly as sin.

  22. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  September 17, 2016 @ 5:16 am

    dan tanna,there are great buildings being designed and built right now, all over the world. There are new ways to integrate landscape and architecture that are exhilarating, and the focus on environmental stewardship as part of the design process is exemplary. The best current designs employ form, texture, materials, light, shadow, assembly of parts, and public space in refreshing and inspired ways. Here in the USA, some great work is coming from architects practicing in the Pacific Northwest. However, on the other hand, I’d say the 1980s were the true nadir in the profession- the era of ‘postmodernism’ – a.k.a. buffoonish, garish stage sets replete with silly shapes, rendered in a cartoonish manner, and detailed as if it doesn’t rain, brought out into the weather to leak and delaminate. The sooner those buildings get retrofitted to current thinking, the better.

  23. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 17, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

    Yeah, yeah yeah. The architecture profession takes the hit for this and the trend you speak of. What I’m trying to understand, historically, is when architects, as a profession, decided dwelling unit buildings needed to look like anything but a dwelling building?

    The retail component in this building, like most in our Master Plan and before the PB/Council, have very tiny commercial footprints. On the order of less than 10% of the total. Think of the Seymour Street Red Redevelopment Area.

    Yet, we revere the working class, factory design of automotive plants as some sign we are advanced beyond every other town with Superfund sites. West Orange has a lock, County-wise, on the factory design motif (e.g. Edison Village). Maybe Montclair could have something unique instead of the Sear’s Home Kit. I like the Sear’s Home Kit housing and I would not be embarrassed to live in it.

  24. POSTED BY redrum  |  September 19, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

    I think we can all agree that the 80’s was a decade not worth repeating. Architecture, big hair, acid washed jeans, whatever.

  25. POSTED BY frankgg  |  September 19, 2016 @ 5:27 pm

    Thank you for bringing up the point of the real parking reality, nonfatwithwhip. Your chararacterization of what possibly will happen regarding the parking situation is why the planners, in my opinion, don’t want to show us any parking or traffic studies. They’re going to have to re built and supersize infrastructures…and guess who is going to have to pay for that!

  26. POSTED BY maureenedelson  |  September 19, 2016 @ 7:07 pm

    So, Spot On, providing affordable housing at the 20% level, if it’s occupied by newcomers to Montclair, actually makes housing LESS AFFORDABLE for those already living here?

  27. POSTED BY elcamino  |  September 19, 2016 @ 10:58 pm

    The affordable housing mandate may not make other housing less affordable, but it probably reduces tax revenue compared to case without mandate since the taxable value of the building is lower if rents on 20 percent of units (or any) are below market.

  28. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 20, 2016 @ 6:41 am

    So the point would be that subsidies take tax revenues?

  29. POSTED BY elcamino  |  September 20, 2016 @ 11:48 am

    Is affordable housing subsidized by Town? If so, that is a direct cost to taxpayers. I was pointing out an indirect cost via lower property value.

  30. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 20, 2016 @ 2:07 pm

    “Is affordable housing subsidized by Town?”

    I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. I believe the local tax levy set by the township is the same for all dwelling units. The State sets the property value and specifics, via COAH, how many units we need to have. If we choose to go over this requirement, then maybe, yes.

    I do wonder if it is an opportunity cost versus an indirect cost – or neither. Does NYC consider rent control an indirect cost or a subsidy? Can charter school funding be a contra cost?

    I would think the proposed Workforce Housing would be a Township subsidy situation, but I don’t know what that ordinance would look like.

  31. POSTED BY maureenedelson  |  September 20, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

    My perspective is similar to elcamino’s, I think. Do COAH laws artificially reduce the value of x number of properties? Then, the tax burden of n-x properties goes up in order to meet the same total dollar tax burden in town, where n is all taxable properties. The tax burden is shifted to those owners who are live in market-rate housing. Those in affordable housing pay less than their ‘fair share’ of the cost of supporting town functions. Based on my surveys this spring, the biggest issue in town, especially among seniors, is the affordability or unaffordability of the tax burden. We might remember the ‘charity begins at home’ adage.

    I wonder, if the 3-bedroom unit with terrace will be ‘affordable,’ which lucky winner will live there?

  32. POSTED BY redrum  |  September 20, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

    The tax rate is the same for AH units (owned, not rented) but their taxes are much lower due to a lower assessed property valuation. For example, a 3 bedroom affordable housing property pays about $1800 each year in property taxes.

    In the case of this particular building, since it is one tax lot, the taxes are based upon the total valuation of the entire structure and not individual rental units.

  33. POSTED BY maureenedelson  |  September 20, 2016 @ 5:55 pm

    Fascinating, redrum. Thank you so much! Your name though…should I be concerned?

  34. POSTED BY spotontarget  |  September 20, 2016 @ 9:45 pm

    Yes, Maureen Edelson, that is correct. What’s incredible is that almost no one here advocating more affordable housing knows the economics behind it and those that do, run for the hills and never want to talk about it.

    I believe the economic concept is that the tax rate is the same but with lower assessed housing values there is a marked decrease in collected tax revenue. Therefore everyone else has to pay more to compensate. Is that a free lunch? No. It’s still a taxpayer subsidy by any other name.

