One Greenwood, LLC and A Better Lackawanna, LLC (plaintiffs) filed a complaint Friday (Docket ESX-L-4595-19) against the Montclair Planning Board and the Township of Montclair (the defendants) regarding their approval of the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment application.
In the complaint, One Greenwood, LLC and A Better Lackawanna, LLC (“described as an entity consisting of concerned residents of Montclair, Montclair tax payers, and historic preservationists, many of whom are individual named Plaintiffs, including managing member Caroline Kane Levy”) assert that the defendants “not only ignored recommendations of the Historic Preservation Commission, but ignored the evidence presented and its own factual findings by failing to fully maintain this locally protected historic site from demolition, when alternative sit plans were presented to both maintain the site and accomplish the applicant’s goal for obtaining a supermarket tenant in this location.”
The complaint cites the discrepancy between the original plan of a proposed supermarket of 47,000 square feet and the announcement, near the end of the application process, of a proposed tenant, a Lidl supermarket at 29,000 square feet, as a “contradiction and violation of the original plan.”
The complaint also alleges a conflict of interest with regard to Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager’s involvement in the process, as council’s appointee to the Planning Board. The complaint cites that Schlager, immediately prior to the Defendants’ vote, recused herself from the proceeding.
The plaintiffs are demanding judgement against the defendants as follows:
A. Reversing the determination of Defendant, Montclair Township Planning Board;
B. Denying Lackawanna Office, LLC’s application for site plan approval;
C. For counsel fees, interest and costs of suit; and
D. For such other relief that the Court may find to be just and equitable under the
Priscilla Eshelman, one of the residents named as an individual plaintiff, gave a statement Friday regarding the Lackawanna Plaza complaint:
“The way the Planning Board handled this application was disgraceful and demands an appeal. There seems to have been a concerted effort to marginalize public opposition as if only historic preservation was an issue, while completely discounting pushback on obvious negative impacts on the neighborhood. The lack of transparency regarding privatizing the public domain is outrageous. We want safety, quality of life, and a supermarket with adequate parking, and this plan has none of that. We have documented dozens of procedural irregularities, any one of which could require a new plan. We will continue to educate our friends and neighbors about our objections to the review and approval process of this application. We welcome all who want to join our suit. Democracy is not a spectator sport; we need the community behind us.”
“We have dozens of additional supporters who have asked to be plaintiffs and we expect this number to grow substantially,” Eshelman added.
Eshelman was the organizer of a recent tour and discussion of the Lackawanna site and concerns about its future.
The push to save Montclair’s Lackawanna Train Terminal recently got support from Preservation NJ when the site made the 2019 List of 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in NJ.
The complaint cites Lackawanna Plaza Rail Station, as a “key” building in the Town Center Historic District and as being listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
In May, on the Lackwanna site walking tour, Cary Heller, owner of One Greenwood, spoke about the approved Lackawanna plan.
“They are going to put a four story apartment building, with no setback, right across the street with an underground parking structure and the walkway will be buried,” said Heller, of the pedestrian walkway that currently allows people to cross Grove Street from the parking lot without having to walk to Bloomfield Avenue.