‘Egregious breach of trust’ on overdevelopment
It was startling to read in last week’s Montclair Times that developer Michael Pavel is filing yet another set of Warner building development plans in order to be on “good terms” with residents.
A dangerous precedent is being set in Montclair. To those fighting overdevelopment in Lackawanna Plaza, Clover Hill and Seymour Street, be warned. Your voices, the voice of the Historic Preservation Commission and even the Planning Board vote itself may end up being negated. This is what has happened to those of us fighting the inappropriate overdevelopment of the Warner Communications Building on Lorraine Avenue.
The developer has attempted for years to impose a large office structure as an addition to the Warner building, a building constructed in 1931 and directly adjacent to the Upper Montclair Historic District. Neighbors and other residents who have had many concerns about this project attended meetings month after month beginning in the winter of 2015-16. In April 2016, Pavel agreed to a smaller addition to the existing historic structure. The residents and neighbors happily accepted this proposal despite lingering concerns about congestion, traffic, pedestrian safety, environment. The developer began work on the property in July 2016, so we were all astonished when the Development Review Committee permitted a new enlarged plan to be presented in October 2016. Many meetings ensued; our many concerns were restated. The Historic Preservation Commission stated that the plans violated standards for site development outlined in the town ordinance governing development in historic neighborhoods, and that the proposed addition did not conform to the Historic Design Guidelines for the Township. In March 2017 the Planning Board listened to the residents and the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission and voted down the enlarged plan.
Months went by with no Resolution to memorialize the vote. When we questioned this omission, we were told that the Planning Board attorney was meeting with the developer’s attorney to finalize the language of the Resolution.
No Resolution was ever produced. Instead, we found out last week that a “settlement” was reached by the Planning Board attorney, the developer’s attorneys, the township architect and the developer’s architect. The terms of the settlement include the disturbing provision that the application cannot be seen by the HPC, which will now have no input. Instead, the new plan goes to the Planning Board on July 24.
Montclair residents need to attend the meeting July 24 to protest this egregious breach of trust.
Seymour St. development poses threat to public safety
Recent testimony to the Planning Board has raised serious questions about Mayor Jackson’s suggestion to Pinnacle CEO Bob Stolar that he build on the site of the old Social Security building.
The county designates the intersection where they intend to build a high crash area. Did Mayor Jackson know this at the time? Hundreds of new cars will be sent down two residential roads that lead to this high crash area; were he and Stolar somehow unaware of the danger to public safety this poses?
The designation is not new, so they certainly should have known. Development is their line of business, so it would have been irresponsible for them not to have known. The most recent traffic study was so highly gamed to avoid a real traffic count, it can only serve the purpose of trying to dodge the fact that everybody involved knows this is a dangerous intersection. Even members of the Planning Board saw through the attempted deception at this week’s meeting.
The facts here line up to a serious issue that has been ignored in their rush to build this behemoth:
If Mayor Jackson did know, why does he continue to disregard public safety to help Stolar raise the value of the Wellmont before he sells? Why is helping Brian Stolar sell his property worth endangering the public? Will the mayor be held accountable for risking the lives of the people who voted for him to make a few extra dollars for one man?
Mayor Jackson has claimed his motto is “Montclair first.” I asked him once what exactly he meant by that, if not the people who live in this town. Now it is clear. For Mayor Jackson, Montclair has a name and it is Brian Stolar. And apparently, Mr. Stolar and his theater are worth risking our lives for.
It is well past time to scale down this irresponsible development. Brian Stolar’s wallet should not be more valuable than public safety.