MontClairVoyant: Rent Control in Jeopardy, and That’s No Game Show

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Before you get into today’s main column topic — a judge’s dismaying rent-control reversal — what’s your reaction to the news that a small number of Montclair parents sued the school district to reopen schools during this COVID time?

Sincerely,
Another Attorney Journey

I sympathize with their kids’ struggles and unhappiness with remote learning. My middle-schooler also longs to return to the land of classroom desks, and watching “Desk Set” with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy is no substitute.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But?

Sincerely,
There’s Often a But

Suing is a bad move. As I wrote in previous columns, we need to wait until most teachers and school staff are vaccinated. They deserve more respect than to be potentially sacrificed. Listening to Sinead O’Connor beautifully sing “Sacrifice” IS a substitute.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Anyway, onto today’s main column topic: An Inferior Court…um…Superior Court judge unfortunately reversed his January ruling, once again putting our town’s rent control in jeopardy. Any comment on the well-funded Montclair Property Owners Association’s “victory”?

Sincerely,
MPOA Says Yay

No surprise that the American “justice” system would come around to supporting the side that’s wrong but has the most cash and clout. “Money talks,” which makes it hard for the family photos in my wallet to sleep.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Yeah, much yakking from Washington (on the $1 bill), Lincoln ($5), Hamilton ($10), Jackson ($20), Grant ($50), and Franklin ($100). Can anything improve that poor excuse for a boy band?

Sincerely,
Greenbacks New Deal

Looking forward to justice warrior Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the 20; she embodies a lot that MPOA leaders do not. And please don’t switch Jackson to the 5, because then it would be The Jackson 5. Just sayin’…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The rent measure the Township Council passed last April (at the urging of groups such as the Tenants Organization of Montclair) is actually quite moderate, isn’t it?

Sincerely,
Compromise Compendium

Yes, property owners could still annually raise rent a reasonable amount, but could no longer gouge. A synonym for “gouge” is “overcharge,” like when you charge your smartphone to 117 percent.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Is it even possible to charge a phone past 100 percent?

Sincerely,
Outlet It Be, Outlet It Be

Don’t discount the effect of having “Electric Avenue” as a ringtone.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Because of the Inferior Court…um…Superior Court judge’s U-turn, there might be a rent-control referendum. Who would win: tenants (many of them struggling) or the MPOA (whose leaders include at least one mega-rich developer)?

Sincerely,
Time in a Battle

My sense is the majority of Montclair residents want rent control, but you never know what’ll happen when the landlord side can pour so much more money into a campaign that it’s not a level playing field. Well, Glenfield Park’s softball field IS level, except for the pitching mound.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Exhibit A was our town’s mayoral election last year, when the winning candidate got slightly more of the counted votes after hugely outspending his more-popular opponent. Didn’t Cyndi Lauper sing “Money Changes Everything”?

Sincerely,
Pols Just Wanna Have Fun

She also sang “When You Were Mine,” which was about extracting coal. Or maybe I’m thinking of a different mine.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I’m cautiously optimistic that rent control would prevail in a referendum. Heck, most residents want Montclair to retain some socioeconomic diversity, and the heavy-handed MPOA is rather disliked. Are you cautiously optimistic, too?

Sincerely,
Shape of Things to Come

Actually, I’m VERY optimistic that I’m going to again refer to that flip-flopping magistrate as an Inferior Court…um…Superior Court judge.

 

 

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

 

 

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54 COMMENTS

  1. Much has been made of pro-rent control lobby recognizing the rent control ordinance was a compromise. Many felt it should have covered more housing types & units. Let’s assume a referendum vote happens where the question of rent control goes to all the registered voters. Will the question be structure along the line of the flawed ordinance?

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. Yes, one reason why the rent-control measure was a compromise was that it doesn’t cover all types of rental units — something I should have mentioned in my column. If there is a referendum, I think (though really have no idea) residents would vote on the measure “as is” rather than on a revised measure or on the general concept of rent control. But if the referendum result allowed rent control to happen, I assume the measure could be strengthened at some point — albeit at the risk of the litigation-inclined Montclair Property Owners Association going to court again.

