Montclair Town Council Members Respond To Schwartz Statement (UPDATED)

Update: Montclair Planning Board member Martin Schwartz responds to the statement from Montclair town councilors below:

The bottom line is that the MC Residence developers got over on our Township and will likely get unintended density of units seemingly not agreed to by both the Council and Planning Board. Therefore, they will gain substantial added profits.

I stand by my opinions and assertions derived after reviewing the fact history and after conversations with many involved — including Township Councilors.

I was specifically told no promised Manager investigation was reported back to the Council. Therefore today’s C.Y.A. revisionist history response from the Town — is really not surprising. If there was an investigation, the results could have and should have been made public. To clear up this imbroglio.

Instead, no investigation outcome was reported publicly by the Manger, or even that one had been conducted. That the matter was resolved. That it was really just a mistake, a drafting error. Especially since the Planning Board site review was clearly coming and the density issue still open.

Since that was not done, all this just leads to the same reasonable conclusion: “that this dog still don’t hunt.”

The Township Council issues this response to a statement made by Martin Schwartz to the Planning Board at its September 9, 2019 meeting. (

The Township Council and administration are deeply concerned with Mr. Schwartz’s assertions and suggestions of misconduct on the part of elected officials, Township staff, and members of land use boards, and with the gross factual errors in his statement. To begin, the Township Council denies any wrongdoing by its members involving the 37 Orange Road project. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that any Township employee or board member acted to further private interests rather than the public good. Mr. Schwartz’s claim that he arrived at his conclusion “after talking to almost every Council member” falsely implies that Council members agreed with his allegations, which is simply not true. At no time has the Council or administration alleged or suggested that any improper conduct occurred with respect to the property at issue.

Moreover, contrary to Mr. Schwartz’s assertions and insinuations, the Manager did conduct an investigation as to the circumstances of publication and posting of the proposed redevelopment plan amendment, and as to whether anyone, Township official, employee or member of the public, had interfered or attempted to interfere with the process. The investigation resulted in no finding of wrongdoing, which was in fact communicated to the Council by the Manager, although the details of the investigation remained confidential.
Previously, in March 2019, Mr. Schwartz made many of the same speculations and charges of misconduct in an email to members of the governing body and administration. As required by long-standing New Jersey procedure, his message was promptly referred to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. The same was done with the video of Mr. Schwartz’s September 9 remarks and a written version of those remarks were sent to Council members today by Mr. Schwartz. Because the matter is in the hands of the Prosecutor, the Township will have no further comment at this time.

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  1. Wow! Just wow! The press release is an object lesson in how NOT to run damage control.

    Did you guys forget something? Maybe something actually important?

    Before this we had the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Commission out front with the “joke” titles. Coming on with a strong effort is this Council.

    Let’s see. Hahne’s Redevelopment we lost in court. Gateway 2 just blew up because it couldn’t overcome its natural stupidity. Lackawanna is now in the courts. Gateway 1 is now referred to the Prosecutor’s Office to sort out. Of course, the prosecutor can only review for misconduct and I appreciate the Council can not comment further in this regard. However, that still leaves important elements open to further comment.

    Back to the statement where it says “falsely implies”, it is redundant to say it “is simply not true”. Definitely stomping on the indignation key. A little too hard.

    The Mayor has to do what he has to do, but beyond that, my advice to ALL is let it go. Everyone made their points. Nothing good is going to come out of this…for anyone.

  2. Oh, and I loved the part where the Township referred the allegations to the Prosecutor’s Office. Back in March. 6 months ago. And…???

    But, you still directed your direct report, the Interim Township Manage, to conduct a separate investigation. And the details are confidential. But, everyone is cleared! Let me guess – he used Code Enforcement to investigate.

    I don’t believe there was misconduct whatsoever, but jeez, you think this kind of explanation is helping you? Don’t you guys have a Public Relations Advisory Committee?

  3. What the residents of Montclair need to know is why, if this all started with a careless typo, why didn’t you, the Council, correct it? That is the central question…one you avoided answering. So, Martin Schwartz aside, you have a really big, expanding problem that you are unwilling to address. That is bad optics. Really bad.

    I suspect you didn’t correct the typo because it would be detrimental to the people of Montclair…or, another way of saying, not in our best interests. The fact you guys can’t say that means either I’m wrong or something else is in play. And it has nothing to do with the Time of Application Rule.

    So, yeah, Mr Schwartz really stepped out on this one…but, you guys have stepped all over this up so badly I just don’t know what to say. On the face of it, there wasn’t a good decision anywhere int the process…and you guys have been at it 7 years – more than that for 3 of you.

    Really bad!! So take your press release and go back this weekend and rework how you really want to handle this. Like adults.

