Montclair Council member Robin Schlager steps down from Planning Board
Saying that after more than four years of doing double duty, it was “time to give someone else the opportunity,” Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager has resigned from her position on the Montclair Planning Board. Schlager, elected to the Township Council for a new term in 2020, has filled a seat that by statute is reserved for a council member and appointed by the township’s governing body.
Customarily, Schlager said, the role of liaison to the board has rotated yearly among council members. She is mindful, she said, that three of her colleagues – Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis, Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams and Fourth Ward Councilor David Cummings – are in their first terms on the council.
“Perhaps it would be good to give them the chance,” she said.
She acknowledged, too, that board and council meetings, sometimes occurring on back-to-back nights, have of late been routinely grinding on for several hours. Some council sessions have persisted past midnight.
“It’s not the main reason, but in these last six or eight months these late evenings, they’ve taken a toll,” Schlager said. “The board meetings were ending at 11, 11:30, and the council meetings have been ending at 12, 12:30.”
In recent months, Schlager has been faced with a range of consequential and thorny issues, with some touching on both roles. Prominent among them, she has been faced with the debate over the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan. Last month, she voted with a majority of the Planning Board in support of a resolution recommending to the council that the plan be significantly scaled back. In the coming weeks, as the council takes up the board’s suggestions, she will again have to contemplate both the overall scope of the project and the plan’s finer points.
Her experience on the board, Schlager said, provides her with a singular vantage point. While stressing that she is not an engineer, she said she had learned about the technical minutiae attached to large projects while not forsaking her common sense. These are assets, she said, that can benefit the council in its deliberations.
“I’ve become intimate with how to read and analyze the plan,” she said. “How to read traffic reports, and understand the ripple effects of a project like this on a very local basis and on the larger community, from roads to schools."
At the Planning Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, after Schlager's resignation, Chair John Wynn said: "You will note that we are down a member and that Councilor Schlager has stepped down from the board. We don't know who her replacement will be yet. More to come on that. But we'd like to thank her for all her work and her efforts over the years that she's put in participating on this board. And she will be missed."
First elected to the council in 2002, Schlager has been an enduring figure on Montclair’s political landscape for a generation. In all, she has served on the township council for 17 of the last 21 years. Along with Mayor Sean Spiller and Yacobellis, she is a member of the council’s Economic Development Committee.
Schlager said she did not know who, if anyone, had expressed interest in filling her spot. She anticipates, she said, that the council will discuss the vacancy at its next scheduled meeting on March 14.