  3. Then I would vote against it. It is wrong.

    But, I am always thankful to those that quip “perfect is the enemy of progress”. Life is so simple for them. No complexities. No long commitments. The clarity it provides is like a gift out of the blue.

  4. Frank, I would (not surprisingly) vote for rent control in a referendum, even though the measure as it currently stands has loopholes and some other flaws. Still better than no rent control.

    As for “speed kills,” in a way the Township Council voted quickly on rent control, but in another way slowly — after many residents had wanted it for years, and after several other towns in our region enacted it.

    “Perfect is the enemy of good”? As a Fleetwood Mac fan back in the day, I thought Christine McVie (nee Perfect) was a good songwriter/singer/musician. 😉

  5. Dave,

    I am wired differently than TOOM, the MPOA, and the Township Council when it comes to this fundamentally flawed rent control ordinance.

    As proof of my idiosyncratic wiring, I’ll draw on my earlier life experiences to illustrate why people who apply that expression to this ordinance are setting a low and selfish standard.

    I will focus on just one, but very important aspect both sides have raised : Code Compliance.

    Code compliance is what we all agree to abide by because it is the law and it is for our own good. Many evade code requirements because of processing fees and the bureaucracy. Even though many evaded are fire and safety measures. Stupid stuff like smoke alarms. Proper wiring. Ridiculous stuff.

    Now, remember, ‘Perfect is The Enemy of Progress’. Or, my favorite, ‘It’s Good Enough’ standard. Or, the local standard, ‘The Ends Justifies The Means’., And a shout-out to the “We can come back and revise the ordinance. We can add. We can make better. We will review it in 10 years.” 10 years. By then, we should have every land owner’s support.

    Anyway, this is where my wiring goes….haywire!

    March 25 is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire in Greenwich Village. (just an FYI for you ex-NYC people). I might have previous mentioned my experience with sweatshops. I worked with UNITE for years. The biggest incidences of sweat shops, and their many fire and safety issues, were with the unregistered ones and the small ones.

    We couldn’t say perfect was the enemy of progress. We didn’t want to say that. We were converts The worst. We couldn’t say we will definitely review our standards & practices in 10 years.

    As I said, I’m wired differently. Having code compliance language here is not wrong, It is what this ordinance says about who gets this layer of fire and safety protection.. and who is excluded…and has to wait 10 years. Maybe I’ll go to worship and dwell on this. Or, maybe I’ll just sleep in.

  6. Thanks for the detailed comment, Frank. Is it etched in stone that it has to be 10 years before the rent control measure could be potentially revised? I don’t see why it couldn’t be revised sooner if the Township Council wanted. But if rent control is killed in a referendum because the MPOA pours its copious funds into a campaign for the measure’s defeat, I feel the result — no rent control — would be worse that anything in the measure.

  7. Yes, we have both staked out our positions. The circumstances seem to give us just the vote – no discussion. That’s fine. I’ll accept being in the minority.

    I will not accept the pious and righteous characterization of what is being done. I can’t do much about that either, so I’m playing the J.B’s Doin It To Death all weekend – specifically the full length version of You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight. The stanza is the refrain and the refrain is the stanza, and both are basically the title. What’s that’s called?

  8. Oh, I forgot to point out what will happen this Fall.

    All those newly vacated apartments – the ones not covered by this ordinance. The ones that will not be required to pass a code compliance check before re-rented. The other ones the township won’t admit are there. Those tenants aren’t represented. Their landlords, some are limited liability corporations, are being represented.

    That’s why we vote. We all get one.

  9. Except the Business Improvement District doesn’t get a vote. They shouldn’t. But, should they be allowed to express dissent? The Township administration said no.

    The Township sent the BID a formal & explicit cease and desist admonishment on June 5th, 2020. FYI, last I checked, the Township has some serious deep pockets, too. And as Councilor Hurlock reminded us, we are burning through a boat load of money on multiple active legal actions.

    Now the part that we have to stop and appreciate is that the BID property owners are subjected to a supplemental property tax. It’s like an additional 4% or so. We tax them on their entire property. The entire structure. Yes, the dwelling units, too. Where some BID members actually live.

