If development is accompanied by the commensurate investment in infrastructure necessary to support it and appropriate planning for the increased stress and demand for township resources and services, and protections are in place to preserve the character and charm that makes Montclair a desirable community to invest in in the first place, then the increased number of residents can be good for our tax base, for foot traffic for retailers, restaurants and other local businesses, and will continue to boost home values.
However, much of the development that has occurred has been hasty and proceeded without input from residents and the appropriate commissions and committees. The result has, in many cases, been architecture that is aesthetically displeasing and out of character, unbalanced density, and unsustainable pressure on our already over-stressed and insufficient roads, parking and schools. Too many high-priced rentals in town also puts pressure on our existing stock of rental housing, challenging the affordability of Montclair. I support a moratorium on developments in excess of 10 units, for the next two years, until we can understand the impact of what's already been approved, on our town services and infrastructure. I'm also concerned that an economic downturn, plus too much inventory can result in too many vacancies. It's time to take a breath and flatten the development curve.
In terms of gentrification, it should be a rising tide that lifts all boats. It is one thing to restore an abandoned or dilapidated property to its former glory; it's another thing to level a property and build something that is out of proportion and character for the neighborhood and is prohibitively more expensive than neighboring properties. We have to use our zoning laws to ensure a ratio of home size to lot size that fits the scale and preserves the character of the neighborhood.
I support the existing 20% set aside in principle, but it should flex based on the size of the development and should be further delineated to give a guarantee to certain groups e.g. 5% for seniors, 5% for public workers, 5% for young adults. Priority should be given to Montclair residents.
I also think that there is a wide gap between current affordability thresholds and the market rate and we should explore if there is a next tier affordability opportunity.
We must also be far more mindful of the pressures on infrastructure (e.g. schools, parking) that higher density creates and the revenue that needs to be generated from our housing stock to maintain and hopefully enhance the quality of those services.
37 of my 40 years of life, I was a renter. I was also formerly the head of the office of rent administration for Manhattan. I beleive in rent stabilization in principle and I think that the current ordinance does provide critical relief. But, I also believe it missed some key opportunties that I would like to see addressed by the next council. A rent control ordinance needs to address succession for roommates and young adults who may choose to remain in units if the primary leaseholder leaves. We should also be offering a multi-year discount on leases. So if the rate increase for a one year lease is 4.25% (current ordinance) then perhaps the rate increase on a two year lease could be 3.5%.
I also don't believe you've properly addressed affordability in town until you've looked at two, three and four unit buildings; which make up the majority of rentals in town. This was a glaring, if conscious, oversight in the current ordinance. These units could have been treated separately with a higher percentage perhaps.
Fundamentally, I believe an independent body should have been created to set rates for 2-4 unit buildings, 5 plus unit builings and seniors, each year, based on market conditions; rather than have a flat rate for seniors and 5 plus unit buildings and nothing at all for 2-4 unit buildings. This body should be comprised of representatives appointed by the mayor and each councilmember, to ensure all-ward representation as well as represetnatives from tenant and property owner advocacy organizations.
While passing a rent stabilization ordinance is in general good for Montclair, I believe the current bill was rushed and motivated by politics, not sensible policy.
We need a 21st century parking plan for the township that considers the needs of residents, employees and patrons in an increasingly challenging environment.
We must limit parking variances on big development projects. These variances are granted on careless assumptions about car ownership and how people behave. Many residents do not live a reasonable walking distance from the services they need in and outside of town.
We need to explore creative ways to leverage private parking lots that are empty and located in high volume areas during peak times when our dining, retail and entertainment locations would benefit from additional customer parking. I would also look at train station lots on the weekends for additional relief for business districts.
Moving the authority to approve demolition permits for historic structures to the Historic Preservation Commission was well intended, but should have been preceded by a systematic and comprehensive inventory and cataloguing of historic structures that ensures each property has the correct designation sourced from the Historic Preservation Element of the Township's Master Plan. We need to take this step immediately to eliminate the confusion and loopholes that cause much of our problems in this area. This would allow the commission to expedite some applications that should not be delayed while the commission addresses those that need to be subjected to a longer process.
Preventing demolition of historic structures is not the only tool for preserving the history and character of our community. We need to institute more rigorous development standards and oversight to insure builders are adhering to the approved plans. We cannot allow the dramatic deviations from approved plans that we currently see.
It's unacceptable that our school buildings are falling apart and that our district, once the envy of the state, no longer enjoys that stature. This negligence is having a detrimental impact on the quality of our students' education, their wellbeing and quality of life, and also threatens our property values.
Fixed costs over which we have little, if any control comprise roughly 80 percent of the school budget. We have to have an honest conversation as a community and decide what kind and level of investment is appropriate to address capital improvements, fund our sports, music and arts programs, and prioritize equitable education programs.
I would support the town issuing bonds to repair and renovate our school buildings and I would look for other ways the council can work with the BOE to improve the quality of education.
We also have to consider the impact that declining state revenues may have on our town, resulting from COVID-19 and be prepared to deal with those.
Strong leadership and clear communication hasn’t been as prevalent in this crisis as it could have been. I’d like to see us update our emergency alert and e-newsletter system (Swift911) to an opt-out vs. opt-in, ensuring that all residents receive vital information. I think we also need reinvigorated social channels to reach more residents.
Eco Friendly Montclair
Montclair should be a model on how towns adapt to the climate crisis and lowering our carbon footprint. As a lifelong environmentalist and a graduate of Columbia University's Earth Institute, I am uniquely qualified to help Montclair be the environmentally-friendly town and community we should be. I also want us to be a far more bike and walk-friendly town. See some of my bold ideas on this below.
For the purposes of bettering life for LGBTQ Montclairions and improving Montclair’s Municipal Equality Index score from 68 to 100, I would work with my council colleagues to pursue the following:
Introduce a city contractor non-discrimination ordinance.
Introduce transgender inclusive healthcare and domestic partnership benefits for township employees.
Expand current non-discrimination city employment law to include gender identity.
Expressly prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all youth-facing township programs, activities, services, and facilities.
Expand representation of LGBTQ Montclarions across the various boards and commissions that serve the township and inform policy.
Add clear, affirming language to our municipal website and city services pages that directly addresses the needs of our most vulnerable: LGBTQ youth, seniors, transgender and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Work with private donors, foundations and non-profits in pursuing the creation of an LGBTQ resource center in Montclair for our most vulnerable.
Launch Montclair Pride for Summer of 2021 in the form of a festival, similar to Maplewood Pride.
Paint a rainbow crosswalk in downtown Montclair.