Bloomfield Council Approves BCA Budget, Considers Designation as “Welcoming City”

BY  |  Friday, Feb 10, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Bloomfield council approved a $590k 2017 budget for the Bloomfield Center Alliance at Monday night’s council meeting.

Ollyn Lettman, Director of the BCA, presented the organization’s plans for 2017. He stated the emphasis in the coming year would be on marketing and advertising the businesses in Bloomfield Center, as well as continuing to hold events to promote the area. Lettman cited last year’s successful block party as an event that they would repeat in 2017. He also said the BCA plans to work with store owners to utilize empty storefronts for temporary “pop-up” shops or galleries in order to entice more people to come to the Center.

Lettman said the BCA plans to initiate a Gateway to Bloomfield project at Parkway Exit 148. He said he was thankful for the help of the township, which provided $70k to pursue this project, allowing them to hire a consultant to design the plan.

The BCA is a non-profit organization that manages and promotes the Bloomfield Center business district. The majority of the BCA’s budget comes from a tax assessment on businesses in the Special Improvement District in Bloomfield Center. Continue Reading

Montclair Planning Board Approves Renovations to Greenworks on Grove Building

BY  |  Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

On Monday evening, the Montclair Planning Board approved an application to renovate the Greenworks on Grove building at 100 Grove Street to allow a dental practice to move into vacant office space.

Alan Trembulak, the attorney representing the applicant for the application, provided an overview of the project.

He explained his client was looking for site plan approval to remodel the interior of a one-story building that had been previously approved by the Planning Board in 2007. He stated the client was not proposing to change the exterior of the building, but to modify the interior to accommodate a dental practice that will be moving into the building. He said they also would need approval of a variance for the number of on-site parking spaces, given that medical practices have a higher on-site parking requirement of 20 spaces vs. the parking lot’s available 15 spaces, as well as the change in the use of the site. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Discusses “Predatory Booting” of Vehicles, Makes Appointments

BY  |  Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017 3:30pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Councilman Nick Joanow brought up the issue of “predatory bootings” taking place at private parking lots at Monday’s brief conference meeting.

Photo credit: Maria Probst

Photo credit: Maria Probst

Joanow explained that “booting” a car meant attaching a mechanical device to a vehicle that immobilizes it. He said a lot of residents had told him that they had been booted when parking in private lots and had had to pay $100 or $200 (depending on location) in cash in order to get the device removed. While emphasizing that the residents had parked illegally and should not have done so, he said, “I’m offended by a company that would prey on our own residents. It’s like killing a flea with a sledgehammer.”

He reiterated to residents, “Do not park in private lots; they will do what the sign says they will do…They are aggressively enforcing.” Joanow went on to say, “My charge to the Administrator is to look at the county level. There is ‘predatory towing.’ Let’s not gouge the residents.” He explained that the agencies booting residents’ vehicles are “waiting for you – that’s the predatory part.” He asked the administration to see what leverage the town may have to protect the residents. Joanow mentioned that the McDonald’s on Broad Street is one of the locations where residents are being booted for parking illegally.

The council voted to create a cap bank to give the administration flexibility for future appropriations as needed. Township Administrator Watkins explained that this does not raise taxes, but simply protects money that the township has already saved. According to the NJ Department of Community Affairs, a municipality may bank (for up to two years) the difference between its final appropriation subject to the budget cap, and 3.5%.

Finance Director Robert Renna announced the township had held a successful sale of bonds totaling $24.4 million at a net interest rate of 1.15%.

The mayor and council also voted to approve members to numerous boards and commissions. Leo Sceurman and Jessica Alfreds were promoted from alternate to regular members of the Zoning Board, and new member Greg Moormann was appointed as an alternate. Thess Prince and Trevor Munson were reappointed as alternates. On the Planning Board, Greg Babula was reappointed and Zeke Harvey appointed as an alternate. Denise Seabay was reappointed to the Board of Health, and Nicole Williams was reappointed to the Parking Authority.

Other Business

The council also passed a number of other action items awarding contracts for various township functions, including Township Attorney. They also voted to reject and rebid for the purchase of a truck cab with chassis.

Councilor Wartyna Davis reported on the upcoming Martin Luther King Day events. Saturday, January 14, will be the MLK Day of Service, to be held at Berkeley School. Check-in time for participants is 8 a.m. Monday, January 16, will be the MLK Day Celebration, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the New Light Baptist Church.Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams will be the key speaker. In addition, Davis said, they will be presenting service awards.