    The Township’s case is the BID can’t publicly disagree with the Council’s actions. I kid you not. No dissent allowed. The Township believes it is on solid legal ground to say we will tax you, but we will not fully represent you. Now, taxation without representation is a tired cliche. And yes, it happens. But, the BID was not appropriately appreciative of all we have done for them over the years…and speaking out against our Council was biting the hand that feeds them.

    Hence, we legally slapped them. Maybe after this pandemic is over we will show them our compassion and let them speak freely again…within limits, of course.

  10. “…we are burning through a boat load of money on multiple active legal actions” — we have the MPOA to partly thank for that.

  11. In the spirit of the awards season, the following plaintiffs have been nominated in the Legal Actions category:
    1) The MPOA (v. the Township, et al)
    2) A BetterLackawanna folks (v. the Planning Board, et al)
    3) The MPS (v. the MEA)
    4) The Parents #1 (v. the MPSD, et al)
    5) The Parents #2-#10 (v. the MPSD re placements)
    6) The Teachers (v. the MPS re discrimination)

    I give up. I know I’m forgetting someone, but let’s just give a blanket thanks to the rest.

  12. FWIW, I would think it is a more lucrative to an attorney to lose and have a wildly successful record winning on appeal. Further, aren’t appeal judges more experienced & talented jurists?

  13. Ha, Frank! The length of that list is sobering — albeit with some of the legal actions more palatable than others. Some attorneys may one day win lifetime achievement awards…

  14. You’re probably right. But, seriously, how berserk is the Montclair Public Schools? When the MEA looks like the sole adults in the room, the rest of us should be scared. The good news – & thankfully – is all the other adults were educated somewhere else. And a lot of them have advanced degrees. OK, eliminate the MBAs, but there are still a ton of non-business masters.
    And the Democrats wan’t to forgive college loan debt (and MBS)? Maybe they should pass a standardized placement test first for the former? I recommend Purgatory for the latter. I’m wondering which part of the fence my U.S. representatives will straddle?

  15. Frank, Montclair’s school-district leadership is indeed often…”interesting.”

    Forgiving college debt? I’m all for it (even though it took me a decade to pay off my student loan). It would really help people, and help the economy — giving debt-ridden college grads more money for housing and other things. Forgiving MBS? I agree that it’s awful idea. Mohammed bin Salman is a murderous thug. So much for Biden’s campaign promise (lie) that he was going to be hard on the Saudi crown prince.

  16. I’m against college loan forgiveness of the principle amount. I am open to limited forgiveness of interest if structured within a larger plan to address the overall societal issues. What does that mean?
    It means that the concept of college is creating greater employment opportunities, hence earning power. I would use the tax system to provide 1:1 tax credits for the annual interest. Clearly, if someone is a college graduate, the expectation is they will meet the minimum filing thresholds aligned with such a program.

    Second, this program ignores the achievement gap. Specifically, I’ve been told by my opponents that it starts early and grows as students progress through to high school graduation. Why take limited dollars to subsidize something at the end of the process where it is effectively discounted in value. Yes, everyone agrees. Of course! Invest in early learning, e.g. Pre-K. Are we going to fix what I see as systemic deficiencies in K-12? Using Montclair as an example, the answer is nope. We are losing Pre-K students to achievement standards now.

    It is anecdotal, but colleges are not doing an especially good job either. How can you tell Frank? I can’t. There are most minimal standards for colleges. None to compare to one from another….unless you want to use Newsweek.

    So, why a reimbursement system which is based on pass/fail? And we have no say in what pass/fail is. The idea needs a lot of work. Right now, it is just a buzz phrase.

  17. The only way college loan forgiveness makes any sense is if there is a tuition clawback from colleges. Colleges have benefited greatly by deeply flawed government backed student loans. Just like the government’s involvement in the mortgage market create a mess in the financial system the government’s involvement in student loans created a mess in education costs. College is now less affordable than ever. Why? because the government easy money. The students didn’t benefit, colleges did by doubling and tripling the cost of education. Simple economics that colleges took advantage of like failed mortgage bankers did. Cancelling student debt just rewards bad behavior. Who said “neither a borrower or lender be.” ? I am not advocating debtors prisons but if you take the money it is your responsibility to pay it back. Should a kid who became a plumber, carpenter, or factory worker be on the hook for someone who partied and got a useless degree? I think not.

