Councilor Hurlock to Host Feb 3 Community Meeting

Councilor Hurlock to Host Feb 3 Community Meeting

First Ward Councilor William Hurlock will host a community meeting Monday, February 3, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Bellevue Avenue Branch of the Montclair Public Library, 185 Bellevue Avenue, Montclair.

The meeting is open to everyone and will focus on current issues and concerns of the Montclair community. For more information, please contact Councilor Hurlock at

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  1. Maybe Councilor Hurlock could invite the developers of the Bellevue Theatre to come and share their plans with the community. Specifically, some residents might want to understand the public safety and historic preservation concerns raised at last night’s Zoning Board hearing. I know the Township is moving away from preserving landmarks, but the public safety issues merit some attention. We didn’t get to the parking issues…that testimony is scheduled for March.

    FYI, I like the Zoning Board and think they are very good at what they do. I think Mr Fleischer, the Vice Chair and acting chair for this application is very, very good. However, I think it is a mistake for them not to have their own parking & t traffic expert review and comment on the plans. Also, the Board granted the applicant’s request to prohibit the public to further question the architect on his testimony last night. So, for those just getting up to speed on what is proposed, no need for you to attend the next hearing if you have any questions.

  2. Oh, and those planning to run for Council should probably attend any presentation & discussion. The candidates should appreciate the meeting is being held in another one of Upper Montclair’s historic landmark buildings…one that was saved.

  3. Sorry. I forgot Mr Fleischer strongly recommended the developers go back and re-present their plans to the Historic Preservation Commission prior to the next Zoning Board meeting. FYI, there was no representative from the HPC at last night’s meeting. So, residents do have an opportunity to question the architect.

    This is just one example of the different approaches between the Zoning Board and the Planning Board.

  4. Frank. Clearly we were at two different meetings last night.
    Our team, Bellevue Enterprises, were completely attentive and sincerely grateful to the Zoning Board last night for their smart and concise recommendations, which we take very seriously – We will work tirelessly with them to get where we need to be.

    Sadly, it seems to me that you too often use this online forum and the Township as The Frank Rubacky Show with no regard for what the intention is in building this theatre and what a benefit it will be for the community. Your nit-picking is a distraction and an ill-founded one, frankly. We want to make sure we tick every box but the aggressive and dismissive checklist you leveled at Paul Sionas – arguably one of the most respected architects in the county – was completely against the spirit of what we are all trying to do here.

    We have met with the Historic Preservation Committee and taken their recommendations – this was a different meeting. They give their recommendations, we address them, they share them with the Zoning Board and they take it from there. The nation that a member of that committee would then have to join all the sessions of the zoning board makes a mockery of the system and, quite fittingly, Estes people’s time.

    If you would like to discuss your, frankly unwarranted, gripes and grumbles, then perhaps come and have a coffee with our team. See the passion, time and love we have put into this project and the inherent fact that, as much as it may blow your mind, this theatre is not about us – it is about the community and vibrancy UM so dearly needs and misses from that theatre. I have already offered to meet you, so I fear this may fall on deaf ears, but if you want to climb out from behind your computer and act like a Gentlemen; you will find a much more open audience.

    Luke Parker Bowles
    Managing Director
    The Bellevue Theatre

  5. Luke,

    I don’t know you or what you look like. I don’t recall meeting you and I didn’t realize you attended last night. I don’t know of Bellevue Enterprises. Is it related to Highgate Hall LLC, the applicant? Are the principals the same? Of the 7, I only know Steven Plofker.

    Thank you for your less than gracious offer. I don’t recall receiving this offer, gracious or otherwise, before your post here. Please refresh my memory.

    I will consider a future meeting. Would you consider having your team make a short, issues oriented presentation to the 1st Ward residents at Councilor Hurlock’s Feb 3rd forum? I will not be attending as I don’t think Mr Hurlock would give my show top billing.