The next meeting will be a regular meeting, to be held on Monday, January 23, 2017, in the council chambers at 7 p.m.

Bloomfield Council Passes Lion Gate Bond Ordinance – Again

BY  |  Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016 9:00am

council12_12_16The Bloomfield mayor and council passed an ordinance Monday evening appropriating $10.5 million, including $9.975m in bonds, to fund the purchase of the former Scientific Glass site on Lion Gate Drive.

The township had previously passed the bond ordinance in August of 2014, allowing the town to move forward with the purchase of the land in order to preserve it as open space. The purchase was completed in February of 2015. The site had originally been owned by a developer who intended to build 104 town houses on the property.

Shortly after the 2014 vote, four Bloomfield residents (former Mayor Raymond McCarthy, former mayoral candidate Russell Mollica, James Wollner and Chris Stanziale) filed a lawsuit alleging that Councilman Nick Joanow, whose property borders the Scientific Glass site, had a conflict of interest by participating in the vote on the bond ordinance. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Kicks off Holiday Season with Tree Lighting and Food Drive

BY  |  Thursday, Dec 08, 2016 6:52am

treelightingBloomfield launched the holiday season on Monday evening with the annual tree lighting ceremony, which drew a large crowd.

The festivities were kicked off by Recreation Director Mike Sceurman. After brief remarks by Mayor Venezia, Councilor Wartyna Davis spoke about the upcoming Martin Luther King Day of Service. She said that the day of service has morphed into a month-long season of giving, and announced that they are holding a town-wide Food Drive and Baby Shower. She asked that people donate nonperishable goods to the Food Drive, and items such as disposable diapers, baby wipes, lotions and other items for the Baby Shower. She stated there would be drop-off locations at various locations around town, including the Library, Civic Center, police and fire stations, and Town Hall.

Following the speakers, Boy and Girl Scout troops sang “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” followed by seasonal carols sung by the Bloomfield High School Choir. and then the tree lighting. The two large evergreens on each side of the Town Hall were lit simultaneously, after a countdown from 20. That dramatic moment was followed by a visit from Santa, who arrived on the Police Mobile Command Unit with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Santa then met with all the children who wanted to tell him what they wanted for Christmas (and of course, assure him they had been good all year!).

The tree-lighting ceremony was followed by a brief Council Conference meeting in the mayor’s conference room. Continue Reading

Neighbors Oppose Proposed Subdivision on Madison Ave. at Montclair Planning Board

BY  |  Wednesday, Oct 19, 2016 6:51pm  |  COMMENTS (18)

neighbormadaveOpposition from neighbors sidetracked an application at Monday’s Planning Board meeting to subdivide a 1.7-acre property into three lots in the residential neighborhood of Madison Avenue.

The application was made by the property’s owners, Luther Flurry and Jarmila Packard, who currently live in a house situated behind a former nursing home located at the front of the property.

Prior to the hearing of the application, Chairman John Wynn recused himself due to his home’s proximity to the property, and the proceedings were chaired by Vice Chairman Jason DeSalvo.

The couple’s attorney, David Owen, explained that the property, located at 14-16 Madison Avenue, is the largest property within the block. The front building, he stated, was originally a 2-1/2 story one-family home that had been converted into a nursing home in 1945, when the Board of Adjustment approved that use of the property. In the mid-1990s, the nursing home closed and has been left vacant ever since. Flurry and Packard bought the property in 2002 and eventually applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment to convert the nursing home back to a one-family house, while living in the existing smaller building behind the larger structure. However, he said, they were unable to complete renovations on the former nursing home and now wish to subdivide the property into three lots.

Owen called Planner Peter Steck to testify further about the details of the application. Steck explained the owners wish to subdivide the existing large lot into three separate lots, with two lots fronting onto Madison Avenue, with the third lot containing the existing smaller home in the back. The former nursing home would be demolished and replaced with two single-family houses. He said the former nursing home had not been used as a single-family home since 1945 and it was in a deteriorated condition, with inside finishes removed. It is located on a rise in the topography, and a driveway is located to the right of the property, leading to the owners’ home in the back.


14-16 Madison Avenue, former nursing home building.

Continue Reading

Retail Vacancies Discussed at Montclair Planning Board Meeting

BY  |  Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016 7:38am  |  COMMENTS (22)

Vice Chairman Jason DeSalvo expressed concerns about vacant storefronts during Monday evening’s brief Montclair Planning Board meeting.

The Board continued the discussion of the Montclair Master Plan re-examination, which was broached at last month’s meeting.