  18. Frank, forgiveness of college-loan interest would be better than no forgiveness at all. Some of the interest rates, especially from private lenders, have been obscene — taking advantage of less-affluent students’ desperation to get a college education.

    I also agree that it would be great to invest more in early education throughout the nation (while also having college-loan forgiveness). Spend less on the military and increase taxes on the rich, and the money is there if “the powers that be” are willing. Of course, most of them are not willing. 🙁

  19. flipside, I agree that many colleges have a lot to answer for — jacking up tuition and other fees to pay for too many high-priced administrators, too many fancy new buildings, and too much “big time” sports while paying adjunct professors dirt-cheap wages. Of course, public colleges are also hampered by not getting enough aid from many states (a different government-related thing than you mentioned).

    As for taxpayers unfairly funding stuff they don’t benefit from, that happens all the time. For instance, the U.S. military budget could be much smaller and remain effective at protecting our country, yet my taxes and other people’s taxes are helping to pay for the U.S. spending more on its military than the next 10 nations combined. I’d rather spend some of that tax money in giving debt-laden students a break — with the added benefit of that helping the economy as no-longer-debt-laden students could spend more on building their lives.

  20. Tonight’s Council meeting was a classic. Especially the rent control comments. My two favorites were the claim there are 15,000 rental units in Montclair and rent control was about racism. Councilor Cummings said in the last meeting that the 4th Ward was not consulted about another ordinance, the leaf blower one. Tonight, he didn’t speak up when he heard the rent control community reach-outs only happened in the 3rd & 4th Wards. Then Mayor Spiller seemed to indicate that this was appropriate because certain people couldn’t understand the unspoken issues behind the need for rent control. Way to bring everyone together. Another example of how Upper Montclair is not part of Montclair. Montclair has its act together. Clearly, we are the denigrated 3rd cousins.

    I’m fine with that. If the Mayor want to dump Upper Montclair, have at it. Stick us in any other town. Be rid of us. We’ll survive somehow. When was the last time you ever visited anyway? And Bill, when are you going to find your voice?

  21. For those who think I’m necessarily harsh, I warned this very Council last year about allowing, much less furthering this Upper Montclair versus Montclair thing that has been going around. I won’t have it. I will never accept it and I will fight it tooth and nail. This is one town. Work together, but don’t you dare try to split us.

    PS: Loved the speech Councilor Russo. Sorry the dentist shorted you on the novocaine.

  22. Thanks, Frank, for your thoughts on last night’s Council meeting. Montclair meetings are rarely boring.

    It would be nice if our town were solely called Montclair instead of Montclair and Upper Montclair.

  23. The 043 designation is obsolete, but people love the “brand”. Personally, I have advocated our elected U.S representatives ask to remove it….but, these are the folks that have Montclair’s representation split between Montclair, etc & Upper Montclair, etc. And the Federal Census Bureau treats Yogi Berra Way (come to the fork…) as part of Upper Montclair. And how does Yantacaw section become part of U Montclair? The business district is being stupid and calling itself Uptown Montclair. What’s that? Uptown Montclair? Mountain Station is on Upper Mountain. Then there is Montclair Heights which we annexed to Little Falls years ago. Originally MSU was Upper Montclair State, then it became the Normal School for a while. Next week I’ll elaborate on the history of the South End.

    And what is with Chelsea, DUMBO, and my personal favorite, the West Village. What is that? They had to split Greenwich Village? Absolutely no good reason there. Why do they call it Ironbound? I like the name, but I think it is technically part of Newark. Although, I wouldn’t doubt if the US EPA annexed it as a Super Fund capital. Anyway, the Upper Montclair thing is used now to make a racial or class distinction.

