The Montclair Planning Board

The Montclair Planning Board had an uncharacteristically short meeting on September 25, during which the main order of business was to pass the resolution that would memorialize the recently approved Seymour Street arts district project.  Pinnacle CEO Brian Stolar, whose company is developing the new arts district with Brookfield, was in the gallery looking on as the board finalized the wording of the resolution.

Board member Martin Schwartz read over a few changes to the language of the resolution that were included in the final version, some of which were suggested by Board Vice Chair Keith Brodock, who, along with board member Carmel Loughman, was absent.  One change involved insuring that the pavement used on the frontage would flow well with the pavement for the plaza, and another change said that the application would provide a record set, “signed and sealed, by the respective responsible professional of all plans and submittals to the board,” including sight plans, engineering drawings, architectural drawings and renderings, and landscape architecture drawings and renderings, among other things.

The most significant rewording involved the clause that required electronic signage at the entrances to the planned South Fullerton Avenue and South Willow Street parking decks informing motorists of available spaces for cars.   The use of any future digital signage in other parts of town directing people to park would have to be interconnected with the digital signage in the arts district and require cooperation from the applicant, as one of the conditions. Thomas Trautner, the attorney for the applicant, suggested a clause saying that the application “shall not be required to purchase additional software or hardware for other locations” if said locations are interconnected with the digital signage at the parking decks built for the arts district.

The final vote among the seven members present including Board Chairman John Wynn, was 6-0-1, with board member Anthony Ianuale abstaining.  Schwartz acknowledged Mayor Robert Jackson for advocating the project, and he praised the township council for giving the board the time and the opportunity to work on the Seymour Street plan and get it right, saying also that it was an excellent plan that would bring great benefits to Montclair.  Schwartz also commended the council for its foresight.  (Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager was not present for the Planning Board vote on the Seymour Street resolution.) The board then went on to approve the resolution for Timothy Bray’s subdivision of a Claremont Avenue lot that will yield a new duplex house on Willard Place and the resolution for the renovation of the building at 10 North Willow Street.

Meanwhile, Talley reported to the board that she was proposing zoning changes to create “sub-zones” to accommodate existing buildings and make them more consistent per recommendations from the Zoning Subcommittee, comprised of three Planning Board members and two Board of Adjustment members.   She said the sub-zones would reflect what is already on the affected street to establish a sense of consistency.  She also recommended a “public use zone” for and owned by the township to establish better define boundaries for a clearer zoning map.  The Zoning Subcommittee plan to continue work on zoning issues at a private workshop meeting on October 10, and an ordinance acknowledging the revisions is expected to be submitted to the council before the end of the year.

Also, Talley said there was a quick change that was needed to the zoning ordinance governing non-permitted uses of buildings in different zones.  She noted that many illegal uses of properties go unreported and are allowed to continue long before anyone learns about it.   A tenant, she said, can be allowed to operate an illegal business for two years before the property owner even realizes that the business is in fact illegal, and the township can’t know about such uses if it is not informed of said uses in the first place.   So she advocated a change in the zoning ordinance requiring property owners to report a change of tenancy to the township before getting a zoning permit.  Chairman Wynn said that ignorance of the law was no defense, comparing it to speeding and not getting caught, but Talley said she didn’t want lax enforcement to be an issue. A pawn shop discovered in town – pawn shops are illegal in Montclair – prompted Talley’s recommendation.