Letters to the editor, Feb. 21
Thanks for the coverage
I would like to thank the reporters at Montclair Local for their dogged attendance at the many and lengthy meetings of the planning board while the Lackawanna Plaza application was being heard.
Your reporting served both to provide a continued focus on the matters at hand and to educate the public on the issues being discussed. A local newspaper that reports on and investigates town happenings in a fair and balanced way is of vital importance to civic life.
I would also like to thank the members of the public, too, who steadfastly attended these hearings over the last year. You may not always have thought so but your voice was welcome and heard throughout the process.
It is at the local level of government that change happens when citizens are engaged and participate.
The writer is a Planning Board member.
Much missing from Lackawanna plan
It was beyond disheartening how the planning board handled the so-called debate and vote concerning the Lackawanna Plaza development.
Planning Board chairman John Wynn insisted on a vote after surveying board members on their feeling about the need to retain historic stanchions, even as three board members clamored to discuss other issues.
Not one word was uttered about pedestrian safety nor was the extensive public comment weighed at all. Traffic and the 50 percent parking variance were ignored before the vote, as was the discovery I’d confirmed and included in my public comment that it is not legal to make a left turn over an existing painted island into or out of the parking lot from Bloomfield. No left turn from Bloomfield alone should have sent the developers back to the drawing board, as their traffic and parking assessments didn’t factor this in.
At the last meeting, Wynn assured me he would research the left turn issue. He did not and he would not permit discussion among board members about it even when requested by a board member. No left turn is a big deal. Bloomfield Avenue is the busiest street in town, already heavily congested. This driveway is next to a bus stop used by school children and four bus lines. A painted island is inadequate protection for pedestrians and it will only invite furtive illegal turns (the board members themselves admitted to making this turn).
It should be noted the developer claims to have the deed’s list of easements, but somehow, this is missing from the deed at the Essex County Records office and it was missing from the HPC’s Open Public Records Act request to the township clerk.
The planning board does not have a copy of the easements and they should not have accepted the developer’s assurances without verification. No decision should have been made without this information.
When the developer opened the meeting with the master-stroke announcement of a tenant, it begged for an immediate response from the board. The supermarket tenant wants 29,000 square feet, a perfectly reasonable size for an urban supermarket. This was the board’s opportunity to say: “Great, now design a 29,000 square foot building that doesn’t need a 50 percent parking variance.”
A 29,000 square foot building would have adequate parking; the proposed 47,000 building will not. This perfectly illustrates the rubber stamp awaiting this proposal from the get-go. The last 14 months of public hearings — and the “visioning” workshops that began the process — were a farce.
Montclair is in the grips of a pro-development mayor, a pro-development council, and a largely pro-development planning board led by a clearly pro-development president. Judging by this decision, livability for current residents doesn’t rank cursory consideration or even lip service.
In order to effect beneficial changes, the community needs to work together. Join the SaveMontclair.org mailing list. Let’s identify and support new voices who will be responsive to this remarkable community we call home.
2018 Pedestrian Safety Committee report
Forty-one pedestrians were injured by vehicles in Montclair in 2018, virtually the same as the previous year, including two fatalities
Montclair’s Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) is an official township government advisory group which meets monthly to improve the safety of pedestrians and bikers in Montclair. As a suburb, Montclair is well suited for pedestrians with its many sidewalks and shopping areas.
Unfortunately, pedestrians are struck and injured at an alarming rate. In 2018, 41 pedestrians were hit and harmed by vehicles in Montclair, including two which resulted in death. Nine of the crashes were the pedestrian’s fault. In 2017, there were 42 pedestrian crashes, so very little improvement over the previous year. There were 49 pedestrian crashes in 2016.
The Montclair Police Traffic Department recently switched over to a new recording system so information on where those pedestrian crashes occurred is not currently available.
Most notably in 2018, the township and county reduced the speed limit on Grove Street from 35 to 30 miles per hour. The township also voted to widen the painted median on Grove, which encourages drivers to slow down. The county has not approved that measure as of now; Grove Street is a county road.
During 2018, the Township Engineer resigned, and the township replaced her with a consultant. The PSAC is encouraging the township to hire another full time engineer so that residents have a point person they can reach out to with traffic and safety concerns. Currently, the process for requesting things like speed humps, rapid flashing crosswalk beacons, or a four-way stop is unclear.
During 2018, Montclair’s Safe Streets plan was completed. This document, which was funded by a government grant, was created by an urban planning consultant, and it gives potential options to improve pedestrian and bike safety on specific Montclair streets. The report contains suggestions for improvement.
It would be up to the Township to decide what, if anything, would be done. The document had extensive community input, and was presented to the town council in February 2018 for adoption. The Town Council referred it to the Planning Board. The Planning Board discussed it, but took no action. PSAC will be working towards getting this list of potential safe street improvements approved this year.
Upcoming issues for 2019 include the recently approved Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment. There is concern about pedestrian access, as well as cars making left turns off of Grove Street crossing two lanes of traffic. Council member Renée Baskerville is opposed to this option which the developer has included in their plans.
Please “like” the Drive with Care in Montclair Facebook page, where you can share your concerns, and read posts about new developments.
The writer is the chair of the Montclair Pedestrian Safety Committee.
Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act
Yesterday I had a most wonderful experience. I attended a party celebrating the second birthday of our two-year-old twin grandsons. Joining Max and Louis at the event was three-month-old granddaughter Anna, who now smiles with unabashed joy at every silly song her grandma sings. Their older cousins, Sammy, 3, and EB, 7, bounced around, enthusiastically showing them the ropes of growing up and instructing us all in a most important matter, the details of dinosaurs.
Watching young children evokes a poignancy that is unparalleled. We want to teach them and instill in them our values and hopes for the future, knowing that we most likely won’t be there to see it. We want to picture them knowing the joy of seeing future children celebrate birthdays. We want to protect them and give them a peaceful, stable world.
But facts are interfering. The changing climate poses an existential threat. We see the problems in our present and can imagine life in the future. What to do?
Let’s enact the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR 763. It would lower greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent in the first 12 years and 90 percent by 2050, when these kids would be adults.
By putting a predictable, gradually rising price on fossil fuels, it sends a signal that would spur innovation and reduce carbon pollution, encouraging a switch to renewable energy sources and fuel efficiency. By returning 100 percent of net fees collected to residents of the U.S. in equal amounts, it puts money into people’s pockets and will create 2.1 million jobs. It’s good for people, it’s good for the economy, it’s revenue-neutral and it’s bipartisan.
I fully support this important and necessary first step to solve climate change. This issue is time-sensitive and bipartisan legislation is needed for a viable solution. H.R. 763 accomplishes that. I hope that you will endorse it, and, most importantly, encourage Representatives Mikie Sherrill and Donald Payne to do so as well. You can call, write, email or tweet. They need and want to hear from us.
What a great birthday gift this would be for us all.
The writer is the group leader for the Montclair chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.