  4. Note to Council:

    When you rework how to handle this, you might want to start by going on record whether a mistake (a typo?) was made. We have Ms Talley, the Township Planner and Mr Schwartz on record saying a mistake was made. I’m on record that I believe it wasn’t a mistake that the ordinance was passed as written. The Council? Nope. I am not aware of any on-the record discussion or action by the Council since the ordinance’s introduction in November, 2017 to indicate a mistake was made. So, I must assume the Council does not recognize any mistake. The Manager’s report is confidential, so we don’t know if his investigation found a mistake was made. We just have Ms Talley’s and Mr. Schwartz’s statements on record that they believed a mistake was made. Nothing against them, but I need a little bit more than that now that it is a point of contention involving the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

    C’mon Council, what happened? Is that so hard to address?

  5. I fully agree with Martin and I’m grateful for his efforts. I think it’s about time that there’s a “showdown” between the community, the council and township.

  6. Well, can’t have a showdown just yet. Not until the Council itself looks at the Development Review Committee’s role in this mess. I assume the DRC was not part of the Manager’s Report, so their involvement is not covered under the cloak of confidentiality.

    Full disclosure: I always thought the DRC was a bad idea. It’s main role is to expedite development applications. They are not very good at their role. I don’t question the members advanced skills and experience. The design of the DRC membership just yields mediocre results. They work in the opaque space to the benefit of the applicant and not the public good.

  7. Great link! Uh, everyone – not just Ms Talley – overlooked this. The Planning Board, the Council. They regularly ignore ordinances set in plain language.

    If you are really up for laughs & giggles over more of the same, just wait until they discuss parking for the MC Residences. Specifically, how this Council sold public parking to the developer for its new uses. “Huh? What? The redevelopment prohibits this? Who knew? Oh well, its done. Let’s blame Janice Talley.”

    Has anyone noticed the parking deck is still not done. A hotel’s C of O was issued without the parking deck being done? Not connected Frank!

    PS: Yes, JB, the former Council wrote the Linda Blair Plan…and this Council ratified it. The Township specified 1,000,000 sf of space…with no housing density cap. Then they started to allow more height. Then they approved the rooftop “amenity space” which can hold up to 360 people. Guess what the PB asked for parking?
    Yeah, you’re worst nightmare. Again, not the sharpest tools. The PB approved a Magic Parking Deck capable of parking an unlimited amount of cars, but then the PB gave some public property so they could fit the unlimited cars. Not the sharpest tools in the box. Then, as I said many times, the Council sells our public parking spaces. So, when we give out joksters of the year awards to our public body, I gotta think between this stuff and the Deputy Mayor stuff, the Council is just a lock!

  8. The Township did an investigation. Did the Township provide a copy to the Zoning Board as part of their hearing.

    Ms Talley sits as Secretary to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The procedural problem was the Board asked Ms Talley what happened. Her response became the Township’s position. The Board Attorney did not intervene. He did not say, “whoa! we don’t want to go there!” Did the Board attorney know there was an investigation and a report? Clearly if he did know of it, he could not know what the report said. So, now Montclair has a whole new set of problems arising from the ZBA hearing.

    As I said, absolutely no good is going to come out of this.

  9. And if the ZBA hearing is tainted, then Pinnacle has a problem that was not their doing. So, now Montclair has another legal exposure. Its Planning Board is hearing the application. Deja vu all over again. The PB reheard 237-249 Lorraine Avenue. And, more recently, 448 Washington Ave. Both had legal exposures.
    With Gateway 1 (MC Residences, MC Hotel, Board of Ed, Parking Deck, CV), it gets even more complicated. Unlike Lackawanna Plaza, the Council is directly involved. It is the final zoning authority.

    If anyone has trouble following all this, you should. This is a cluster. Why? The original question.

  10. Furthermore, with Ms Talley being asked what happened and she provided fairly long description. It is noteworthy that the Chair and Vice Chair did not participate in this hearing. Between the two, I think they have like 400 years on the ZBA. I think the members that were there had 10 years…collectively.

    The Planner Reports to the Interim Manager – who wrote the report to the Council. The report the Council says must remain confidential. Hence, Ms Talley’s remarks are the official ones.

    Maybe Ms Talley can testify at the Planning Board meeting…she is also the Secretary for those whiz kids. Different lawyer there.

  11. Well, some minor good news is that the Council recognized it has NOT been in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act regarding the notice, nature & justification of their Executive Sessions excluding the public. They seemed to have corrected their deficiency starting with their July 9, 2019 session. I don’t know who pointed it out to them or the circumstances that precipitated the change to come into compliance. I’ll guess the NJ Senate removing S-106 and S-107 (expanding OPRA/OPMA) from the voting session agenda this past June probably had something to do with it.

  12. “How miserable. How can this be corrected?”

