Montclair Council: Edgemont Park Improvements, Waste Receptacles, Private Streets, Mitochondrial Disease Awareness

BY  |  Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017 8:06am  |  COMMENTS (7)

The Montclair Township Council had a light agenda for its September 19 meeting, passing eight pending ordinances and six resolutions, as well as the bill list.  One resolution that got much commentary from members of the council was the one awarding a contract to Abraham General Construction for improvements to Edgemont Park.

The Montclair Township Council

Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville said the improvements that members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee proposed for the park were “outstanding,” and she said that committee members hope to be more involved with the council in all issues regarding parks and open spaces.  Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager said that the Friends of Edgemont park group was also supportive.  But Dr. Baskerville asked if the money was left over from a previous source for park spending, or “reprogrammed.”

Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford explained that funds were in fact reprogrammed from Green Acres funding for Edgemont Park. He said there was more funding possible through the state Green Acres program, and he added that Montclair has sent a letter to the state asking to be kept informed of such funding.  Mayor Robert Jackson has a sent a letter to the state endorsing such funding. Continue Reading

Montclair BOE: After-School Initiatives, Healthy School Lunches, Homework Policy

BY  |  Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017 10:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Montclair Board of Education

With the days of school kids hanging out in ice cream parlors like the old Gruning’s in Montclair or malt shops like the fictional Pop’s Choklit Shoppe frequented by Archie Andrews and his pals at Riverdale High long gone, The Side Door has been providing a place for middle-school students to go after school and have a good time every Friday. Susan Johnson of Side Door went to the Montclair Board of Education’s September 18 meeting to promote the initiative.

Side Door is a drop-in center for middle-school students located a block away from Buzz Aldrin Middle School, at the Union Congregational Church on Cooper Avenue.  Available for free, the center offers activities such as basketball, touch football, table tennis, and video games, with help for homework also offered.  The activities also include live music and there are snacks for sale.  There is no registration required, and the activities are at no cost.  Volunteers from the high school, Montclair State University, and elsewhere in town serve as mentors and chaperones.

Board member Joseph Kavesh offered his verbal support for the side door program.  He said that the time after school is an important time to engage students in positive activities and when they are most susceptible to being disengaged.  Johnson noted that most of the students involved in Side Door are boys, because girls after school like to get their nails done, go to friends’ houses, or the like, “and the boys get out of school and go, ‘I don’t know, what do you want to do?’  So they end up at Side Door.” Continue Reading

Montclair Planning Board and EDC Have Different Ideas About Supermarket For Lackawanna Plaza

BY  |  Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 6:45am  |  COMMENTS (3)

An early-twentieth-century picture of the old Lackawanna railway terminal.

The Montclair Planning Board spent its September 11 meeting finalizing one application and foregoing another, but before all that, they heard from the Montclair Township Council’s Economic Development Committee (EDC)  – which includes the Planning Board’s council liaison, Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager – about the feedback the committee received on the board’s critique of the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan.  Despite the extensive briefing, the Planning Board did not engage in a public tête-à-tête with the committee members, but Chairman John Wynn appreciated the EDC’s input.

Deputy Mayor Schlager, Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller, and Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville went through 19 comments the Planning Board offered up in its rebuttal to the town council, and the EDC members agreed with the board on all the major points.  They agreed with the board that any plan should identify the historic elements of the Lackawanna railway terminal building, and that the main plaza between Bloomfield Avenue and the train sheds should be made into a green space.  The EDC also concurred that the bricked-up walls of the train shed facing Bloomfield Avenue should be opened up and turned into storefronts, rather than the current arrangement in which the entrances to the stores are from the inside of the mini-mall that was built in the train sheds’ space.  Even more importantly, the EDC agreed that the number of apartments should be scaled back.  The Pinnacle and Hampshire development companies wanted 350 units; the EDC said that 280 units would be enough.

The Montclair Township Council’s Economic Development Committee presented its input on the Lackawanna Pala redevelopment plan. Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville (at the podium) led off the presentation.