    The Historic Preservation Commission (not Committee) is a serious entity with specific, important powers granted by ordinance. I won’t get into all the ways they dropped the ball on reviewing your application. However, it is their new procedure, created late last year, to send a Commissioner to all land use meetings where they have submitted a report. They do this in part because applicants consistently present insufficient information for the HPC to do their job. This new procedure allows the board reviewing their report to get instant clarification, ask questions, etc. My only role was to email the HPC Chair ahead of your hearing to share the deficiencies in their report. Again, no need to recap those deficiencies here as you will present your newest plans to them next month…and they will get to issue a proper, 2nd report.

    I regret that you think my advocating for people with disabilities and public safety constitutes nitpicking. Unfortunately, our township doesn’t have a strong record serving this part of our community’s diversity. I see the public safety issues associated with the plan because I grew up in the 1st Ward, have lived most of my time here and know the site and village area intimately.

    I will apologize and explain myself to Mr Sionas for my aggressiveness calling him out on his testimony. I have always perceived him as an honorable soul and always respectful. I should show him the same respect. I was upset with him because I believe strongly that one’s word is their bond and try to live by that. My Sionas gave his word to the HPC he would provide certain, significant materials. I did not hear him acknowledge he did make such a commitment. I thought several other representations he made could be misconstrued or differed from my knowledge of facts and changes in local circumstances since 1997 & before.

    You win a 1st round knock-out, but no credit for pointing what everyone knows about my prodigious posting here. I can have a sharp tongue, definitely lack basic social & collaborative skills. I’m an acknowledged curmudgeon & townie. We can start a list if that is what you’re into.

    I am not against your concept if appropriately scaled and it addresses the long existing site issues of the parking plaza’s entry drive. Right now it is a typical developer’s application – “ask for the world” and settle for a little less. The Bellevue Theatre has existed for 95 years with 900 seats, give or take. Now, your plan insists we need to literally raise the roof to fit 45% less seats. OK, I’m picky. But, I’m not backing down with the public safety issues. As one of the team said last night, there is going to be a lot of children’s programming. I will to continue to make sure the township addresses them. Saying “No worries”, from hard experience here, tends not to measure up. Not speaking out is tantamount to condoning it.

  6. Luke,

    I’ve slept on your most constructive points.

    First, I’m sincerely grateful and completely attentive to your input. I take it seriously and will work tirelessly to get you to where you need to be. I will tick every box because it is about the community. I also share your team’s passion, time and love to achieve the vibrancy UM so dearly needs.

    Second, I also realized a new nitpicking issue this morning getting my coffee at Java Love. There is a problem with your garbage and delivery truck scheme. This is a subject that bores me, but it is important to the Zoning Board. A visit to the site will clearly show the problem. We should address it sooner rather than later so that you may incorporate a solution in your next plan set.

    I have a counter-suggestion to your proposal that we meet privately. My suggestion would also help me reduce my posts on the subject. Give me an email address so I can bring your team directly into the loop on emails to our municipal land use team. There will still be posts on aspects of the plan the B-net audience should hear. I believe strongly in crowdsourcing for creative ways to strategically align community objectives. The trick is not to let it get into the weeds.

    Let me know.

  7. Much of the Bellevue’s historical focus, its tenants & operations, and local surrounds has been on the early years. What has been covered since has been mostly popular culture aspects, e.g. the famous and infamous films.

    Bellevue’s later mixed-use tenants – the Academy of Musical Arts, its arts & drama spin-off – “the studio upstairs” – in 2nd floor’s Great Hall, the Highgate Gallery, etc. – all were part of the arts center theme and smoothly distributed demand utility of the space over the day.

    Most don’t realize that before United Artists’ 1983 multiplex conversion, there was only a single weekday movie showing starting between 7:30-8:30pm and only 1 weekday matinee. Weekends frequently had live, children’s oriented performers on weekend mornings with 3 or 4 movie showings in the PM. In the summer months, there were more showings, but the same movie would be shown for weeks, often over a month. Uggh!