  24. Yes, Frank, Montclair having two U.S. congresspeople is silly. Was it Republican gerrymandering that attached Upper Montclair to Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (now Mikie Sherrill’s) district? I’m not remembering the details. The Upper Montclair designation — like some designations in other places such as NYC, as you note — does have some class and racial elements, even as the Estate Section in 07042 Montclair is quite upscale…

  25. Another takeaway from that Council meeting is the performance of our Housing Commission Co-Chair. We don’t have high expectations from our Commissions in general. I do think the HPC is far away the strongest.

    Anyway, the meeting priority was about rent control. The Co-Chair gets up and talks about a minor tenant/landlord issue totally unrelated to rent control. Furthermore, it is covered under Federal Housing Law which is not connected with our rent control ordinance.

    Further, she was obviously oblivious to the irony the tenants she spoke about protecting were, in fact, excluded from the rent control ordinance. These tenant were also intentionally excluded from the added fire and safety protections to be conferred under the rent control ordinance. Seriously. Talk about a disconnect. Yes, the Mayor said housing was about race. And the Council and the Housing Commission just ignored a whole swath of tenants of race.

    Full disclosure, no one knows any figures about impact, total tenant households. We’re just flying blind on this.

    You think I’m joking? TOOM said there are 15,000 rental households in town. 15,000! Therefore, this ordinance is only covering 3,600 apartments. That seems a tad discriminatory. Unusually selective.

    Seriously, just ask. Just try and stand back and insist on one or two facts before you decide. Just one or two, All you have to do is ask one question. Probably a follow-up question when the non-answer is the first reply.

    We have no idea what we are doing. We don’t care. It is about polishing individual reputations. It is sad.

  26. For those watching from the sidelines, this is clearly very personal among the key parties and the level of animus is almost off the chart. There is no possibility of a negotiated settlement with the same players asked to find it. Even the MPSD and the MEA knew they at needed an arbitrator as an interim attempt. No, this is pitched, hold your ground moment, establishing dominance kind of contest. Pass the popcorn! This is far better than any of those tv reality shows. That one where a contestant runs the obstacle course and something comes out smacks the them into the water. Or the ones were Love & Understanding is tabled for a chance at celebrityhood. And now it has a life & death element and also classified a Moral Imperative. Drama. Edge of your seat stuff in little ol’ Montclair. Thank you!

  27. What I do know is that if it is life & death, and if it is a moral imperative as people said, then why are you ignoring the more than 75% of the renters NOT PROTECTED under this ordinance? Are you making a value choice? And your justification is? Could it be…It’s Good Enough?

  28. Thank you for the comments, Frank. The rent-control measure is indeed imperfect, and doesn’t cover enough tenants, but it’s better than nothing. Developers are unfortunately very powerful in Montclair, and various other kinds of property owners also have plenty of clout, so that reality shaped a rent-control measure into being sort of okay rather than great. Which makes it extra annoying that the well-funded Montclair Property Owners Association is reacting in such a scorched-earth way.

  29. Yes, the MPOA. More than a few moral issues there. As well as the Jackson & Spiller Councils. That is why I laughed at the hutzpah of First Cong when they said rent control was a moral imperative. Can you imagine Toni’s Kitchen only serving customers from the big buildings? And justifying their choice was both indiscriminate and was better than nothing? I don’t want to imagine that, but I also don’t belong to First Cong.

    Anyway, I was taught in the MPSD. Aggh! So, when I say you can’t live life by “The Ends Justifies The Means” and then call “Moral Imperative” on others. You see how that might conflict?

  30. I hesitate to point out the obvious, but the Township is the biggest developer by far. That this escapes people is not surprising. They don’t ask. Moral imperatives aside.

    Guess who is the biggest class of apartment owners in town? Hint, they are also not covered by this rent control ordinance. Moral imperatives aside.

    Yes, bad ordinance. Horrible ethics in passing it. A fight among unrepentant egos, not principles. And we shamefully stoop to using COVID as an excuse.

    I say the Council knew COVID had become a problem. A death the Health Department knew about is proof of that. Maybe I’m wrong. The Council didn’t appreciate the threat. So, they sneak in the 1st Reading claiming ignorance of the State of Emergency and Montclair’s first death…of so, so many to come over the next 60 days. But, then the schools closed and the Council started to figure out normal didn’t apply. Bully for them. They then used COVID as cover. Bully for them. Did I mention this was a moral imperative? And then we had our election. Bully for us. We are such a great town. One of the best in the country. Wow, I’m so very lucky!