    Which part? Mr Schwartz identified two related, but separate situations 9 months apart. I read the Council’s rebuttal as saying the Manager’s investigation covered the original amendment process back in Nov, 2017 thru Jan, 2018. It did not say the Manger’s Report covered the second situation regarding the events relating to a draft ordinance fixing the typo with a corrected amendment – which covers Aug – Oct, 2018. I think that was the more interesting situation of the two. Since the Council has twice referred this to the Prosecutor’s Office, maybe the Council will direct the Manager to also conduct a second investigation…to cover the second, later situation? I think there are sufficient grounds to do so. Or maybe the Council, or the individual Councillors can fast-track it and just explain why they took no action to correct the typo. I’m not sure this Council membership is all on the same page, all the time.

  13. Yes Frank, THIS Council ratified it. Mr. Schwartz, who has now seen the light apparently, has been the Mayor’s chief defender and at times attack dog in the EIGHT years since that period. In that time he has repeatedly rolled out the trope that it’s all Jerry Fried’s fault. This as he even served at the Mayors request. Now he speaks up as it nears election time and he readies his packet for Town Hall. Thing is, will he even be able to find Town Hall with all the buildings that soar to the sky in Montclair under HIS watch? It amazes me, although it shouldn’t in the time of Trump, that someone locally can play the same card – brazenly claim he’s something he’s not. Fun times…

  14. Yes, the Fried Administration, both the Council and its Planning Board, has borne the brunt of Mr Schwartz’s criticism of the Gateway 1 Redevelopment project. They did deserve it. I also agree he has pulled his punches in his criticism of the Jackson Administration’s Council and Planning Board. I was most entertained by his description of the current Planning Board as one that “gets it”. As bad as the Gateway 1 execution was/still is, it pales in historic comparisons to the Lackawanna Plaza development. That was a total sh*t show by all involved. You know it is over-the-top bad when a former Planning Board Vice Chair rakes his former colleagues over the coals publicly.

    I am somewhat curious to see who runs for Council. Anyone running on an over-development plank will not get elected. The candidates who throw up the new, shiniest ball(s) will. Montclair likes newness, e.g. The New Brooklyn. It is how we are now wired.

    PS: The new fun game for the parents with kids driving thu Montclair…who can find the most cars with NY license plates. Door prizes to those spotting the most paper temporary tags.

  15. @jonbonesteel, yes, Schwartz has been the Mayor’s chief defender (and attack dog) the past 8 years, even as recently as 2 weeks ago, when he took pot shots at the former BOE Prez and VP, as well as the just-departed superintendent. Self-promotion has always been Schwartz’s schtick. I suspect voters will see through his duplicity if he seeks a TC seat next year. He can’t have it both ways, try though he might.

  16. if he runs, i can’t wait to re-hash all his islamophobic internet posts for the world to see. i don’t really want to, but if he’s going to put himself out there, the town should know.

  17. What Mr Schwartz and the Council left out: there was no Planning Board review or report on the approved ordinance amendment.

    So, let’s all agree to say “never mind, just pretend this didn’t happen.”

    What a mess.

  18. And then I watch tonight’s Council meeting…and they withdraw another zoning ordinance due to both typos and rethinking the requirements! I assume the Planning Board also reviewed this…or maybe not. You just have to wonder how much of the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, and vice versa.

    This is getting dangerously close to surpassing the Fried Administration’s lack of execution.

  19. Looking forward the question now becomes how to handle the MC Residences application?

    The problem is the parking plan. The Planning Board can’t approve the application with the parking plan as proposed. The plan has to be revised to have all parking needs satisfied on site and not using the Orange Road parking deck. There is a solution that allows Pinnacle to have the building they proposed and the Township to maintain its 78 public parking spaces. I have my doubts the Council, the Planning Board and the developer can act out of character and recognize what needs to be done to make it happen. The exposure to an appeal is now unquestionably significant on several grounds. Aside from the actions of the Planning Board and the Council, the Zoning Board decision is now clearly flawed. The Township’s 2013 parking leaseback agreement with the redeveloper was a mistake. Bad stuff happened. Mistakes happened. We can’t change the past. The focus has to be on how to fix this. I worry the Planning Board will once again stick its heads in the sand and, once again, they, as the lead here, will compound the mess.

  20. The opportunity I described here two months ago bears another read:

    I presented this, along with a page of supporting facts to the Council on August 6th. The Council response was to take exception to my negative characterization of the BoE as a bad neighbor.

    I wasn’t aware that Mr Schwartz’s had made his concerns of impropriety known, as an in-house matter to the Township five months earlier.

    I wasn’t aware of the subsequent investigation and that the Council had the facts in hand.

    I wasn’t aware that one of the facts – the one that mattered most – was the Planning Board never reviewed the ordinance.

    I wasn’t aware that the Zoning Board never asked for a copy of the non-existent Planning Board report to be submitted as an exhibit in their determination of fact.

    I wasn’t aware the impetus for the original amendment was a developer’s interest in building a 6-story building with 115 housing units.

    I wasn’t aware the Council in 2013 had deleted, with the support of the Planning Board, the residential only plan requirement for the parcels on Orange Road.

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