Another Montclair Planning Board Meeting on Seymour Street – This Time It’s Traffic

BY  |  Tuesday, Jun 13, 2017 8:26am  |  COMMENTS (10)

A bird’s eye view of Seymour Street redevelopment area

The Montclair Planning Board heard testimony on the traffic study for the Seymour Street redevelopment plan for most of its four-hour meeting on June 12.  Traffic engineer John Harter testified on behalf of the applicant, the partnership between Brookfield and Pinnacle, while traffic consultant Gordon Meth tried to provide some context.

Harter told the board that, with the inevitable increase in the traffic flow, the plan should be able to mitigate the worst effects.  Seymour Street, as a two-way dead-end street cut off from Bloomfield Avenue for vehicular traffic, would provide a benefit to Seymour Street residents.  The overall traffic in Montclair Center would likely increase by about 3.5 percent, with approximately 20 additional vehicles coming from the north, 25 from the south, 35 from the east, and 20 from the west – all in peak hours in the day.  Harter said the additional traffic could be handled by changes and improvements to Bloomfield Avenue, but these improvements would obviously have to be made by the county.

Meth said that the studies were based on averages computed from the development plans for 200 apartments, 35,000 square feet of office space, and 41,000 square feet of retail.  He conservatively estimated 300 additional vehicular trips spread out over the three new parking facilities anticipated, based on the amount of retail and arts space, and he also foresaw an additional 1.5 car trips per 1,000 square feet based on the amount of office space, with one worker per 300 square feet.  He didn’t expect a great deal of transit use for offices, but he did anticipate increased pedestrian activity for the area around Seymour Street and Bloomfield Avenue.  Meth did note, that, with Seymour Street’s  vehicular connection to Bloomfield Avenue cut, traffic on Roosevelt Place would likely increase as a result of cars coming to the arts district from points west on Bloomfield Avenue (Caldwell, Verona) and points east (Newark, Bloomfield).

Harter said that the improvements to Bloomfield Avenue would include better synchronization of the traffic signals, a split phase for North and South Fullerton Avenues (North Fullerton’s light would be red awhile South Fullerton’s would be green, and vice versa) and the elimination of the light at the end of Glenridge Avenue at Bloomfield Avenue; a right-turn-only zone would replace it to allow the traffic on Bloomfield Avenue and the Fullertons to flow more freely.  Dedicated left-turn lanes on Bloomfield Avenue and North and South Willow Streets were also proposed to handle traffic coming into the arts district and turning onto South Willow Street.  For the Seymour Street plaza, a button-operated pedestrian signal would allow pedestrians to cross Bloomfield Avenue at the Plaza directly from the Midtown parking facility, which would be turned into a deck.  However, the management of traffic in Montclair Center was contingent on this plan for Bloomfield Avenue improvements being contingent on Essex County receiving a grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority later this year or in 2018.  Given the dependence on federal money for the grants at a time of austerity on domestic spending, that funding could be in grave doubt.  Board member Carmel Loughman noted, with obvious irony, that the Trump administration has called for investments in infrastructure.

Board member Jason De Salvo, noting that the placement of the light at Bloomfield Avenue, Lloyd Road and Parkhurst Place caused his own address of Prospect Avenue to become a collector avenue for people avoiding the light, was wary about Roosevelt Place possibly becoming a collector street as well, based on traffic coming in from South Fullerton Avenue and South Willow Street to access the parking near the offices and stores.  Board Chairman John Wynn was reticent about the project depending on so much work by the county that may not come to pass, and he told Harter that a “Plan B” was needed if the county’s efforts at making improvements on Bloomfield Avenue fell through due to lack of funding.

Residents had problems with all of the traffic for the arts district, especially the Wellmont Theatre, being diverted onto side streets in the immediate area and were afraid it would spill over into side streets just beyond the redevelopment zone.  Lucy Fitzgerald said that the spillover could affect Grove Street, Union Street and Gates Avenue, while Sandra Hoyer said that eliminating in the light at Glenridge and Bloomfield Avenues would immobilize traffic coming off Glenridge Avenue into Montclair Center.  And both residents expressed fear that more traffic on South Fullerton Avenue could be a danger for pedestrians near the library.