However, the EDC disagreed with the Planning Board on how to include a supermarket in the plan.  Deputy Mayor Schlager, speaking as a councilor and not as a planning board member, said that a supermarket on the parcel of land east of Grove Street would have a negative impact on nearby neighborhoods by increasing noise and truck traffic, which put the EDC at odds with the Planning Board’s desire to see a supermarket built on the east parcel.  Furthermore, Deputy Mayor Schlager said the EDC disagreed with limiting the maximum square footage of the supermarket, saying it would discourage more supermarket chains from opening a store in Lackawanna Plaza due to lack of sufficient space.  The EDC, though, was on the same page as the Planning Board in preserving historic elements of the railway terminal building and restoring some of the building’s historic elements, such as the water basin between the west-parcel parking lot and Grove Street. Continue Reading

Montclair Board of Education: PARCC, Preschool Funding and Use of School Facilities

BY  |  Thursday, Sep 07, 2017 6:38am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Montclair Board of Education

The Montclair Board of Education held an uncharacteristically short and sparsely attended workshop meeting on September 6, the last day of summer vacation for the students.  The board spent much of its time discussing an item on the agenda regarding public use of school facilities and voting on rote business office issues.

Board member Eve Robinson asked about bringing preschool education back to the district.  She said the state budget this year allocated money for preschool funding for districts that were permitted to apply, but Montclair was not one of them.  Robinson proposed it be returned to the budget in the hope of qualifying for state aid when the state’s 2018 budget is worked out.

“I would like to keep it in your district goals so that we can be continually be working towards being able to responding when the expansion comes out and goes out to other districts,” she said.  She specifically asked the Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak include it in the district goals.

Superintendent Pinsak asked if including preschool funding as an official goal would help keep it from getting pushed away.  Robinson said it would, noting that has gotten pushed back in the past.  She made it clear that there should at least be a plan in place should state preschool funding be expanded.  The board will likely discuss it at a workshop in the near future.

Superintendent Pinsak reported that there were difficulties with communicating school bus schedules and apologized for any inconvenience that may have been caused, and she added that they district was working on the situation and resolving the issues quickly.  She also reported that individual scores for the students who took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests to their parents with a letter explaining how to interpret them.  It will be posted on the district’s Web site on September 7.

The one major agenda issues was a review of Regulation 7510, which governs public use of district resources and facilities.  Board member Joseph Kavesh asked if there was any concern with the rule requiring the parties interested in using district facilities to submit a certificate of insurance for bodily injury at a minimum of $1 million, with the suggestion that it should be higher.  Board President Laura Hertzog said it could be raised for some special events using school facilities, like a gymnastics event, and Robinson cautioned that raising the minimum would have a detrimental effect on non-profit groups wanting to use the facilities, since they were unlikely to be able to afford anything higher than a million dollars.  Board President Hertzog stressed the district could be flexible in determining what the minimum should be, depending on the group involved.  No action was taken on this discussion topic at the meeting.

Only two people participated in public comment.  Student Noah Gale, a Montclair Hugh School senior and a regular student resident at the board meetings, praised the board for their fine work and welcomed back everyone, including new Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea, for the 2017-18 school year.   Jordan Thompson said he believed there should be two student advocates to address discrimination who are neither district employees nor union members who report discriminatory acts by the staff to the assistant superintendent’s office.

On the search for a new superintendent, Board President Hertzog acknowledged the ad recently placed in the Star-Ledger posted for a superintendent, which showed forward motion on the issue.  She said she was pleased with how the search firm Hazard Young Attea & Associates (HYA) has been helping to find a permanent superintendent.  The interim superintendent, meanwhile, announced that the community was starting a food drive to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey during the second full week of September, and she encouraged people to get involved.  Also, Robinson had an announcement of her own.   She informed the board and the audience that there will be a meeting of the School Climate and Culture Subcommittee at the Charles H. Bullock School library to discuss respect for diversity, emotional and physical safety in the schools, and participating in school life, among other topics.  The meeting is at 1 P.M. on Sunday, September 17.

Montclair Township Council Reviews Temporary Alcohol Permits and Abandoned Properties

BY  |  Wednesday, Sep 06, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Montclair Township Council

The Montclair Township Council breezed through yet another 20-minute meeting on September 5 in a conference meeting that dealt with a pending ordinance, three resolutions, and one comment from the member of the public.

