Bloomfield Council Increases Westinghouse Area for Planning Board Redevelopment Assessment

The Bloomfield Council passed a resolution Monday evening authorizing the Planning Board to “refine its investigation” for redevelopment of the former Westinghouse site to include an additional area along Arlington Avenue.

The resolution further directs the Planning Board to hold a public hearing to present its recommendations regarding the property. Once completed, the Board shall transmit its final recommendation to the Mayor and Council as to whether the designated site, or any part of it, should be designated an “Area in Need of Redevelopment.”

The resolution passed 5-0, with two council representatives absent (Councilmen Pomares and Bernard)

Original Westinghouse buildings in center/right of map.
Photo Credit: Bloomfield Historical Society, The New Town Crier, May 2004.
Scope of redevelopment area indicated in resolution.

The former Westinghouse plant was used during World War II as part of the Manhattan project, refining uranium for use in the atomic bomb, and also worked with thorium and other materials on the site until 1984, resulting in longstanding contamination from both radioactive and volatile organic compounds.

As part of the remediation of the contaminated property, all buildings were razed and contaminants removed or capped between 1994 and 2004. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a letter finding no further action was needed for the site before releasing it for unrestricted use in 2003, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection disagreed with the assessment due to residual groundwater contamination. The NJDEP eventually sued Viacom, demanding compensation for costs associated with cleanup and continued monitoring of the groundwater.

The site is currently zoned as a Commuter Oriented Residential District (CORD) in Bloomfield’s Master Plan, which would include a mix of residential and commercial uses, but could also include professional offices, health clubs or open space. A 2012 study done on the entire area surrounding Watsessing Station provides more information.

Township Planning Director Bonnie Flynn, reached by email, explained that designating the site as an “Area in Need of Redevelopment” is the first step towards formulating a development plan for the site. “The Planning Board (with its consultant) is doing the redevelopment study and the redevelopment plan would come after that…after it is deemed to be in an area in need of redevelopment,” she stated.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Mayor and Council issued a proclamation honoring members of Greener Bloomfield for their efforts on behalf of the town in achieving Sustainable New Jersey’s Bronze Level of Certification. The proclamation stated Bloomfield is one of just 160 New Jersey towns to achieve the Bronze level.

Mayor Venezia (left) presents proclamation to Greener Bloomfield members.

Other Business

The council passed on second reading an amendment to Article IX, Streetscapes, which adds a paragraph requiring that any new streetscape projects “shall incorporate the use of structural soils in all planting areas such as tree pits and landscaped islands to promote the growth and establishment of the plantings.” The plans will be subject to approval by the Township Engineer and Township Forester.

Tracy Jones was appointed as a full-time clerk in the Tax and Water Department, and Michelina Cerona was appointed as a school crossing guard.

The council also approved the hiring of a part-time kennel assistant for the Bloomfield Animal Shelter (Melissa Johnson), and a clerk for the Building Department (Keshia Sessoms).

Consultants were hired for architectural services pertaining to the Bloomfield Train Station (DMR Architects) and the historic Collins House (Fused Studios). In addition, a consultant was hired to perform services for the Bloomfield Parking Utility.

Metro Real Estate Development Corporation was designated the developer for the former Royal Theater parking lot.

The next council meeting will be a conference meeting to be held on November 13, 2017 at 7 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room of the Law Enforcement Building.

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