Montclair Planning Board Recommends New Zone for Claremont Avenue Properties After Plofker Request

BY  |  Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017 3:55pm  |  COMMENTS (7)

The Montclair Planning Board agreed on Monday evening to recommend a zoning change for a strip of residential properties located on the North side of Claremont Avenue, which would change the zoning from R-3 to a new “historic” OR-3H zone.

This designation would allow office use while maintaining the residential character of the buildings.

Developer Steven Plofker, managing member of the Montclair Town Center LLC, currently owns the Georgian Inn property on the corner of North Mountain Avenue, as well as 323 Claremont Avenue (three-family house). Claremont Avenue Partners, affiliated with Montclair Town Center LLC, owns 315 Claremont Avenue, a two-family house. The single-family home located at 319 Claremont Avenue is owned by John and Leslie Matis.

These properties are all currently zoned R-3 residential “Garden Group Zone.” Another property on the corner of Claremont Avenue at Valley Road is already zoned OR-3 (office/residential garden apartment). Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Increases Westinghouse Area for Planning Board Redevelopment Assessment

BY  |  Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017 7:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Bloomfield Council passed a resolution Monday evening authorizing the Planning Board to “refine its investigation” for redevelopment of the former Westinghouse site to include an additional area along Arlington Avenue.

The resolution further directs the Planning Board to hold a public hearing to present its recommendations regarding the property. Once completed, the Board shall transmit its final recommendation to the Mayor and Council as to whether the designated site, or any part of it, should be designated an “Area in Need of Redevelopment.”

The resolution passed 5-0, with two council representatives absent (Councilmen Pomares and Bernard)

Original Westinghouse buildings in center/right of map.
Photo Credit: Bloomfield Historical Society, The New Town Crier, May 2004.

Scope of redevelopment area indicated in resolution.

The former Westinghouse plant was used during World War II as part of the Manhattan project, refining uranium for use in the atomic bomb, and also worked with thorium and other materials on the site until 1984, resulting in longstanding contamination from both radioactive and volatile organic compounds.

As part of the remediation of the contaminated property, all buildings were razed and contaminants removed or capped between 1994 and 2004. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a letter finding no further action was needed for the site before releasing it for unrestricted use in 2003, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection disagreed with the assessment due to residual groundwater contamination. The NJDEP eventually sued Viacom, demanding compensation for costs associated with cleanup and continued monitoring of the groundwater.

The site is currently zoned as a Commuter Oriented Residential District (CORD) in Bloomfield’s Master Plan, which would include a mix of residential and commercial uses, but could also include professional offices, health clubs or open space. A 2012 study done on the entire area surrounding Watsessing Station provides more information. Continue Reading

Bloomfield to Dissolve Parking Authority

BY  |  Thursday, Aug 24, 2017 8:00am

The Bloomfield mayor and council passed three ordinances on Monday night to start the process of dissolving the independent Bloomfield Parking Authority.

The BPA will be replaced with a municipal Parking Utility that will be under the township’s jurisdiction.  As part of the transfer, the township will assume the Parking Authority’s bond debt of $18,250,000 and will be authorized to issue bonds or notes to refund those obligations.

The council voted to approve all three ordinances 5-0. Councilors Wartyna Davis and Ted Gamble were absent.

Later in the meeting, a resolution was also passed that authorizes the township to apply to the Local Finance Board to dissolve the Bloomfield Parking Authority.

The ordinances will be passed on second reading at the next regular meeting on September 25, 2017.

According to a 2006 report sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the Urban Land Institute of Northern New Jersey, there are a number of differences between a Parking Authority and a Parking Utility.

New Jersey parking authorities have extraordinary statutory authority. N.J.S.A. 40:11A-6 grants parking authorities the powers necessary to carry out and effectuate essential government purposes. Furthermore, parking authorities may buy, sell and/or lease property as a lessee or lessor; construct multiuse projects and parking facilities; borrow money; issue bonds; mortgage or otherwise encumber its assets; enter into contracts; and retain earnings.”

