A Better Lackawanna: Public Can Listen In on Lackawanna Plaza Court Hearing From Home

Montclair, NJ – Priscilla Eshelman of A Better Lackawanna responded to our request for comment and offered this update on the Lackawanna appeal:


“Both sides have submitted written arguments regarding the grounds of our suit; next will come oral arguments by counsel in front of a judge. This will take place on Thursday, September 17th. We invite the public — particularly the 200 people who signed onto our cause — to listen in. More details will be forthcoming. I’m confident that by participating, the public will better appreciate their vital role in holding their elected and appointed officials accountable.

As a reminder, the core of our appeal is objecting to the arbitrary and capricious way the Montclair Planning Board approved the project. Among other grounds, we contend the Planning Board arbitrarily limited public comment, and most egregiously did not allow the public to question changes to the plan announced moments before the Planning Board voted on February 11, 2019. At that meeting, the developer identified Lidl for the first time, saying they would take just 29,000 square feet of the planned 47,000 square foot project. No mention was made of how the remaining 18,000 square feet would be used, or how that usage would impact traffic, parking and safety. Remember, the Planning Board granted a variance (shortage) of 400 cars — which would not be necessary with a smaller market. If you’ve ever had trouble parking in downtown Montclair or found traffic frustrating in the vicinity of Bloomfield Avenue, Grove Street, and Glenridge Avenue — or if you simply appreciate that the First Amendment is first for a reason — you might plan to listen in.

The problems with the plan didn’t end with its approval in February 2019. Legally, the most disturbing discovery was finding that the developer’s approved plan seizes the County’s easement on the east side of Grove Street — this is the sloped grassy knolls surrounding the rotunda entrance to the pedestrian tunnel. This came to light as we researched how the pedestrian underpass — used by the public for 35 years — could be privatized simply based on the developer’s claim to it. Those who have followed the Lackawanna application may recall from the public hearings that the original survey map was missing from both the County and the Township; once we finally tracked down a copy of the map, we saw it clearly exposed the County easement. This shows a shocking lack of due-diligence by the Planning Board. The County’s easement needed to be disclosed in the developer’s drawings and discussed during Planning Board hearings. Replacing pervious grass and a County easement with a private concrete structure (154 apartments) is just not right without Planning Board and citizen review.

Traffic safety is literally a matter of life and death. The Township Council voted in April of 2019 to ban left turns into and out of the parking lot on the west side of Grove. This ordinance passed well before the Planning Board memorialized their approval in May of 2019. The new ban on left turns completely upends the developer’s traffic plan for the project. Grove Street is a busy road and it’s no small concern how the hundreds of projected cars will find their way in and out of the site (remember that zoning for the project requires 800 parking spots, yet the approved plan will only have 400 due to the jumbo building plan and the significant parking variance granted by the Planning Board).

These are material issues which will impact the residents of Montclair both today and for years to come. Join the court hearing from your home computer or mobile device to better understand these issues. Email us at info@abetterlackawanna.org and we’ll send you details once we have the call-in number and exact time on September 17.”

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7 COMMENTS

  1. The Mayor and Council blame the historians for holding up the supermarket for the Fourth Ward but in reality, its their doing for they way they handled the process. A pop up supermarket for the Fourth Ward can be created nearby at any given time. Why won’t they do it? A new supermarket at Lackawanna possibly wouldn’t happen for the next couple of years.

  2. I just love how folks in Montclair put up all these lovely “unity” & BLM yardsigns while kicking around the historically POC Fourth Ward like a dirty ball. Sometimes I wonder if we’re even a part of this damn town.

    There is no (respectable) reason why the town and litigants can’t come to a compromise and get going on SOMETHING at Lackawanna that benefits the area. Enough is enough.

  3. What would be useful is to somehow set up an alternative Grocery market somewhere in the vicinity. What people aren’t realizing is that after the outcome of local approval, the proposal THEN has to go to the county for approval since its on county roads. What if its not approved without modifications? What if that process takes even more time? It would be great if the Fourth Ward could find a volunteer Land use expert to be present at the meetings and part of the process to assure a better understanding and help streamline.

  4. Sorry to see both of them go, but South End Hardware would be a great location for a “pop up” grocery store for the Fourth Ward, together with the De Camp terminals space near to Grove and Claremont Aves. Also, there is a new trend in grocery shopping, for example, Fresh Direct with Whole Foods and Wakefern/Shoprite using DoorDash where you order on line and your groceries are delivered to you instead of going to the store.

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