  31. Frank, to me the Toni’s Kitchen comparison doesn’t work. There’s no powerful group in Montclair fighting against feeding the hungry, whereas rent control (and what would be in a rent control measure) was up against powerful developers and other property owners.

    “…the township is the biggest developer by far” — if that is or was true, it’s because of schools and other public buildings. As far as I know, Montclair isn’t a big developer of housing units, though I know it has a bit of a hand in that (such as its unfortunate involvement with “the arts district”).

    It wasn’t ideal passing rent control during COVID, when meetings are virtual and it was harder to collect referendum signatures for the MPOA’s unwelcome effort to kill the measure. But, as we’ve discussed before, rent control was under discussion long before the pandemic hit. And one can argue that a pandemic was a good time to introduce rent control because some tenants were hurting more than usual as COVID tanked the economy.

  32. This is where the media falls short. It is not media’s fault, but they enable readers by sugar coating their bias.

    Montclair is the biggest redeveloper of housing in Montclair. I’ll put aside commercial and municipal projects. And this is so easy to verify.

    We are the redevelopment authority for Valley & Bloom, Seymour, Lackawanna, Hahnes/Siena, Community Hospital, Eastern Gateway, and I’ll just skip over the pure Affordable Housing projects. Count up those dwelling units.

    We write the development plan, we kick in property and assets, we designate the lead developer, and then we approve our own projects. We grant ourselves variances, e.g. only 10% affordable housing vs 20% by law. Where was the moral imperative when we granted ourselves a 500 apartment variance? Then, we make these projects tax-free and charge rent…which we don’t share with the school district. We do this to line our pockets. And our redevelopment properties are exempt from this rent control. But, in the spirit of love and understanding, we set the maximum rent increase to 2% for all these projects. Love that. What % does the ordinance set?

    So, please be more careful in your confidence that Montclair is the Dudley Do-Right of Suburban Life, albeit it rubs up to The City it idolizes.

    The residents clearly don’t have a clue. It’s better this way. COVID, etc.

  33. Frank, it depends on the way things are framed. Sure, the town is involved in designating certain areas for redevelopment, approving projects, etc., but I don’t see Montclair as the developer per se. The developers are private entities that own all or most of the land being built on, and plan what they want to build (subject to some oversight by a town that gives them most of what they want). The developers also oversee the construction, pocket much of the profit, and so on.

  34. Yes, I also like to think of us as benevolent visionaries and developers like the California Teacher’s Union and their Pension Fund corrupted all that was good about Valley & Bloom. Boo, hiss!

    But, we don’t get to make up stuff unless you are TOOM. By law, LDHL, LTTEL, et al say we are a developer. And if you follow the paper trail, we negotiated with MAP to be our redevelopment agent and and we assign our redevelopment rights. They assigned their rights to MAP U.R., We sold our parking deck to make the financing cleaner. MAP UR assigned their rights for the hotel to ORANGE RD BLAH BLAH BLAH, which, yes, is where the LCOR (CalSTRS, the teacher’s pension fund) shows up.

    Again, I don’t expect most Montclarions to know this, but did you ever stop and think why these projects are tax-free? Didn’t you think for a fleeting moment, “huh?”. They are building something for a profit and the State of NJ say if Montclair say so, then OK, you can have a tax exemption. Montclairions took the money and ran with it. Literally very few questions asked. And then we complain about over-development. It’s like the Seniors (myself included) that put the Township $235MM in debt, poor infrastructure and so-so services. Now we want those nice young, peak earning residents to subsidize us living out our years here. As they say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
    Us baby-boomers are killing it. Those Millennials will get their turn.

    I hate too break it to you. If you pay taxes in Montclair you are a developer. If you only rent, then you are not a developer…and for a small minority, will get rent control.

  35. I’m getting old. I forgot my all-time favorite Montclair taxpayers playing developer.
    That would be that completely ridiculous mistake that inexperienced developers make of getting out over your ski tips.
    That would be that insistence of a 65,000 square foot supermarket in Lackawanna Plaza. 65,000 big ones.
    Now, what gets me through the pandemic is reminiscing about the very same Council then retroactively banning left-turns into the space where a 29,000 sf grocery is going instead of the 65,000 supermarket (if the Council and citizen-developers got their way).