The report notes that the advantages of creating an independent parking authority include: Continue Reading

Candlelight Vigil in Brookdale Park Held in Solidarity with Charlottesville

BY  |  Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017 12:06pm

A candlelight vigil was held in Brookdale Park Sunday night to “gather for peace and solidarity with Charlottesville.”

The event, hosted by NJ 11th for Change, drew an estimated crowd of 400-500 people, many accompanied by their children. Most were holding candles or other lights and stood in a circle on the archery field in the park.

The vigil was one of many such events held nationwide in the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally that took place in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday. Heather Heyer, a young woman who was in Charlottesville protesting against the white supremacist rally, was killed by a car driven purposely into the group of protesters by one of the “Unite the Right” supporters.

Elizabeth Juviler began the vigil at a little after 7 p.m., followed by numerous other speakers from all around the area.

Bishop George Lucey of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Glen Ridge spoke, followed by Marcia Marley of Bluewave NJ, who quoted Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Rabbi Ariann Weitzman of Temple B’nai Keshet in Montclair quoted Hillel the Elder, saying, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

Pastor Ronald Verblaauw of the Rutherford Congregational Church, wearing a rainbow-hued stole, led the crowd in a call-and-response prayer declaring that all people are siblings and calling for unity.

Mikie Sherrill, a Democratic Congressional candidate from Montclair who is running against Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, spoke, as well as numerous other community members.

A mother holding her young child spoke forcefully about the need to teach our children at a young age so they will grow up believing in what is right.

Speeches were interspersed with song. The crowd sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome,” the voices tentative at first, and then stronger as more joined in.

As the last strains of “We Shall Overcome” faded, Montclair resident Denise Rodgers spoke, commenting that she had been singing that song since she was 5 years old and couldn’t believe she still has to be singing it today. She read the famous poem by Martin Niemoller as the audience listened somberly:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”

Denise Rodgers, center, speaking to the crowd.

She followed with a speech about the history of progress in America, and pointed out that every time there is a progressive movement in America, there is a backlash, giving as an example the rise of the KKK in the 1920s when a progressive movement began, and again in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

As dusk fell, the vigil ended with the crowd joining together to sing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Montclair Planning Board Hears More About Diva Lounge Site, Finalizes Resolution on Lackawanna

BY  |  Thursday, Jul 13, 2017 2:43pm  |  COMMENTS (6)

Architect John Reimnitz prepares to present new drawings at Monday’s Planning Board meeting.

The Montclair Planning Board split their time at Monday’s meeting between testimony on developer Steven Plofker’s project on the corner of Willow Street and Bloomfield Avenue, and finalizing the Lackawanna Plaza resolution that was discussed at the last Planning Board meeting on June 26.

The Plofker application had been continued from the May 22, 2017 meeting, when the board heard the initial testimony from architect John Reimnitz. The application, submitted under Plofker’s LLC, Montclair Property Associates, calls for converting the former Diva Lounge building on Bloomfield Avenue, which has been vacant for a number of years, into a combination retail/residential project, with a new addition behind it fronting on North Willow Street. The addition would be six stories high (including a ground level basement floor). The original Diva Lounge building would be preserved and improved in appearance to more closely resemble the original building, which was once a car dealership.

The project requires three variances – one for rear setback, one for a loading zone requirement, and the last for parking spaces.

At Monday night’s meeting, Plofker’s attorney, Alan Tremulak, summarized changes that had been made to the application since May, based on comments by the board at that previous meeting. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Adopts 2017 Budget, Hires Planning Director

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 7:29am

The Bloomfield Council voted 6-0 to adopt the 2017 Municipal Budget at Monday evening’s council meeting.

The resolution adopting the $80m budget was passed unanimously by the council members present. Prior to the vote, the floor was opened for a public hearing. No members of the audience spoke. Councilman Carlos Bernard was absent.

Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano read into the record the first paragraph of Section 2 of the adopting resolution, which stated that the budget includes $58,845,456.08 for municipal purposes, $311,717.68 in the open space, recreation, farmland and historic preservation trust fund levy, and $1,447,929.22 for the minimum library levy.

The mayor and council also passed a resolution appointing Bonnie Flynn to the new position of Planning Director for the Township. According to her profile on the American Planning Association website, Flynn received her Masters of City and Regional Planning (MCRP) from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and is a member of the New Jersey Association of Planning & Zoning Administrators, the Affordable Housing Professionals of New Jersey and the NJ Association of Floodplain Management. She is a Professional Planner and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Her previous position was Director of Community Development in Stafford Township, NJ, where she had broad responsibilities pertaining to planning and zoning, CDBG grants, affordable housing, and more. Flynn will officially begin her new position on May 15, 2017 at a salary of $96k.

During the public comment period, Susan Hebert of Greener Bloomfield thanked the mayor and council for supporting their organization and working with the group to renew the township’s bronze certification with Sustainable Jersey. She also provided an update on the recent Brookside Park Cleanup/flower planting sponsored by Greener Bloomfield. She thanked the High School Key Club, the Scouts, Hot Bagels Abroad and O’Boyle/Brookside Garden Center for their support.

Heather Nolan also thanked the council for its continued support of Greener Bloomfield, and said they hoped to hear soon about a grant they had partnered with the town to submit, which would help increase composting in the town and fund a feasibility study.

Michele Mickle, accompanied by her two young grandchildren, spoke about her son, Quenzelle Mickle, who was murdered two years ago, and urged the town not to forget about his unsolved homicide. “Where there is no justice there is no peace,” she said. She asked that anyone who has any information to call 1-877-847-7432 and ask for Jessica Mazzola.

Appointments

  • Municipal Judge Vincent A. Pirone was reappointed to his position.
  • Thomas Heaney and Mike Salinas were appointed to the Bloomfield Parking Authority.
  • Flint Kinkade was appointed as an alternate to the Environmental Commission.
  • Damaris Hicks was sworn in as a member of the Rent Leveling Board.

Damaris Hicks is sworn in.

Continue Reading

Montclair Affordable Housing Forum Offers Help to Residents

BY  |  Monday, Apr 17, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (8)

Steven Cooper, Renee Baskerville, Deirdre Malloy and William Scott (L – R).

Al Pelham of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP and Chris Napierala of the Montclair Justice Coalition hosted a Community Forum on Affordable Housing for local residents on April 11 at the Wally Choice Community Center in Glenfield Park.

The forum was sponsored by the Justice Coalition and featured a four-person panel comprising 4th Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville, MD; Steven Cooper, Senior Mortgage Banker at Alterra Home Loans in Jersey City; Deirdre Malloy, Property Compliance Manager at HomeCorp; and William Scott, Chair of the Montclair NAACP Housing Committee and Co-Chair of the Montclair Housing Commission.

Councilwoman Baskerville began her comments by discussing the Mt. Laurel decision regarding affordable housing, and saying that Montclair had gone “above and beyond” in their efforts to provide affordable housing. However, she pointed out that with new housing coming into Montclair with rents from $2000-$4000, there is concern about how this will affect people who have historically lived in the township’s low and moderate-income neighborhoods.

She also discussed gentrification, saying that it’s “not necessarily an all-bad thing,” as it sometimes serves a need for economic stimulus.  “Some people feel some types of gentrification can be a positive thing. But people who’ve been in Montclair for decades, and whose families have shaped the township and given their all for generations, they may not be able to afford to live in their neighborhoods.” She questioned whether this trend would “push black and brown people out of their community.” Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Unveils $80m Budget for 2017

BY  |  Monday, Apr 03, 2017 9:00am

The Bloomfield council unanimously approved a resolution introducing the 2017 budget at their March 27th council meeting.

Prior to the vote, Township Administrator Matt Watkins described the budget as “financially flat” at approximately $80 million. He said the amount was just 0.25% higher than the previous year, resulting in a tax increase of less than 0.5%. Watkins stated that operating expenses will be down -6%. He said that the utility budget included funds for improvements being made to the water system, including water looping, cleaning lines, and exercising hydrants and gate valves in order to ensure good water quality.