At that time, Planning Director Janice Talley had explained that the purpose of a re-examination is to review the land use policies and development regulations, and prepare a plan of action for the next 10 years based on that review, a process that is required to be done every ten years.

At the July meeting, “point persons” were chosen from the Board members to assess each element of the Master Plan, including Housing, Land Use, Historic Preservation, Transportation, and Economic Development, as well as addressing zoning issues.

At Monday’s meeting, the Board members had an opportunity to bring up questions and issues pertaining to their specific areas of concentration.

Vice Chairman Jason DeSalvo, who had volunteered to address the Economic Development element, said that vacant storefronts on Bloomfield Avenue are a major concern. He said he had taken a long walk, starting at the South side of Bloomfield Avenue by the Montclair Art Museum, all the way down to Lackawanna Plaza, and then returned via the North side of the street. Continue Reading

Montclair BOE: Mayor Withdraws Appointees, Board Postpones Reorganization Meeting

BY  |  Tuesday, May 17, 2016 4:34pm  |  COMMENTS (2)

Montclair BOE Postpones Reorganization Meeting, Discusses Charter School

After Monday afternoon’s surprise announcement by Mayor Jackson that he was withdrawing three appointments to the Board of Education, the BOE met Monday night and, after coming out of closed session, Superintendent Bolandi stated that the Board had agreed to delay their scheduled reorganization meeting and reconvene on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. The Board then publicly voted to approve the decision.

The meeting was then opened for public comment. Mayor Jackson spoke first to explain his reasons for withdrawing the appointments.

He began by thanking current Board members David Deutsch, Robin Kulwin and David Cummings, for coming back to duty. Because Jackson has not replaced them yet, they remain on the board for now. Jackson had previously announced the appointments of Rev. Jevon Caldwell-Gross: Pastor, Joe Kavesh, Esq and Franklin Turner, Ph.D. to replace the three members, who he said had decided to move on for various reasons.

During his comments, Mayor Jackson reiterated the reasons he had cited for withdrawing the appointments on Monday afternoon, saying he felt “the temperature of the town is hot” and that the hiatus would “allow us to cool down a little bit… and really begin a healing process.”

The BOE had been scheduled to hold their reorganization meeting on Monday, swearing in the new members, designating officers, and passing numerous resolutions. However, there were divisions among Board members regarding who should assume leadership of the Board, apparently leading to Mayor Jackson’s decision to try to avoid yet another heated BOE meeting until cooler heads could prevail. Continue Reading

Montclair First Ward Meeting: Election Timing, Water Quality and Senior Transportation

BY  |  Monday, May 09, 2016 8:45am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Montclair First Ward Meeting

Just over a week before the upcoming township elections, First Ward Councilor William Hurlock, joined by Mayor Robert Jackson, hosted a First Ward community meeting at the Bellevue Avenue branch of the public library on Wednesday, May 4.

May Elections

A resident questioned the timing of the municipal election scheduled for May 10, 2016, asking why the township doesn’t hold the municipal election in November, which he said would save money and ensure a larger turnout.

Mayor Jackson responded, “It’s a fair question,” and went on to explain that because Montclair has non-partisan elections, they did not want their elections to be connected with the partisan elections that take place in June and November, as it would result in more “party machinery” involvement. In addition, he said, local issues get drowned out when the local elections are held at the same time as the national parties are competing.

One resident pointed out that even if the turnout in a November election is higher, the local elections might still not receive as much attention since not everyone would go farther down on the ballot to vote for the local candidates. A suggestion was made that more advertising for the May election might be helpful. However, another resident said that he had received his sample ballot in the mail, which should serve as a reminder to those who may not have realized the election was coming up.

All of the incumbents are running for reelection without opposition, with the exception of the Third Ward council member. In that ward, incumbent Sean Spiller faces a challenge from Maureen Edelson.

Water Quality

A resident asked about the status of the township’s water quality. A study released in January evaluating the township’s water quality indicated that in 2014 there were elevated levels of PFOA (perfluorooctanic acid, used in making Teflon and other products) in the three wells that contribute to Montclair’s water supply.

Councilor Hurlock said the wells are shut down during the winter and they always take readings before reactivating them. He said that Water Department Director Obszarny plans to install screening technology to make the levels of PFOA in the well water undetectable. In addition, until that happens, the township has entered into an agreement to rent additional water capacity until they can confirm what the new levels of PFOA will be.