    Why are A.H. economics so problematic? Because each new child in the school here costs the town $19,500. So three kids from a new family coming to town and moving into a 3 bedroom affordable unit or a house: the real deal yearly tax cost is $58,500 just on the school side. Yet, the real estate taxes taken in from that affordable unit for schools are only around 2000-$2,500.

    So you do the math. With 20 new units or houses generated and say 60 new kids, there would be a very large tax revenue deficiency created every year. Yes, new taxes from other units in new redevelopment projects will off-set that. But there is still a large school tax deficit from new affordable housing proposed if lots more school age kids come to town as a result.

    However, instead of actually discussing these economics so everyone sees the issue, some on the Council just want to pivot away. They want the 20% affordable mandate turned into partial workforce and senior housing option. They are now using the legal COAH limbo to help avoid the direct conversation about taxpayer subsidies to set up fewer new kids from outside the district being allowed.

    Why won’t anyone deal with the real potential tax subsidies required openly? Because that topic raises racial and class issues given who everyone knows will be the prime beneficiary of most new affordable units – African Americans. No politician wants to be put in a position of saying we don’t want more kids from outside of Montclair coming because that’s effectively saying we don’t want to bring in any more low-income outside African American kids.

    So instead, we have discussions about reducing the 20% quota and turning a percentage of that into needed workforce and senior housing…less about families and kids. Get it?

    In contrast, is the co-chair of the Montclair Housing Commission? She stands up at a Council hearing and says we need more affordable housing to help all this areas working class families. And then there is silence. No one wants to deal.

    Bottom line: members of the Montclair Housing Commission and some politicians here don’t bother to find out any of the economics behind their social advocacy. They believe, or want to believe, that there is absolutely no cost to local taxpayers. Only that big bad greedy developers have to pay to create all these units.

    Call this the ‘social justice model’ of Affordable Housing advocacy. And yet, it actually does have a direct reverse impact. It counter-intuitively only further reduces the racial and economic diversity we already have here now. How? As taxes go up for all others to compensate, those with less means who can’t afford to stay and maintain their homes — are now the first to leave.

    Sure enough, the last 2010 census showed a very significant loss of African-Americans from 2000, while there were more than double digit tax increases at the time to accompany the demographic shift. Surely we can speculate that higher taxes were one major factor behind that exodus. It’s common sense, especially for long-time 4th ward working class families when their parents retired. Even those who were willing to pass homes on to their kids as long as they could get some kind of mortgage back allowing them to downsize and move – they still couldn’t make it work. Why? Because the kids couldn’t cover the monthly nut still given the much higher Montclair taxes. So the house got sold off instead of being potentially passed down to kids who lived here before and now had a new family and tried to remain. It didn’t happen.

    That will only continue as taxes continue to rise.

    Some on the Council understand these economics and diversity pressures, but won’t discuss them openly. Conversely, the Planning Board says back to the Council effectively, nope, this is your problem. You voted the 20% mandate as township law. Now deal with it for all these new redevelopment projects.

    Result: bring on the new workforce and affordable senior housing plan instead.

  35. POSTED BY townie  |  September 21, 2016 @ 9:11 am

    There are three types of affordable housing ongoing in Montclair. There is official affordable housing built by developers, these days mostly as part of larger projects. There are illegal apartments, which the township quietly allows and which are affordable because they are typically small and cramped, often a converted attic. And there are homes with small or no mortgages that have been in families for generations.

    The township promotes official AH and permits illegal apartments through total non enforcement. The 3rd, homes more or less owned outright for generations and then sold due to high taxes and the high general cost of living in NJ, are table stakes. There is nothing meaningful to be done about our taxes which are fixed at USA-leading levels.

    As for subsidizing students, I’d guess most in the school system are subsidized. What % of our RE taxes go to the schools? Say it is 75%. Take the $19.5K number mentioned above, if you pay < $26,000 in RE taxes and have more than one child in a public school, kids 2, 3, 4 etc are 100% subsidized. If you pay less, child #1 is also subsidized, more so for those in AH units. To analyze the cost of AH, I think it boils down to some percentage of the cost of providing education to the first child in the school system.

    I say don't do the math. It's okay with me. Death and taxes, I get it. Meanwhile government's tools are so crude that efforts amount to little more than lip service.

    The problem I have with official AH is that it is not local. The rules require the units be made available to qualifying folks outside Montclair. Official AH is a recipe for maintaining a generic economic diversity. Second and third and fourth generation Montclairians who might want to stay in our town lose out on these units to people with no previous connection to Montclair.

  36. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 21, 2016 @ 10:58 am

    I agree Townie, but I also think everyone who bought here for the public schools knows this.
    Affordable Housing is a relatively small part of the subsidy as your numbers suggest. I think you are adding the emphasis that needs to be restated every so often.

    Putting AH aside for the bigger issue, but one the voters have already addressed, is that none of the redevelopment taxes (actually, payments in lieu of) goes to the MPS. So, the last 5 redevelopment projects (Siena, V&B, MII, Vestry, Seymour) will add over a 1,000 new residents of which approximately 35-45 will be school age children. Whatever the number, these children will be subsidized 100%. The $800,000 will be made up elsewhere from new & existing taxpayers. So, I agree the 10% AH component is not a majority driver for the school subsidy agreement against AH.

    While it would be good if some part of the AH is set aside for existing residents, the fact is most current residents had no previous connection to Montclair and arrived once they started a family and many will leave once they no longer need the MPS. It is also just a different economic era than our parents and grandparents.

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