The pending ordinance was an amendment to allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed on public property through a temporary permit for what Township Attorney Ira Karasick referred to as “narrow circumstances” such as social events like the food and wine festival, or if a license holder wants to extend his or her permit for such an event.  The amendment allows the township to give such permission, although it would not necessarily have to.

Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager said she was very pleased with the amendment to the ordinance because it had always been a gray area for people who wanted to plan a public event using Montclair parks or parking lots at which serving alcohol would be expected.  She noted that the council had listened to residents asking for clarification in the ordinance.  “I’m pleased we did this,” she said.

One member of the council who was not pleased was First Ward Councilor William Hurlock.  He first asked Karasick if he had discussed this with the police in terms of enforcement and in terms of patrolling.  Karasick replied that he’s discussed it with deputy chiefs, and Acting Township Attorney Tim Stafford interjected that any such application for a temporary permit of alcohol consumption on public property would have to be reviewed and approved by Police Chief Todd Conforti before the township would even look at the request.   Despite that assurance, Councilor Hurlock pressed further, asking about responsibility for liabilities.  Karasick explained that there would still be a requirement for insurance.  Then Councilor Hurlock asked about his biggest concern – the township’s liability under the “Dram Shop” rule, the rule that holds a bar liable for serving alcohol to an individual who later cause a car accident. Continue Reading

Montclair Planning Board Hears, Approves Another North Willow Street Project

BY  |  Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017 7:31am  |  COMMENTS (12)

By the Montclair Planning Board’s standard, this was fast going.  The board met on August 28 to hear a project on North Willow Street that, coincidentally, is adjacent to the site of developer Steven Plofker’s project to renovate the former Diva Lounge on North Willow Street and Bloomfield Avenue as part of a new apartment building.  EKR Associates, LLC plans to reuse and expand the existing building at 10 North Willow Street and turn it into retail space with two new apartments on the second floor.  The application was heard from start to finish and approved in two hours.

10 North Willow Street in Montclair. Image courtesy of Google.

Architect Matthew Jarmel of Jarmel Kizel in Livingston, who is working on the Warner Communications building in Upper Montclair, presented his plan on behalf of the applicant.

The current structure, a garage with a single apartment above, would be reconfigured.  The shed in front would be demolished, as would a diagonal interior wall on the first floor; new walls would be built to provide perfectly rectangular rooms on the first floor, and a new wing would be added in the building’s northeast corner, providing 1,000 square feet of first-floor retail space overall.   The second floor would be converted into two two-bedroom apartments, a 1,065-square feet unit in the front and a 1,026-square foot unit in the rear.  The design calls for the second floor to hang over the façade of the first floor, with simulated-wood siding and slight use of brick on the top level and an arrangement of brick and decorative concrete block along the lower retail level.  Jarmel says he expects the retail unit, which features 387 square feet of rear storage space, to be rented by an art boutique or a similar small-retail business.  The existing windows, which are non-conforming, would be taken out and replaced with fewer windows of a more appropriate size.

A rendering of the facade of the proposed renovation of 10 North Willow Street. provided by architect Matthew Jarmel.

Continue Reading

Montclair Council: No Word on MC Hotel Progress, Discussion Of Clary Anderson Arena, and Montclair Tourism

BY  |  Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017 8:36am  |  COMMENTS (1)

The Montclair Township Council’s August 22 meeting was even a quicker affair than the conference meeting that preceded it two weeks earlier – 20 minutes, just enough time to pass six new ordinances on first reading, nine resolutions in a consent agenda and four more resolutions separately, with a 6-0 vote; Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville was the only member not present.  The only comments on the various items passed came from Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller.

The Montclair Township Council, which heard from Raffaele Marzullo about the impending visit of a delegation from Montclair’s sister city of Aquilonia, Italy. Note the Italian flag at the right.