Hurlock also pointed out that the levels that were measured in the last water analysis are still well below federal standards, explaining that the New Jersey DEP has stricter standards than the federal government.

Senior Bus Service

    Sandy Sorkin spoke about the Senior Citizens Bus that runs through the various wards of the town. He said they are trying to add additional services to address the needs of senior citizens and are trying to identify which routes are crucial and which are not needed.

    He offered the residents three options:

    1) Eliminate the senior bus from the First Ward and improve services in the Third and Fourth Wards where they get more clients.

    2) Adjust the current route.

    3) Introduce a voucher program where clients can use a taxi service that takes vouchers.

    Most of the residents at the meeting did not seem to use the service. Some residents pointed out that Cedar Grove has a service that picks up people at their homes with an advance reservation. Their shuttle takes people to the grocery store and waits for them to shop.

    Sorkin said that if anyone had suggestions or ideas regarding the senior citizen bus service, they can contact the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee at [email protected]

    Historical Society Events

    Helen Fallon of the Montclair Historical Society announced there would be a Family Fun Day at the Crane House on Sunday, May 8, 2016. She said there is also a fundraiser during the weekend of May 12-14 at the Crane House.

    Montclair Police

    Sergeant Tyrone Williams, who heads the Community Service Unit of the Montclair Police Department, spoke and said his department was the “softer side” of policing, as they deal with crosswalks, schools, and the like. He said the department was undergoing some shifts and would be enforcing traffic issues. He warned the residents, however, to keep in mind that many times the people who are flouting the law are your neighbors. “A lot of times people say we want you to come to our neighborhood to write tickets” – but they don’t want to get a ticket themselves.

    Williams said each ward has a police liaison, and in the First Ward, that liaison is Travis Davis. He said that Davis usually works from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. but citizens should feel free to contact the Police Department and ask for him to address any issues that arise. He said Davis would either have the answer or point residents to the right person or department to address the concern.

    St. James Parish Church

    James Cott of the St. James Parish spoke about the restoration of the church’s Memorial Tower, which was built in 1919 following World War I to commemorate the lives of those who died in the Great War.

    He said the tower is 97 years old, and that during renovations the bells, which usually ring on the quarter hour, will be silent during the week while work is being done, but will continue to sound on weekends. He offered the attendees a booklet with more information about the history of the church and tower.

    Friends of the Bellevue Avenue Library

    The Friends of the Library announced there will be a tour of the historic Bellevue Avenue branch of the Montclair Public Library on Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 4 p.m., conducted by Lisanne Renner. This event will be free and open to the public.

    In addition there will be a Last Ditch Book Sale fundraiser from 12 to 6 p.m. that will help pay for purchasing of new books and library upgrades.

    The first part of the meeting was taken up with questions regarding the schedule of paving of various streets in the First Ward, including two private streets, whose residents had to apply to the town to get the streets paved, with a petition signed by all residents. Cost of paving would then be applied equally to residents’ tax bills over a period of ten years. One resident said that they had submitted their petitions and had hoped the street would be paved by last April, but it had not yet been paved. Councilor Hurlock apologized for the delay.

    Hurlock also explained to residents that Belgian Blocks were actually not more expensive than regular cement curbs, as the cost of installation for cement curbing offset the cost of the materials for Belgian Blocks.

Montclair Planning Board Approves Scaled-Down Development on Lorraine Avenue

BY  |  Thursday, Apr 07, 2016 12:30pm  |  COMMENTS (2)

Montclair Planning Board Approves Scaled-Down Development on Lorraine Avenue

The Montclair Planning Board unanimously approved a significantly scaled-back version of developer Michael Pavel’s proposed mixed-use building on Lorraine Avenue on Monday evening.

The proposed redevelopment on the site of the now-vacant Warner Communications Building first came before the Board on February 8, 2016, and was continued at the Board meeting held on February 22.

The original proposal called for a three-story mixed-use building with retail and ground-level covered parking on the first floor, medical offices and four duplex apartments on the second floor, and nine more apartments on the third floor. The plan would have required several variances, including one to allow a shortfall of 50 parking spaces vs. what was required based on the building’s size and uses.

When the applicant returned to the Board on February 22, the project had already been reduced in size to address some of the many concerns raised at the first meeting. However, variances were still required for impervious coverage and parking, and residents raised concerns related to both parking and traffic. Continue Reading

Featured Comment

The developer of the Seymour St project will install a big crosswalk between Fullerton & Willow. Unfortunately, the Township wants it in the wrong place.

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