    And then we step all over the very law that was written to give us every advantage imaginable over private property rights and we get greedier and greedier. More please. We’re developers. The developer gave up the idea of partnering with us & did a Walk Away Renee.

    And now we are going to do it again…for the 3rd attempt within 8 years. I’m really on the fence if the property owner is going to partner-up with us in a redevelopment route or go it alone with the straight development application route without us. A tough one. I’ll have to think longer.

  36. Again, Frank, I think you’re offering a very wide definition of being a developer. I still think of Pinnacle, Stephen Plofker, etc., as being developers and Montclair officials as being…well…enablers of developers (much of the time).

    I’m a renter, so I guess I’m not a developer under your definition. Phew! 🙂 (But I do pay taxes in Montclair, indirectly through my rent.)

  37. Frank, Are you saying that the Progressive Utopia of Montclair has not been led benevolent leaders who only put the citizens first? Come on man, give me a break! What’s next? Teachers actually care about money and wouldn’t teach for free because “it’s all about the children?” Are you getting cynical in your old age? Montclair is a little slice of heaven where everyone gets along and puts the needs of others first. Kumbaya!
    You have to admit if the cost of show (taxes) wasn’t so high watching so called enlightened progressives trying eating each other’s lunch would be entertaining. Like the old saying goes, “go woke, go broke.”

  38. flipside, I have decided to leverage COVID as a justification.

    I know most everyone hasn’t actually read the ordinance from front to back. So, take my at my word we will have some very wild & crazy times if this ordinance is adopted. This could mean full-employment for attorneys, local media, and The NY Times, Post, etc.

    For example, the proposed rent control board members don’t have to have any special qualifications…and our appointed by the Council. OK, this is as our Board of Education except just the mayor appoints. But, yes, our very own high-performing BoE facing a referendum.

    Next, the rental board quorum is 3 members. It takes only 2 members to approve any action. And they don’t have to live in Town. But, here is the best part which I can’t wait to see happen:

    The Montclair rent control members have subpoena powers! Yes! How great is that?

    No other board or commission in Town has that. Not the Planning Board. Not the Zoning Board. Not the Council. Oh, yes, the Board of Education does! And that worked out so well for us! I’m not sure if they can subpoena tax records, but they might try. Everyone lawyer up!

    Oh, and the transparency requirement? Minimal.

    The chapter on Code of Ethics? Well, we don’t follow it now, so I have no expectation the rent control board would necessarily follow them.

    Did I mention the predatory pricing (yeah, it is an oxymoron, too ).

    And, the way all this is written, we could never add the smaller rental buildings down the road because of the potential burden on property owners and tenants.

    Lastly, a little tacky-tacky suggestion. I recommend the Council defer indefinitely the zoning revisions to be introduced at the next meeting. That just might complicate your life further.

    But, by all means: Go Big or Go Home!

  39. I seriously want to throw my name into the mix if I can have subpoena powers! It is not quite Superhero level powers, but for a average mortal, I’ll take it. Oh, yeah! I’ll keep it all confidential. No problem.

  40. Dave,

    Yes, those developers you singled out are full-time, career professionals who make a profit from calculated risk. However, both groups have been known to legally arrange the deck in their favor. Both groups have asked for forgiveness.

    Yes, I inserted that for your benefit and other renters who disagree with my POV.

  41. Frank, Are you saying there is such a thing as the “swamp.” We are certainly seeing it on a federal level why not on the local level. The only light at the end of the tunnel is maybe, just maybe, people will realize actions speak louder than words.
    BTW, thank you for your gadfly duties calling out what is going on.

  42. Frank, when you wrote “both groups have asked for forgiveness,” I suddenly realized why there’s development near Church Street. 😉

  43. Imagine a gadfly with subpoena powers? A guy can dream.
    Not this administration, but maybe the next???

    And please get Montclair’s new 911Alert app…if you dare. We all learned the hard way with the last round of information we shared with the Township. NJ’s Privacy Protection Laws are not nearly to the level of California’s or Virginia’s.