Councilor Spiller asked about the first-reading ordinance appropriating $500,000 from the Capital Improvement Fund for the acquire and install new water system infrastructure   water system control updates, variable frequency drive replacements, and funds for an environmental cleanup in the Watchung Avenue pumping station.   He said he understood that the fountain at the circle between Valley Road and Church Street is in that area, and he asked Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford to check and see if this is the last major piece that has to be taken care of before the developers of Valley and Bloom complex can repair the fountain as they had promised.  Stafford said that he would.  In regard to an ordinance appropriating $350,000 from Capital Improvement Fund for refurbishing parking decks and lots, and upgrading the enforcement devices and improving signage improvements to signage in said decks and lots, Councilor Spiller asked Stafford to look at how signs could be employed throughout the town, such as signage directing motorists to open spaces and enacting parking availability.  He asked Stafford to look at how other towns use such signage for guidance, and Stafford was happy to oblige. Continue Reading

Montclair Planning Board Approves Diva Lounge Project, Balks at Modernist House and Signage

BY  |  Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017 8:06am  |  COMMENTS (1)

The Montclair Planning Board finished hearing one application and punted two more into September at its August 14 meeting.  But the application that wrapped up and was subsequently approved was a big leap in the board’s efforts at getting larger projects resolved, as it was local developer Steven Plofker’s application for a five-story, 11-unit apartment building along North Willow Street that will incorporate the former Diva Lounge on Bloomfield Avenue as modest retail space.  The property is a lot merged several years ago.

Holding up a rendering of developer Steven Plofker’s proposed apartment/retail project for the corner of North Willow Street and Bloomfield Avenue at the August 14 Montclair Planning Board meeting, board member Martin Schwartz asks about possible changes to the details of the design.

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Montclair Council Talks Trash, Bamboo and Security in Parking Decks

BY  |  Wednesday, Aug 09, 2017 7:27am  |  COMMENTS (1)

One and done.  The Montclair Township Council concluded its August 8 conference meeting one hour after convening after a very light agenda.  The bulk of the meeting was devoted to an update on the Bigbelly trash receptacles that were installed in Montclair Center earlier this year, with Bigbelly representatives Rick Gaudette and Joseph Nardello briefing Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors.

The Montclair Township Council

Gaudette and Nardello said the 40 receptacles, called “stations,” had accumulated 24 tons of waste since they were first installed in February 2017, with a 98 percent efficiency rate in collection and computerized alerts from each receptacle, which are activated when the receptacles are 80 percent full – all running smoothly.  Craig Brandon, the township’s Supervisor of Solid Waste Services, has been overseeing the implementation of the Bigbelly program in town.

Guadette and Nardello explained that the Bigbelly concept allows for receptacle locations to be adapted and changed when the situation calls for it.  They noted an area along Church Street where so much waste was being discarded in the Bigbelly can – 7,000 gallons, the highest volume of any receptacle – that a second receptacle would be added to to keep things in balance.  The Massachusetts-based company’s operational system is designed to accommodate such flexibility. Continue Reading

Montclair Planning Board Approves Seymour Street Development Project After Marathon Meeting

BY  |  Tuesday, Aug 08, 2017 8:11am  |  COMMENTS (16)

A rendering of a new apartment building at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and South Willow Street in Montclair, part of the Seymour Street redevelopment project

The Montclair Planning Board spent five hours in a special meeting on August 7 hearing final testimony for – and approving – the Seymour Street redevelopment project, which developers Pinnacle and Brookfield are developing together.  The meeting capped a long and drawn-out process for the project, which seeks to create an arts-oriented district and turn the part of Seymour Street facing the Wellmont Theater into a pedestrian plaza, where special events will be held.  Brookfield has already committed to sponsoring arts events at the location.

Phase 1 – replaced meter spaces

The meeting began with some intense number-crunching.  Pinnacle’s Brian Stolar testified on the construction of three new parking decks, the publicly owned Midtown deck along Glenridge Avenue and two privately operated decks adjacent to the Wellmont and South Willow Street.  Stolar said that studies of peak parking demand determined how the spaces would be replaced during construction of the new decks, which is expected to last for two years beginning in the late autumn of 2017.  In the first phase, during the construction of the privately operated decks, a total of 247 spaces for peak parking -100 nighttime permit spaces, 85 daytime permit spaces, and metered spaces – would be in relocated to decks and lots nearby.  The metered spaces would be distributed throughout the South Fullerton West and Maple Plaza lots and the North Fullerton deck. Continue Reading

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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