    The surrounding activity and development has changed. The 2002 Montclair Connection more than double the number of daily weekday trains with the crossing gates now going down every 11 minutes between the 4:30-7:30 evening peak. Commuters from growing, adjacent towns now come and park in our lots although this station’s ridership growth notably lags our other major stations. We now have 18 restaurants – not the handful of luncheonettes (Cozy End, Louvis’ & Bond’s), a pizzeria and later, Charlie Brown’s. True to our neighborhood commercial service-driven nature, national retail chains typically underperform.

    Relying on bricks & mortar retailing (who are under a long siege) to drive the district is risky. To survive, service and merchandise assortments edited for local preferences are the key differentiators. Basically, the village is selling convenience. Entertainment is an under-developed and growing category. Clearly, the new Bellevue and successors could fit the bill. But, it has to fit. You can’t put a size 10 foot in a size 8 designer shoe. The toes, the heel, the bridge – some parts or all will feel the pain. One very good mitigating factor of the plan is reinstating 100% reserved seating. The Bellevue had 100% reserved seating from 1959 until 1973 when the Oil Embargo hit us.

  8. Clarification: the train frequency stat is an average spacing of the 14 train’s arrivals and includes a 3 minute gate clearance time. Also note 6 of those 14 trains arrive between 6-7pm.

  9. Luke,

    Here is my list of suggested measures to enhance pedestrian safety. Detailed, but not too expensive. If you agree, it might save me a trip to the next hearing…unless I’m needed to explain the parking & traffic impact.

    1. Proactively prevent patron queuing along the UMP entry drive sidewalk.
    2. Discontinue normal operations of patron exiting theater directly onto the entry drive sidewalk. You can shift the practice, access permitting, to the Western-facing exits.
    3. Bring the entire public sidewalk up to the ADA 5’-wide minimum standard by reducing the RoW roadway.
    4. Explore with the Township’s engineer the benefits of expanding the entry drive segment width where it goes below 20’ wide by a combination of narrowing the sidewalk and, if RoW permits, slightly adjusting the opposite-side curbing (at Township cost)
    5. Recess the East side exit doors by 1’ to maximize sidewalk access in an emergency condition.
    6. Fully shield the light source of all exterior light fixtures to reduce glare.
    7. Co-fund with the Township RFPB equipment at crosswalks.
    8. Work with the Town for installation of a stop sign/line at end of UMP Northbound 1-way parking aisle.
    9. Work with the Townshiship to place, at muni cost, a new marked crosswalk connecting the parking pay station and the theater sidewalk.
    10. Work with the Council to implement appropriate parking lot maximum speed limits and posting of signage and pavement markings @ muni cost.

    10 easy steps. Pretty straight-forward and not onerous.

  10. I’ll also drop my points about the interior patron circulation/configuration and leave that to your team and the Zoning Board. I’ve made my points on the roof raising, so I checked that box, too. The demolishing of the historic slate roof? OK, I’ll leave that to you and the HPC. I sent my concern over the garbage/delivery truck scheme to the Planning Dept. Check. I do want to retain the privilege to come back from behind my computer to address the parking & traffic. But, if the UMBA & residents supports the variance, then I think we’re all good.

    So, confirm no need for us to meet, right?

  11. Frank,
    Thank you. This is all incredibly helpful and I know it comes from a good place, so do forgive the snippiness of my earlier email which, incidentally was a draft that I sent by accident, much to my chagrin. It reflected my frustration and was not a reflection the group – as I would never speak for them as a whole.
    I know we are all essentially coming from the same place – to bring the best, safest, most productive, inclusive and community-faced theatre possible. Finally, thankfully I think we can work together so we all feel good about this new addition to Montclair. Enough typing and more doing. Onwards.
    Luke PB

  12. I’m glad we could work through our issues in advancing a public priority.

    I assumed you were speaking as a leader in the group, not for the group. Regardless, no harm as far as I’m concerned.

    I don’t post to other social media platforms or forums so I appreciate that you reached out to add your views here on Baristanet.

