Developer Says Lackawanna Plaza Lawsuit Threatens Jobs, Tax Revenue and Groceries for the Fourth Ward

The Hampshire & Pinnacle Companies issued a statement decrying the entity that issued a lawsuit against the Montclair Planning Board pertaining to the redevelopment of Lackawanna Plaza (

The Lackawanna railway terminal, November 2016. Image courtesy of Google.

Robert T. Schmitt, Principal of The Hampshire Companies, stated “The opponents claim they were marginalized during this process, and yet the Township held over a year of hearings with extensive public input and participation leading up to the project’s approval. The Planning Board took a methodical and careful approach to balance the objectives of the neighborhood, development and community at large, and asked us to make numerous changes to this site plan, including cutting the residential portion by nearly forty percent.”

Brian M. Stolar, President of The Pinnacle Companies added, “This lawsuit will cost Montclair taxpayers in excess legal fees, lost taxes on the project every day it is delayed, as well as jobs and Affordable Housing for Montclair residents. And yet again, fourth ward residents will have to wait even longer to have affordable groceries in their area. The small faction of residents suing is controlling the fate of tax revenue for 40,000 Montclair residents and thousands in the fourth ward who have told us repeatedly that they need a grocery store at that site.”

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  1. An even smaller faction would deprive 40,000 residents of the preservation of an iconic, unique & historic train station.

    And the key element of my compromise plan – which you rejected – was it would not have delayed anything. Not a day! It would have easily accommodated your 29,000 sf supermarket. You would have your housing, your commercial, your variances and could be putting a shovel in the ground. We would have our supermarket, our revenues, our train station.

    (As far as cutting the housing units by 40%? Another small faction asked you to do that. )

    No, what really screwed you up was the Council’s resolution. That was a big, big mistake. On one hand the Council said they have no say in the matter, “we are just voicing our opinion” shtick – and then they pass an official resolution declaring the “supermarket is a non-negotiable item”! Of course, they are not part of the negotiation….right?


  2. It is the developers’ and the council’s fault for holding up the supermarket in not having an acceptable project in place. The Fourth Ward community does not have the guidance of a qualified planner/land use expert and the insistence on the wrong kind of supermarket delays the process as well.

  3. Maybe I missed the conversation which Mr Schmitt’s based his statement , “The Planning Board took a methodical and careful approach to balance the objectives of the neighborhood, development and community at large, and asked us to make numerous changes to this site plan, including cutting the residential portion by nearly forty percent.” The plan submitted to the Planning Board always had 154 housing units. (so, I also don’t understand where your 40% reduction figure comes from. Another conversation I missed?)

    Now I do remember when the Council was running the show in 2017 as a redevelopment project, the Planning Board passed a resolution saying they thought the proposed 350 housing units should be scaled back. That was their opinion. Of course, their resolution also said the train sheds should be preserved. So, if you want to go back and quote the Planning Board, maybe you should also quote them on this…way back in 2017.

    Of course, back in 2017, the Council and Hampshire/Pinnacle wanted a 65,000 sf supermarket. You or the Council didn’t take my advice then that a 65,000 sf supermarket was a ludicrous idea…which subsequent facts seem to support. We fortunately dodged that bullet. Imagine what a 65,000 sf supermarket would have done to the area.

  4. Hampshire/Pinnacle bought Lackawanna Plaza in August, 2014 – with its historic designation. It took them 4 years, to the month, to bring an historic preservation expert before the town in August, 2018, to argue the station wasn’t historic. And you filed the application in December of 2107. And they are saying preservationists are delaying the project?

    Four years ago, in Summer & Fall of 2015, the 4th Ward Community meetings documented the public sentiment the train station should be preserved.

    Again, two years ago the Planning Board said the train station should be preserved.

    Last year, our Historic Preservation Commission said the train stations should be preserved.

    Excluding the Council, the message of preserving the train station has been very consistent. What has not been consistent is your plan to develop the property. It has been all over the place. A new town hall & police station (gone). Parking decks (gone). 6 stories with generous setbacks (gone). 65K/sf supermarket (gone). Green space (gone).

  5. The scheme the you put together and presented, Frank, would have been a very appropriate solution. So was the Remnitz/Greenbaum solution.

  6. But, there is a critically important distinction. The Remnitz/Greenbaum solution was a new, alternative design which the Planning Board could not consider – only the design before them. My proposal was within the role of the PB review as it was not an alternative design. My proposal simply kept the train sheds in place where they are now and showed how it would impact the accessory use – parking.

    Further, my design was actually helpful to the applicant in one important regard. It mitigated several inconsistencies with our Master Plan. The Remnitz/Greenbaum solution also did this, but it was a non-starter because it was an alternate plan. I’m sure, given the opportunity, any number of people could provide very attractive alternative plans. In fact, several alternatives were presented as part of the Redevelopment process – different process which does allow the Council to consider alternatives. But, as we know, that blew-up.

    The fact remains the PB can’t legally consider them and the developer would have rightfully sued if the PB did. You can’t change the rules to alter the outcome…which is the fundamental basis for this lawsuit.

  7. I’m having fun with this crafted press release. Mr Stolar is still new to town so he can be forgiven if he thinks the Third Ward stops at the Siena on South Park rather than bordering his property. I think he knows exactly where the 4th Ward stops and where the 3rd Ward starts. But, that’s not the point. Their point they want to get out is the 4th Ward needs a grocer, but that the 3rd Ward, where they have done all their redevelopment work, doesn’t apparently warrant one or need one. The “3rd” doesn’t elicit the maximum sense of inequality. It doesn’t have the history. It lacks a Q-score.

    The divide and conquer strategy being used on Montclair. It’s working for the President and the Republican Party. It worked Senator McCarthy for most of the 1950’s. But, allowing its use on a municipal level? to further a commercial development? Sure! Why not?

    (Sorry folks for original mis-post on the BOE thread. Navigating small screens an ongoing challenge for me)

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