MontClairVoyant: The Blight of Too Much Height

MontClairVoyant

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

The Planning Board wants four-story limits on future Bloomfield Avenue buildings but the Township Council might be okay with some additional higher structures. Is that your understanding of recent PB and TC stances?

Sincerely,

Story About Stories

Yup. Apparently, the PB wants heights to align with our town’s Master Plan while some TC members favor a Doctorate Plan, which involves a PhD in Tallness.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But don’t existing too-tall buildings — The MC hotel, Valley & Bloom, etc. — already negatively create plenty of “canyon effect”?

Sincerely,

Al Titude

Maybe the Council hopes the Mets or Yankees win the World Series and have their “canyon of heroes” parade in Montclair rather than Manhattan, with ticker tape created from shredding local officials’ love letters to developers.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Can higher buildings be palatable if upper floors have setbacks?

Sincerely,

Lipstick on a Big

That helps somewhat, but tall is tall. And if the Mets and Yankees have too many setbacks, neither will reach the World Series.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Any other potential complications?

Sincerely,

Edgar Allan Potential

Yankees star Aaron Judge is 6’7″ without setbacks, creating a “canyon effect” whether or not his team grabs its first championship since 2009.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I’d rather the Council concentrate for a while on ending its longtime agreement to provide firefighting services to Glen Ridge, which is greatly underpaying for that.

Sincerely,

The Art of the Bad Deal

Underpaying indeed — and that affluent neighboring borough now has the gall to pit Montclair against Bloomfield to try to renew those services at the cheapest possible price. Besides, how fast can fire trucks get from Bloomfield, Michigan, to Glen Ridge anyway?


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

It’s Bloomfield, New Jersey, you idiot. Meanwhile, the Apollo 11 jacket worn by Montclair-raised astronaut Buzz Aldrin was auctioned July 26 for a whopping $2.77 million! Who purchased it?

Sincerely,

Clothes Make the Man on the Moon

Don’t know (the winning bidder was anonymous), but there’s a rumor that Glen Ridge offered 2.77 cents.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In other news, the public pre-kindergarten option gone from Montclair since the 1990s might return in a few years due to a statewide initiative. Sound good?

Sincerely,

Future to the Back

Very good. Kids can learn a lot in pre-K — including post-K letters such as L, M, N, O, P, Q…


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Okay, okay — we get the feeble joke. Does your family have any direct experience with public pre-K in Montclair?

Sincerely,

Class-y Question

My older daughter was an Edgemont pre-K student in 1993-94. That was a time when the 2004-founded Facebook had zero users, which somewhat limited the sharing of posts.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Were there also fewer towering buildings on Bloomfield Avenue back then?

Sincerely,

The Towering Eternal

Definitely. When a time-traveling developer from 2022 walked into the now-gone Crazy Rhythms record store in the 1990s to demand “Eight Miles High,” he was told Montclair structures that tall were not allowed.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What would happen if that same developer typed in “Eight Miles High” on YouTube this year?

Sincerely,

For the Byrds

Some accommodating Township Council members would eagerly ask, “Where on Bloomfield Avenue would you like that 42,240-foot-tall skyscraper?”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What if the developer sought a variance to not include elevators in that colossal building?

Sincerely,

Up Button Deficit

The stairwell could double as a fitness center.

 

 

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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7 COMMENTS

  1. Just to clarify, it is hundreds of citizens of Montclair, who participated in developing the Master Plan, that want 4 stories on Bloomfield Avenue; it is not just the unanimous view of the Planning Board. Why 5 Councilors think that they have the mandate to override this overwhelming support for this ordinance just stuns me! I just wonder what is going on behind the scenes at the Council.

  2. Thank you for your comment, minorchord! That’s a great point about many citizens being involved in crafting the Master Plan — and that many citizens (probably the vast majority) want four-story height limits. Majority sentiment against overdevelopment is something I’ve mentioned in many columns, but neglected to mention in this week’s column. I should have.

    Yes, it’s annoying and wrong of the Township Council to go against this sentiment and support the possibility of additional taller buildings. (The Planning Board has also been guilty of supporting overdevelopment in the past but has suddenly become more vigilant against that lately, at least temporarily; very welcome. 🙂 ) Not sure exactly what’s behind the current attitude of the majority of the Council except perhaps the usual favoring of developers — including maybe the desire to leave things open for the Lackawanna Plaza redeveloper to have higher buildings.

  3. I think you both are mistaken in that the majority of residents support the current zoning. Most of the stakeholder groups support 6-story or even higher buildings. The Council & Planning Board did some appeasing via a scalpel (:) because there are two Redevelopment Areas fronting on Portland Place awaiting plans.

    The Council and Planning Board both know the C-1 Central Business Zone has a C-1 Community Zone overlay…created to retain (not preserve) the character of this 4th Ward section of Bloomfield Ave below Elm St. I didn’t see anyone stand up and say, “whadda say we at least drop the heights to 4 stories in the C-1 Community! Zone?” Not even was it a discussion anywhere along the way.

    Those “heady days” of the 201-2015 Master Plan discussion and debate are long gone. The Forest Street outlaws have long moved out or moved on and the Cloverhill Gang so inadequate.

    Climate change initiatives will never gain traction here because we are too busy building, adding all this density, and impervious pool houses, assorted courts & bbq pits because we tell ourselves we are creating open space somewhere else. Yes, we build like we do on the side of a steep, not quite a mountain slope and the increasing runoff is caused by… climate change?

    The bears & deer are foregoing all these open spaces we are creating because we have open garbage cans in Essex County. Now we are justifying building these new heights for equality! We must drive up Montclair’s supply of housing to make housing Affordable & affordable. And the Planning Board will get itself in a knot over 6-10 Elm St massing and across the street, the will sanction the plan for Lackawanna Plaza. No, the Planning Board members were too lazy to make a decent case and the Council swatted down the childish case they did make.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Frank. I very much doubt that the majority of Montclair residents support more six-story (or higher) buildings on Bloomfield Avenue. And driving up Montclair’s supply of housing is not likely to create a lot of new affordable housing when developers build mostly upscale units. Sure, there’s a chance that a greater supply of housing might create market forces that would lower some rents a bit (or make them rise a bit more slowly), but only a chance. It’s more likely that additional upscale housing will attract more new residents who can afford it.

    Re climate change, I do agree that Montclair is an interesting mix of being environmentally conscious yet also doing some things that are not great for the environment. Also including too many gas-guzzling SUVs.

  5. And I was thinking of you when I went out for my constitutional (a walkabout) and appreciated a neighbor’s SUV recharging next to their new 3k/sf of impervious outdoor improvements in the Steep Slope Zone. I went on to upper Edgewood Rd and just laughed at all the indigenous stones and pavers. By us mapping the Steep Slope Zone, we know where the best city views will be after we cut down the old-growth trees. And by removing that dangerous canopy, we can take in all the glory of the dark skies from public right of ways!

    Yes, we should prioritize our land use energies on Montclair Center’s 5% of our township’s land. The difference between 4 and 6 stories is of huge impact to this iconic touchstone.

  6. Frank, New York Times article or no New York Times article, NYT and Montclair could each theoretically build a ton of new housing, but if that housing is mostly aimed at the affluent, things will not be affordable. I’ll leave it at that in order to not repeat what I said in my previous comment.

    But, yes, an “eco-conscious” Montclair family that has an SUV or two, a big house, possibly cuts down healthy trees, etc., is not that “eco-conscious.”