Montclair, wake up, and rethink development before next ‘one of a kind’ storm (Letter to the editor)
A photo of the Fullerton Parking Deck was published in the Montclair Local last September in the wake of Hurricane Ida, showing photographer Neil Grabowsky up to his mid-section in water.
Damage was extensive in both public and private structures, resulting the need to replace floors, walls, water heaters and anything stored in a basement or first floor.
This was not a “one of a kind” storm. As climate changes, more and more of these deluges are going to happen. We need to make a concerted effort to prepare for this certainty.
In January of 2021, the Montclair Township Planning Board’s amended Stormwater Management Plan Element report of December 2020 was formally adopted into the overall Montclair Township Master Plan. But in the year-plus following this adoption, how much has actually been done?
The plan acknowledges: “Like many other northern New Jersey communities, stormwater facilities were designed for conditions that existed 50 years ago or more, with few major improvements to accommodate the growth in intervening years. The cumulative effect of continuing development and redevelopment activities have been a steady increase in peak stream flows and localized flooding (in areas called floodplains) during major storms.”
It goes on to state that “since Montclair is a fully developed community and flooding and water pollution continue to be a problem in much of the township, the new regulations should include the following requirements: Provide a reduced threshold for major development; require major developments to treat runoff from all impervious surfaces for water quality; require stormwater management for minor development over 250 square feet; address redevelopment; require the use of low-impact development techniques; include maintenance reporting requirements.”
The plan reports Montclair is “fully developed,” but the proposal mostly considers new development. One bullet states “address redevelopment," providing no suggestions. As many of us know, "redevelopment" has been the mantra for many years and consequently, already developed areas have been excluded from the improved and necessarily stringent rules for stormwater runoff.
A recent example is the redeveloped Wellmont Plaza. The plaza was recently turned into a welcoming space with the theater, shops and restaurants surrounding it. As long as the weather holds, the plaza works well. Unfortunately, there are no methods for removing lots of water fast, other than two storm drains, which — as we saw — are easily overwhelmed.
Montclair, we need to wake up! Those of us in residential or commercial built-up areas (see maps on page 7 of the plan) need to ramp up action now to try to be ready by summer or fall. Contact your council person! Attend public meetings! We must pull together to get this major challenge addressed before the next “one of a kind” storm.
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