    And if anyone thought the money dropped on some candidates last year was unprecedented, wait until next election. I’m thinking a competitive candidacy will require a 6-figure spend.

    Dave, yes. This is why Salvation is on Trinity Place.
    Trinity is where Montclair took our redevelopment plan’s inspiration. Have you ever heard about the decorating Rule of 3. In our case, we got a little crazy:

    * the Hahne’s RDA 3: The Siena/Crescent Deck/65 Church.
    * the Gateway 1 RDA 3: Valley & Bloom/ MC Hotel/MC Residences.
    * the Seymour RDA3: Seymour/S. Willow/Midtown Deck.
    * the Eastern Gateway RDA 3: The Montclairions/ the whatever bldg/Shell station.
    Lackawanna RDA 3 is up next: Only two parcels here right now. Watch for the 3rd piece. It will be trip.

  44. PS: and we also used the Rule of 3 in crafting the rent control ordinance. We designed out landlords with 3 or less units.

  45. A swamp? Noooo. It is just like Edgemont – a little turbidity.
    Nothing a regular dredging, some drainage and top dressing won’t fix.
    I forget, do we still control that park?

  46. Dave,
    Because (never start a sentence with; rule infraction) I was not clear enough, I will revisit my point. Montclair’s municipal employees (the administration) are not and can never be considered developers. However, tax payers are. We assign our rights to fellow citizens who serve on the Council (the Governing Body and also the Zoning Body when it comes to redevelopment areas; the Zoning Board goes on a forced sabbatical). Since we elected the Council, the State says ok, the taxpayer developers have indicated we are to designate the Council as the Big Kahouna Developer for Redevelopment Areas. The Township staff are staff. They manage the Township operations. Is that clear now?

  47. “This is why Salvation is on Trinity Place” — ha, Frank! I had never made that connection re the local Salvation Army’s location.

    As for taxpayers supposedly being developers in the indirect way you describe, I understand what you’re saying but still don’t agree. And, heck, what about the many taxpayers who don’t like the too-dense, too-upscale development that’s been going on in recent years? Are they “involuntary developers”? 🙂

  48. Dave,

    The price of belonging to a group. Since you brought it up a downside to being part of a freely chosen group, what is a member to do?

  49. Mr Plofker,

    1. Have your lawyers look at ordinance’s introduction (at the end of the Feb meeting) for lack of public comment after being introduced.

    2. Look at the original version put forward, then to the approved introduced version, then to the version that was posted digitally in advance of the April public hearing. Then compare it to the Code version currently posted online. Keep OPMA, OPRA and State of NJ’s State of Emergency Public Meeting requirements at their mind’s forefront throughout.

    While I am partial to the Mayor restricting Public Comment topics, my favorite at the moment is §257-2:C, the Effective Date. I’m guess the MPOA could not have known this until after the fact. We’re just too adorable for words. There are some other revisions, but I am not qualified to say whether they are material.

    Also, file under mildly noteworthy (Outsider Alert!):
    The VP of the NJTO and Livingston resident who offered the added clause tot he Council exempting owner-occupied housing. Does he travel the State advocating for rent control? OK, fine with me to have an outsider advocating a local issue if they bring some technical insights & experience.

    I remember the Planning Board and some residents refusing to hear an outsider with similar case of offering similar content. Now, thanks to COVID rules, we don’t have to indicate where we live. Change.

    PS: Dave, this is one way to respond when you are drawn involuntarily into an enterprise that is wrong.

  50. Frank, I’m not a member of the sort-of-developer group you’ve been referring to, and, again, I don’t think that group exists. I’m not sort of a developer as a Montclair renter and I wasn’t sort of a developer as a Montclair homeowner. But I’ll answer your “what is a member to do?” question anyway. Not much. I can’t control what is done with the taxes I indirectly pay as a renter and the taxes I directly paid as a homeowner. And I never withhold rent or taxes. I guess what I CAN do is give my opinion in my column and in replies to comments below the column. 🙂 For whatever that’s worth; some would say not much. 🙂

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