Montclair Planning Board Member Calls Foul on MC Residences’ 46 Units

Artist’s rendering of MC Residences from the western side of Orange Road

MC Residences, a mixed-use building proposed for 33-37 Orange Road in Montclair, will offer 46 residential units; a 3000 square foot public plaza, an improved pedestrian walking area along Orange Road; a 67-space garage; and 2300 square feet of retail space.

But one Montclair Planning Board member is calling the mixed-use building a mix-up on the part of individuals in the township whose mistakes resulted in the developer being allowed to have significantly more units per acre than should have been allowed.

Montclair Planning Board member Martin Schwartz went on record at the beginning of Monday’s meeting.

“In my opinion, it is a disgrace that we are sitting here tonight considering a site plan that has a density level right now that appears to give this applicant many more units per acre than what our Township Council intended in the redevelopment Plan — and not what this Planning Board recommended to them after reviewing the Council’s proposed amended plan,” Schwartz stated.

Schwartz said that both the Planning Board and the town council originally agreed to only 18 units per acre.

“My understanding now, from talking to almost every town Councilor, is that there may have been some intentionality that caused this situation. Intentionally by an individual or individuals, and not just a drafting mistake; the result of which has distorted the will of our official decision-making bodies,” Schwartz alleged.

Schwartz then called for an investigation into how the mistakes were made, mistakes that add “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in value to MC Residences.

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  1. Three points:

    1) Exactly house does the Township Manager deliver a hindsight report when no one is willing to go on the record?

    2) Putting aside this density dispute, the ordinance ammeding the plan was flawed in many important ways relating to uses, density and massing. Remember, there is a 9 story hotel on one side and a 6 story garage on the other.

    2) Regardless of what the members of the Planning Board might think, the open question they and the redevelopment governing body (the Council) should be addressing is Lot 21, 27 Orange Rd. This is the sliver lot between the hotel and the proposed MC Residences. It is not part of this application. By the development plan language, it is an unbuildable lot.

  2. In the Montclair Local story, Schwartz said the Manager was supposed to have already conducted an investigation. Then given his report to the Council — but didn’t.

    It all just seems like a ‘please let it slide away’ cover-up for the Town Planner and Township Attorney by the Manager. And more bad direction and bad legal advice given back to the Council by those very same people.

  3. A coverup? Nah. Most likely a garden variety lack of transparency.

    We know the Council decided not to act to correct at their 9/25 meeting.
    We know it wasn’t because the Time of Application Rule because the Planner sent a memo 3 days later on 9/28 indicating the application was incomplete.
    We know there was no requirement for the Council to have public discussion on deviating from the Planning Board’s recommendations.
    We know the application was not deemed complete until October 16th, 2018.
    We know that the Council had another scheduled meeting 10/9, prior to the application being deemed complete, if there was confusion just prior to their 9/25 meeting.
    We know the Council did not call a special meeting to address it before 10/16.

    If you want to speculate, I wonder what the heck the Planning Board was doing all this time with all this going on? I wonder is it possible that the PB Chair didn’t know the matter was being dropped?

    As I said, I think the original amendment had significant inconsistencies. The developer had a viable plan that relieved the Council of having to revisit the sins of the original. Maybe this was just expediency at work.

    PS: as to the Council’s supposed he said/she said, I learned rom the Deputy Mayor vote to take that with a grain of salt.

  4. Frank, I’ve driven by this site to see if I might agree with your recent suggestion here on Baristanet that Orange Road, just south of Bloomfield Avenue has become, at this point, inhospitable to pedestrians, and, generally, ( paraphrasing here ) beyond redemption. I’d like to add that everything built around there recently is overwrought, horrific garbage.

  5. Appreciate your comment Spiro. Can I tell the maître d’hôtel you will be joining me at my table next to the kitchen?

  6. Read this in the Montclair Local:

    “Board member Daniel Gilmer accused the applicant of purchasing his way out of the solar requirements and questioned how long the applicant would be part of such a program.”

    Jeez, everyone was fired up that night! Summer is officially over. Everyone is rested and raring to go.

    I’m the first person to laugh when a Pinnacle or Hampton application says they have explored all other options.
    The Planning Board did right during the Hampton House application and resisted the applicant’s experts “we have explored all other options”. They should trust that feeling.
    Go back and actually read the plan requirements, specifically Section 3.3.2.a. Then read the section’s last sentence. Now where else is there a solar panel installation within the Gateway RDA? Ding! ding! ding!

  7. Planner Board: I was just kidding about the Section 3.3 idea.

    To move things along, you should accept the applicant’s 1st choice of angled solar panels on the roof of the MC Residences. Yes, it will be ugly as the Chair said, but at least you guys can be consistent. You had no problem putting an identically ugly solar panel array on the parking deck. Of course, the one you unanimously approved on the parking deck is 50% longer.

    Between the two arrays, conveniently at the same 50′ off the ground, conveniently with the same 10′ panel height, it will almost look like one continuous, 250′ long design metal feature spanning both structures. Regardless, the important thing is that the PB make every attempt to lead by example on plan approval consistency. Otherwise, it just looks like you are making things up as you go. So, reject the stupid buying of energy RECs. I agree it makes it looks like the members are “transactional”. Just approve the applicant’s solar panel option.

  8. And for those following along at the detail level, I refer you to pages A09.4 & A09.5 in the ARCH presentation of 9/25. The solar panel arrays are 10′ tall.

  9. Please don’t forget next weeks Sept 23 planning Board meeting where they are going to try to ignore that the Montclair Art Museum is a Landmark and push through their site project that undoes that…. just awful!

  10. frankgg,

    “…try to ignore that the Montclair Art Museum is a Landmark…”?
    I think that outcome is assured thanks to the HPC’s recommendations.

    All the Board of Trustees has to, and should do, is stipulate The Sun Vow will be placed in some prominent location in the front yard of the museum. Doing so will clear the way for an approval by the PB. The fact they are resisting this gives you some insight to the organizational mindset – an organization in which you are a member.

  11. Frank, although I attend HPC meetings in Montclair, I am not a member. I’ve never been asked although I did apply for the HPC historian role. Instead, I am the Architect/Land Use expert commissioner for Caldwell’s HPC and on the Essex Fells committee. The Montclair HPC history consultant submitted a report saying that the MAM project did not comply with Department of the Interior standards for historic landscapes and the HPC ignored the recommendation. Chair Kathleen Bennett was absent from the vote at that meeting. I don’t understand why the HPC ignored the historians recommendations… its unbelievable!

  12. Sorry, the composition of my post was flawed. I was referring to you being a member of the Montclair Art Museum and was implying, through your possible interactions there, you likely had an understanding of the institutional mindset.

    I have no doubt that if Chair Bennett had been present, the HPC report would have been much more critical of the plan. As we have seen, the leadership of the various Montclair bodies hold great sway over their respective members. That said, with the title & power the comes responsibility and ownership. I’m sure we will hear from her at the Sept 23 Planning Board hearing.

  13. I’m not a member of MAM because they refused to acknowledge Don Millers works. The Montclair Public Library instead have permanently installed the working model of the Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Mural that Don Miller painted in Montclair for the National Library in DC. I feel that MAM has no regard or interest in Montclair history And if I were to donate my art collection or archives to them they would just sell them.

  14. I apologize. I confused you up with another speaker.

    The MAM’s mission has been American/Native American art. Local history, and its art, as we know, is not a big draw. The Freedom Mural is in a better space @MPL.

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