Past Newsletters

Updates, Council Agenda for Tuesday

Happy Sunday, everyone. Just a heads up on what is planned for this week at our Council Meeting. 

First, we’re starting at 6:15pm so that we can host leaders of non-profit organizations to make presentations to the Council on their applications for Community Development Block Grants for 2023. Regular business for the Council will not start until the normal time of 7:00pm or possibly a bit later depending on how long the presentations run. We’ll start off with a Proclamation where I’ll recognize Girl Scout Troop 22887 for all the great stuff they’ve been doing and then we’ll begin public comment, like usual.

As of now, there are unfortunately not enough votes to require streaming of all Council Meetings as I think we should be doing. Therefore, I will likely have a volunteer sit in the audience and stream the meeting on Facebook Live on my Facebook account here. I would also post the recording to my personal YouTube as well. I feel strongly about transparency and engagement. You may not always agree with me. But you’ll always know where I stand and I’ll continue to go out of my way to be forthright and transparent. 

Vote to Advance Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment

Full site overview. Most of the frontage is set back an additional 10 feet from the sidewalks, double what is standard for downtown Montclair, with further step-backs as the buildings rise, to give a “wedding cake” feel. Building height is also concentrated in the center of the eastern parcel where the grade sits below Grove St., to mitigate the sense of height. The site has a maximum of 6 stories in certain spots with the majority of the buildings shorter than the new Wellmont Arts Plaza or the Siena on S. Park. 

On Tuesday, we are scheduled to take a procedural vote only to advance the draft redevelopment plan for Lackawanna Plaza. If the motion passes, the plan will then go to the Planning Board for their review and feedback. The Historic Preservation Commission is also reviewing the plan this month. If the motion passes, I’ll look forward to reviewing memos from these bodies in the early part of 2023, consider what recommendations they may have, and decide how to move forward. Given that these plans have been out and continue to be available to anyone who wants to review and offer feedback, please take the opportunity to share yours with me.

There have been suggestions that Tuesday is a binding vote to approve the redevelopment plan for Lackawanna Plaza. That is not what is happening. We won’t take that vote until after a lot more public input and the input of the bodies mentioned above has been received and appropriately considered. Then only after we took that vote and only if it passed, comes site plan development, which gets further into the specifics, particularly around parking requirements based on the different use-cases of the space (think grocery store daytime use and restaurant nighttime use for example), materials, vehicle circulation and much more. 

Watch the Replay of the Lackawanna Plaza Presentation

As the Council Member living closest to Lackawanna Plaza (1,000 feet away), I know what an anchor it is in our community and in my neighborhood. I will acutely feel the impact of whatever is built there. I believe that the redevelopment plan has broadly been crafted to preserve the plaza’s historic integrity while also meeting community needs in terms of bringing in the largest grocery store for Montclair, significant open public space, record-level affordable housing development and more. Yet I am of course concerned about traffic and circulation and that will continue to be where I focus my scrutiny.

Fixing S. Park Street – Lights & Flooding

Credit: Aminah Toler

On Tuesday we will take a first procedural vote on issuing a $1.3M bond to pay for re-lining the massive and compromised stormwater culvert under S. Park St. near the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue. The goal here, besides fixing insufficient infrastructure, is to help mitigate flooding in the area during storms.

We are also considering a Resolution to award a contract to repair 14 broken street lights on S. Park St. While most lights in Montclair are owned and operated by PSEG, in certain areas, the Township owns and operates the lighting. This repair is necessary for the safety of people in the area and is long overdue.

Puppies and Kittens

We can walk, chew gum and look out for puppies at the same time. I’m an animal lover and a wildlife photographer by hobby (not one I get to nurture much). Working with the Humane Society of New Jersey, Humane Montclair and other animal lover on the Council, Robin Schlager, we’re introducing a new law on Tuesday to ban the breeding and/or sale of puppies and kittens in retail stores in Montclair as well as clean up and clarify the code a bit. We’re also working on one for backyard chickens that should be done in January.

While we don’t currently have any retailers engaged in these practices, we want to make sure that we never will. A significant number of puppies and kittens sold at pet stores come from large-scale, commercial breeding facilities where the health and welfare of the animals are simply not adequately provided for. It’s pretty horrifying actually. So we’re going to make Montclair a place that shuns that. And I hope eventually the entire State will follow our lead.

Rand Park Skate Park – Next Phase

Next week, in partnership with Skate Essex – the 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to bringing a permanent world-class skate park to Montclair; we’ll be working with a company called 5th pocket to finally construct professional skate sculptures (apparatus) designed by U.S. Olympian and 2024 Summer Olympics Team USA Skateboarding captain Alexis Sablone. I’m excited about this and at the same time eager to get to planning an eventual, robust and professional skate park there. This is something that I want to see happen, that I think will further distinguish Montclair as a truly special suburb.

Upper Montclair Historic Preservation

Pink: Area already studied. Blue: Phase 2 area to be studied. Orange: Possible additions to the study area. Dots represent lots with no structures.

On the Council agenda is a Resolution for us to discuss, to empower staff to apply for a grant for the next phase of studying of the area pictured above for historic designation. This work is being led by the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission. The 2016 Historic Preservation Element of the Town’s Master Plan describes the area as follows:

The Upper Montclair Commuter Area was primarily built between 1990 and 1929 and exhibits several distinct phases of housing development intended to accomodate Montclair’s significant commuter population. The area consists of two-to-three story single-family houses with larger front porches built in a variety of traditional styles, including Queen Anne, Craftsman, and Colonial Revival. Houses within the area are characterized by their medium-sized lots, front yards, and sitting on wides streets. 

Update on Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Legislation

Last week we received a memo back from the Planning Board on suggestions they have for the proposed ADU Ordinance with the work being led by my colleague, Councilor Lori Price Abrams. There are some important things to consider in their feedback. As a co-author of the legislation, I will work with the Councilor to consider their suggestions, bring our working group back together and decide how to proceed. I hope that we can re-introduce this law by the end of January as I know some folks in town are excited about developing a few of these.