    I look forward to following your team’s progress on your application.

    Lastly, I still have to check the box on delivering my sincerest apologies to Mr Paul Sionas in person. He was undeserving of my ire. I hope he will not mind if I don’t come down to the hearing to offer it. I will find another opportunity.

  13. Demolishing an original slate roof on a historic Tudor building is not a great thing to do. But if it’s a must need for space under a new configuration within this historic zone, the applicant should at least be made to put back replacement roofing that matches the original.

    They can salvage and resue the original slate if warranted and add more old slate to it. There is old slate already salvaged to be repurchased at much lower cost than new slate and they could use this to add on to or redo the roof entirely from a larger lot if a match can’t be found exactly, or they can just buy new restoration products that mirror slate from afar — but are composite or made from other materials. But still look the part.

    The latter suggestion likely being the least expense way to go.

  14. Martin,

    Just spitballing here, but we take:

    – the steel stanchions from the Lackawanna Plaza demolition and,

    – the old growth wood from the Montclair Art Museum (and the leftover “Sun”)

    – and the slate roofing from the Bellevue Theatre and…

    Build a combo Tudor style and Early 20c Industrial passenger awnings at the Mountclair Heights Train Station.

  15. So, your plan is to replicate a building in pristine condition?
    Wouldn’t it just be easier, and more historically appropriate, to ask this HPC to resign, give their few powers left to your Planning Board… and have the Council create a new holiday – Historic Progress Day? A day a year where the Township also pays the moving-out costs of any preservationist home owner.

  16. And let’s add the Montclair Environmental Commission to another body that should go away. Very similar in many respects. I watched my new neighbor clear cut their yard of a dozen or so old growth trees ranging from 10″d to over 30″d. One was a perfectly formed, 75′ tall, evergreen that was taken before its 80th birthday. The rest were very nice native growth specimens (no ashes, nor n. Maples). I also have every confidence that my new neighbor went through the proper permitting process and the Tasty Tree people (probably referred to them by their UM RE agent) just happened to only have a Saturday open – in a snow squall.

    This was the MEC’s ordinance. Yup, MEC & HPC – birds of a feather.

  17. Oh, and Martin, I just thought of a name for the Montclair Heights shabby chic structure…

    “Trip Debacles”

    Did u ge the play on trip? Huh, good? Right?

  18. Martin,

    I’m sure you, and a few others have appreciated my connecting the Lackawanna project to your amazingly lame idea. That abstention on Lackawanna defines you. It is your albatross. You can’t hold public office because of this.

  19. Luke,

    I went back and reviewed the video of the meeting. I have a serious reservations about apologizing to Paul Sionas. In my head, I was very, very upset with what Paul was saying. I just assumed that my typical manner resulted in impolite, if not surly rhetoric. Well, here is the video:

    I start at the 3h 56m mark and bang on for 21 minutes. However, considering the representations Paul made, I think I treated him with kid (from South Mountain Reservation) gloves. Knowing what was represented before the HPC and what was represented before the Zoning Board, I no longer hold Mr Sionas in high regard…unless he apologizes. Then, we are right as rain.

  20. And all the good parents should go back a little before I show up and listen to the Vice Chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment wonder about the configuration. Dislike me all you want. Stick your head in the sand all you want. People respect the Vice Chair.

  21. I would also like to believe the William Harrison, the Chair of the Zoning Board – that had to recuse himself – would have sliced and diced this application for what it is. I only know that he really wanted to be there.

  22. And, just to be clear, I believe Bellevue Enterprises and Highgate Hall Lllc have the right to do whatever they want with their property. It is private property. Of course, if they want to expand their private property, we get to approve or not.

    We need to have a serious conversation. as part of the upcoming municipal election campaign, whether we need to have a Historic Preservation Commission. It’s a 6-figure decision. If we get rid of it soon, it might actually help expedite the dismissal of Lackawanna Plaza lawsuit. Time for all good citizens to pick a lane.

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