Amid a mushrooming debate about the Lackawanna Redevelopment Plan and just how large a project it should be, the Montclair Planning Board will hold its first meeting of the year tonight, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m., with Lackawanna front and center.

The meeting will follow up on the sharp-edged discussion that marked the last session when board members worried aloud about any possible unwanted impact the makeover could have on the surrounding community. The board has until Feb. 4 to finish its review and report to the Township Council on any inconsistencies it may find with the township's master plan and to make recommendations.

Pressure is building among many residents that the plan, which calls for four buildings of six stories and a five-story building, be downsized. An online petition which began circulating last week, had attracted more than 700 signatures by Monday morning, Jan. 9.

Board members, in their give-and-take with Ira Smith of Smith Maran Architecture at the last meeting, raised, among other concerns, the potential effect rooftop utility equipment would have on the true reach of the buildings. Overall, in addition to a long-sought supermarket, the plan envisions as many as 375 residential units and 75,000 square feet for office space. Three plazas totaling 72,000 square feet would be dedicated as public open spaces. The property is owned by David Placek’s BDP Holdings.

In comments added to their signatures on the petition, many residents expressed fears that the the redevelopment plan would clash with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

“I’m signing because this design plan is overreaching and not in the spirit of preserving the existing architectural structures of the town,” wrote Nicole Le Dour.

Another resident, Dana Hawkins-Simons offered a question in her comment: “What are they thinking?”

“Montclair’s infrastructure – public schools, parking, streets, utilities, etc. – will not be able to support this type of massive development,” Hawkins-Simons wrote. ”We need a plan that includes a supermarket and affordable housing, while preserving Montclair’s charm, history, and character. It’s possible.”