William Scott wanted to know why a study wasn’t done for all for the side streets off Bloomfield Avenue and why all three redevelopment projects were not being taken into consideration all at once. Chairman Wynn explained that applications for projects were for private land, owned be private developers, and each one was taken on a case-by-case basis – but he also noted that the buildings in the surrounding area were also considered for each project, saying that the Planning Board doesn’t consider things in a vacuum.

The board and the applicants, eager to keep the project on track, asked that they be able to return soon.  Planning Director Janice Talley scheduled a special hearing for Seymour Street on July 17, between the regularly scheduled Planning Board meetings for July.

The board also gave local contractor William Staehle an additional year to complete a project that had been approved in 2013, the renovation of the old Zimmerman heating-oil company building for his Classics Reborn remodeling business.  The board also approved a resolution for the project to redo and mechanize the Orange Road parking deck, though board member Martin Schwartz lamented that an earlier Planning Board allowed the builders of the deck to have it protrude 12 feet into the side of the street.

10 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Grover  |  June 13, 2017 @ 4:04 pm

    So there will be 200 new apartments in this development, and another 350 in the Lackawanna plaza redevelopment? And more at the old Diva lounge site? Is there truly that high of a demand? The amount of cars being introduced into this area from the apartments alone, not to mention any additional retail and arts ventures, is going to make an already congested area far worse. The county really needs to be involved at this early stage since those county roads are so important to these projects!

  2. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 13, 2017 @ 4:57 pm

    I would like to think Dunkin Donuts of NJ v. North Brunswick is important, but it’s not. Traffic is just one of those hidden, cashless costs of development. Scramble the fleet for Lackawanna.

  3. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 14, 2017 @ 12:59 pm

    What is important for the Lackawanna folks is the July 17 Planning Board review of the Seymour Street Parking Plan. Yes, Seymour Street. That parking plan will foretell how parking will be handled at Lackawanna. As the Draft Plan is written, parking for any Pig & Prince use and parking for the 20,000sf of existing vacant office (and its traffic impact) will be excluded.

  4. POSTED BY panache  |  June 14, 2017 @ 1:54 pm

    It is also important for anyone concerned about this and the Lackawanna development (these will affect Montclair residents well beyond the immediate neighborhoods) to attend the next town council meeting on June 20 at 7:00 pm and speak up during public comment. Luckily a few members of the planning board are starting to see that adding 200 apartments in the small Seymour area will overwhelm our streets and residential neighborhoods. Then 350 apartments on top of this at Lackawanna? The planning board didn’t like the sham traffic study and asked for a “plan B” for their next meeting. The only plan B is reducing the size of this development. As a speaker during public comment at the PB meeting said, this massive plan cannot fit into this site. There is a petition you can sign which has been posted on Share Montclair, among other places: http://visionmontclair.scheckel.us/

  5. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 14, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

    Yes, there is the long-shot possibility of a Plan B that includes reducing the density and providing traffic relief during the day. Both parties could agree to eliminate the 35,000 of office use. That space is of a higher risk and a lower return. At this late stage, there is very little to mitigate the Thurs-Sat evenings craziness you will see. And Plan B will also necessitate the Township foregoing some of the revenues for infrastructure improvements. Gee, didn’t see that coming. Don’t worry, though. It’s another cashless transaction.

    As the Vice Chair said about Lackawanna, the time to really impact these developments is at the Plan approval stage when allowed density is determined. Not after when the developer is submitting their building plans. For all their bluster Monday night, the PB knew or should have known when they recommended the plan that there was going to be a large traffic impact.

  6. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 14, 2017 @ 6:22 pm

    Regardless of whether they eliminate some density, the following Plan B is somewhat crude, but I think is effective and has it benefits to the adjacent residential streets.