Mayor Venezia added that the tax increase would translate into an annual tax increase of just $15.96 for the average homeowner, just under the increase for the previous year. The public hearing and adoption of the budget will take place on April 24, 2017.

Venezia also said there will be a PowerPoint presentation of the budget at the upcoming April 3rd conference meeting, which will be broadcast on Channel 35. In a Facebook post the following day, the mayor reminded residents that the Municipal budget accounts for 38% of residents’ tax bill (County and Board of Education taxes make up the remainder).

The meeting began with the appointment of Firefighter Duncan Arlett, who was sworn in by Mayor Venezia.

Firefighter Duncan Arlett is sworn in.

The mayor and council also issued a proclamation honoring Benjamin Contella for over 40 years of volunteer service in Bloomfield, including 28 years on the Bloomfield Recreation Board of Commissioners. He was presented with a key to the Municipal Park System.

The governing body also issued three other proclamations, declaring the month of April as Autism Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, and the week of April 9-15, 2017 as National Library Week.

Alicia DeLia was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission, and Jody Polidoro to the Board of Health. Damaris Hicks and Suzanne Rogacki were appointed to the Rent Leveling Board.

Alicia DeLia is sworn in to the Civil Rights Commission.

The governing body passed a number of parking and traffic ordinances on first reading.

The council also passed an ordinance on meeting decorum sponsored by Councilwoman Wartyna Davis, which she said would ensure that both the members of the council and the public conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. The rules prohibit exceeding the 5-minute limit for public comment, slanderous or rude remarks, personal attacks, profanity, electioneering for candidates, or generally interfering with “orderly and dignified conduct” of the meeting.

The council also passed on first reading a revision to the Civil Rights Commission ordinance, redefining the membership to nine people in total, with seven voting citizens and two non-voting liaisons, one from the council and one from the Police Department.

Ordinances passed on second reading included the adoption of titles and salary ranges for various positions and a number of parking/traffic regulations.

Montclair Planning Board Rejects Revised Plan for Lorraine Ave., Approves Madison Subdivision

BY  |  Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 8:04am  |  COMMENTS (2)

Planner Peter Steck testifies at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting.

The Montclair Planning Board rejected a revised plan for the redevelopment of the former Warner Communications property on Lorraine Avenue on Monday evening.

A scaled-back development plan for the property had been approved in April of 2016 after an earlier application submitted by developer Michael Pavel met opposition due to the size of the building.

However, in December, Pavel submitted an amended application for the site, which proposed enlarging the building by adding over 3000 square feet to the second floor space, while parking spaces would remain unchanged.

After opposition from the public and members of the Historic Preservation Commission, the application was adjourned to allow a proper review by the HPC prior to the next hearing on February 6, 2017.

A revised version of the application met additional resistance from the Board and the residents at the February meeting, and the hearing was ultimately continued to the March 13 meeting. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Approves Township Designation as “Welcoming City”

BY  |  Wednesday, Mar 01, 2017 6:35pm

Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano reads resolution aloud.

The Bloomfield mayor and council unanimously passed a resolution to designate the township as a “Welcoming City” at their regular meeting on Monday evening, receiving a standing ovation from the attendees.

The resolution, entitled “Fair and Welcoming Bloomfield Resolution,” affirms that the Township “values its ethnic, racial, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity,” citing diversity as a source of Bloomfield’s strength, and stating that Bloomfield residents “…are concerned about how the new presidential administration will impact their lives and families, whether they will be forced to leave this country, and whether rights and protections afforded to them will suddenly be taken away.”

It goes on to state the need for cooperation between the immigrant community and the police force to ensure the health and safety of residents. Continue Reading

Featured Comment

Sad. Let's hope that this is not its "Last Tango." One of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in town. Valentino, Garbo, Keaton must have played there.

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