BY KELLY NICHOLAIDES
for Montclair Local
Montclair has an excess of 880,000 gallons a day that the town pays for but does not use. A development in Glen Ridge, bordering Montclair, needs 30,000 gallons a day.
The approved construction of 110-unit housing complex at 277 Baldwin Ave., Glen Ridge, cannot connect new water lines since the town is at “insufficient capacity” and cannot issue water main extension permits, Montclair officials said. Construction has not yet begun.
An agreement to sell water to the developer, Urban Renewal Entity, and Glen Ridge was tabled on April 2 due to public criticism. Although no financial details were listed in the resolution, Montclair would have received a connection fee, payment of cost to extend the water main to the project and full year peak rates, officials said.
Mayor Robert Jackson said he is comfortable with selling a portion of Montclair’s water supply, noting that Montclair has enough, even with developments like Seymour Street underway.
“This is a minimal amount of our water and an opportunity to make money. Of the 800,000 gallons surplus, Glen Ridge would be using a small portion and we would be charging the most we can, approaching usury charges. It’s a benefit for taxpayers. There are some other issues to resolve in the next week or two with Glen Ridge,” Jackson said before recommending tabling the resolution.
Deputy Mayor Sean Spiller expressed concerns over reserves pointing to climate change “as water becomes the next hot commodity of limited resource if we pump it outside the town.”
Montclair Housing Commission Chair William Scott asked the governing body how many Montclair residents would be considered for the 17 units of affordable housing in the Urban Renewal development, which is the result of a builder’s remedy lawsuit against Glen Ridge. “The agreement is in support of private need in Glen Ridge, which has exceeded its water capacity, and has to come to Montclair to buy water. The 110 units could have been for some seniors in Montclair. If we’re in negotiation with a private developer, go for as much as possible,” Scott said.
Montclair was at not “firm capacity” of its water supply — the required allocation of water each town has based on population — several years ago, noted borough attorney Ira Karasick.
“We purchased an additional one million gallons [a day] and have 880,000 gallons a day over what we are required to have at firm capacity, based on population. Selling 30,000 gallons to Glen Ridge is no significant impact,” Karasick said.
Montclair gets 25 percent of its water from its wells and the rest from the North Jersey District Water Supply, the latter for approximately $400,000 a year. The town has approximately five million gallons a day in firm capacity. The term means the allocation or ability to draw water from the system, not for the water itself. Glen Ridge is approximately 600,000 gallons below firm capacity, Karasick noted.
Although Glen Ridge has balked at high density housing projects, Montclair has embraced them in order to revitalize areas and provide affordable housing, which will also drip water away from the town’s 880,000 gallon a day surplus.
“Montclair has projects going and going, so what happens to our water supply? It’s not up to Montclair residents to facilitate Glen Ridge. Don’t make Montclair the problem,” said Montclair resident Audrey Hawley.