    First, make the traffic light upgrades to the 5-Corners intersection (the Fullertons & Church St. @ Blmfld). We can’t stripe our way out of this cluster. Arrange some cost split between the County, the Township and have the developer kick in a symbolic amount. After all, the problem has existed here for a century.

    Second, the developer pays for the fully signalized pedestrian crossing at Seymour. While not a vehicle entry to the project, it is a primary pedestrian entry.

    Now the fun elements.

    Reverse the 1-way segment of Glenridge Avenue to go Eastbound to Forest St. This frees up traffic signal phasing timing, & options, for 5-Corners. If traveling up Bloomfield and the new S. Willow Deck is full, then proper signage gives driver ample notice to continue on to turn onto Glenridge and go to the new Midtown Deck.

    This next one has shock value. Make North Willow, between Glenridge and Bloomfield Av, 1-way, Southbound (towards Bloomfield Ave. Make a left turn and a right turn/straight ahead lanes. Upgrade the traffic signal if necessary now. This would be a split between the Township & the developer if the County can’t find some $. The rest of South Willow now has a fraction of the traffic off Bloomfield it has now.

  7. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 14, 2017 @ 6:34 pm

    Last sentence should say North Willow.

    The added benefit is people won’t use S Willow to get to North Willow as NW is 1-way.
    .

  8. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  June 17, 2017 @ 8:05 pm

    Factual and timing correction above Frank Rubacky.

    The Planning Board has not “recommended” any Lackawanna Plaza Plan to date.

    For the past two years, a Redevelopment sub–committee of the Board has been listening to various developer presentations and Council directions for this site — originally it was believed where the town government was to be relocated.

    Those presentations came from Pinnacle and their partner Hampshire – the party’s that own the property. However, at the last presentation to sub-committee members, along with members of the HPC in attendance who also sit on that Committee — both resident run groups had serious concerns about these latest owner-developer’s proposals – which no longer include a municipal complex at the site. That has been taken off the table it appears as the economics reportedly did not work.

    Nonetheless, the Council has now instructed it’s own hired planning consultant to now draft a redevelopment plan based on the general parameters of what the developer owner has now proposed to handle the site.

    The Board Sub-committee meets on June 20th to review that draft for the first time and to consider this redevelopment plan and other options — and then — to make a recommendation to the entire PB for it’s July 26th meeting. At that meeting, the Plan will be considered formally for the first time.

    Therefore, at these coming meetings — only now is the PB actually officially considering the Council’s new direction from the developer generated presentation — as is now ostensibly reflected in the draft redevelopment plan the entire Board was given.

    It is the Council — per the redevelopment law — that now wants the Board to weigh in on this proposed plan – so the Council can reconsider it again at it’s July meeting.

    But nothing, as you wrote above, has already been “recommended” by the Planning Board. This current plan draft is coming effectively from the Council.

  9. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 18, 2017 @ 2:22 am

    My comment was about Seymour Street.

  10. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  June 18, 2017 @ 8:57 pm

    I remember the Summer of 2016 like it was just yesterday. That is when we got back into the “that ship has sailed”.

    Again.

    Now we have the Summer of ’17 and here we go.

    Again.

    The fleet is sailing.

    Yes, this Council held their infamous Labor Day Weekend hearing. Baskerville had a straight face. Hurlock had a straight face. Russo. Anyway, I digress.

    Bless the 4th Ward as they will get what they want. Sadly.

    I unfortunately get further proof that historic preservation – as public policy – has gone the way of the calculator.

    And, most of all, the voters realized the vision: “whatever goes there will be better than what’s there now.”

    I am really happy for those serving on the Planning Board for all their efforts. It will be remembered 50 years from now.

    Martin, you are right. You haven’t weighed in “officially”, in public, and….it doesn’t make a difference. You guys are sooo irrelevant. We’ll let you work on the thankless stuff, but irrelevant when it comes to the important things. Sound familiar?

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