By Jaimie Julia Winters
While many expected Monday night’s Lackawanna development hearing to hit on some new design elements on the historic former train station, with even the developer’s attorney opening up the evening ticking off points negating the historic value of the train platforms and with their architect in attendance, the evening never got there.
Instead, the hours were spent going over parking lot space numbers, assisted parking management plans and truck loading dock maneuvers.
Plans call for a multi-use development including 154 units of housing, a supermarket, medical center and some retail. The ticket area and waiting station, now the Pig & Prince restaurant, would be kept intact. Developers contend the train platforms, now part of glass-enclosed mall, need to be razed to make way for more parking for the supermarket. Historic preservationists seek to incorporate the train platforms into the plans as part of the supermarket.
But the developer’s attorney did say they were adamant that they were not in favor of keeping all the train platform stanchions because it would result in the loss of 20 parking spaces and create one-way circulation patterns. And although the height of the steal train platform stanchions needed only a 12-foot clearance for emergency vehicle access contrary to previous testimony that 14 feet was needed ( the stanchions have a 13. 5 feet high clearance), they would not be keeping or reproducing the concrete roofs that exist today and as suggested by the board’s architect as more stanchions would need to be added to hold up the weight.
Confusion and frustration was apparent with board members who attempted to distinguish yet another set of changes and plans presented on Oct. 22.
The last plan proposed 457 spots for the retail and housing development, rather than the 817 spots required. The plan relies on the closeness of mass transit, which they contend means that some residents will not own cars, and also a shared-parking strategy plan where some residents that do own cars will use their cars to commute to work during the day leaving spaces open.
Shared parking is a land-use development strategy that optimizes parking capacity by allowing complementary land uses to share spaces, rather than producing separate spaces for separate uses.
Means of transportation to work for Montclairites according to the 2016 Census number are 61 percent drove, while 27 percent used public transportation, 4 percent walked or biked.
The developers envision empty nesters and young professional couples moving into the building without cars.
Pointing to Lackawanna’s inclusion into Montclair’s “Transit Village” based on its location near the Bay Street train station, Dan Disario of Langan Engineering at the last meeting testified that NJ Transit data shows residential developments within a quarter mile of station can plan for a 30-percent reduction in parking from the standard requirement of 1.8 parking spaces for a one-bedroom residence and two for a two-bedroom.
In 2016, the Census numbers reveal that about 11 percent of Montclair residents do not own a car, about 40 percent own one car, 38 percent own two cars and 11 percent own three or more vehicles.
The plan proposed on Oct. 22 also included a fast food food restaurant where approximately four spaces are needed, but negated the restaurant use of a bar where 41 spots were in the original plan and 14 are required.
Overall, the developers new plan called for 459 spots with another 40 being valeted or with assisted parking. For the residential side 230 parking spaces — 130 under the building, 100 in the lot — are proposed where where 254 spaces are required. The supermarket lot would have 227 spaces, while a lot in front of a medical center on Lackawanna Plaza would have 30 all of which would be valeted in the Lackawanna Lot fitting up to 51 cars. Valet would be offered 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Board members expressed concerns over how the jockeying of cars in the valeted Lackawanna lot would occur, it could require taking up on-street parking and wanted to see a parking plan. As the retail space entrances would be facing this parking lot as well, board members voiced concern over access to those businesses.
Previous estimates by the developer’s engineer were that 20 percent of restaurant, medical, retail and supermarket patrons will use taxis or mass transit, or walk to the development. Employees are expected to park on the east side, residential side of the development.
Board members also expressed concerns with all seven handicap spaces being placed directly in front of the supermarket.
Parking expert Gerard Giosa on behalf of the board said the proposed parking supply should be sufficient with valet parking, monitoring of illegal parking and stray shopping carts, and in the case of snow, immediate removal. But he was concerned with the lack of parking allotted for the bar.
The next meeting is set for Nov. 5.