Council Again Approves Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment

At a council meeting on Tuesday, the Montclair Township Council approved a new ordinance to support the redevelopment plan for Lackawanna Plaza. The vote was 5-1 and there were over 40 people in attendance. The new law replaces and cancels a previous law that was passed in October.

Mayor Sean Spiller, Councilor Lori Price Abrams, Councilor Robin Schlager, Councilor Roger Terry, and Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock all voted yes on Tuesday. However, Councilor David Cummings voted no. Councilor Robert Russo decided not to participate after a conversation about a potential conflict of interest.

In November, two lawsuits were filed to stop the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan after the council passed the October ordinance. The new ordinance mentions the two lawsuits and claims that the October ordinance “should be cancelled because of alleged conflicts of interest.” On Tuesday, people who supported and opposed the project attended the meeting and shared their opinions before the vote took place.

Many residents, including senior citizens, who support Lackawanna Plaza spoke about the benefits of the project. They mentioned that it would provide a much-needed supermarket, affordable housing, green space, and job opportunities.

“When people say there’s no food desert in town, I think of two things: either they have unlimited Uber rides and a car in their garage, or they don’t live in the third or fourth ward,” explained Susan Craig. People who are against the plan mentioned problems with traffic, pollution, flooding, building height, and worries about keeping the town economically diverse.

Scott Keddy, a resident, said “This development is located in New York City.” We are a small town, not a big city. Let’s prioritize our people. He agreed that a grocery store was necessary, but he suggested that the Council should prioritize resolving traffic problems before anything else. He said that going ahead with the project could make them worse.

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Legal Reasons for New Ordinance

After the public comment period ended, the council talked about the new law before voting on it. The reason for the ordinance’s progress was explained by Interim Township Attorney Paul Burr. He mentioned that there had been expensive and time-consuming legal disputes related to a perceived conflict of interest involving former councilor Peter Yacobellis.

“We think the township made the right decision initially, but to prevent further delays and legal expenses, we will review the ordinance and redevelopment plans again. Our goal is to create the best possible plan for the township and the redevelopment of the Lackawanna plaza area,” Burr said.

Cummings wanted to make two changes to the plan. He suggested that instead of setting aside 10% of the workforce housing for allocation, we should allocate 5% to senior citizens and 5% to veterans. In addition, Cummings suggested creating more parking spaces on the western part of the land.

If you remove parking on Grove Street between Glenridge Ave and Walnut Street, there are many homes in that area. So you’re preventing friends from coming. We will need to make them park on Grove Terrace or around the corner on Cloverhill. “What we’re really saying is ‘go park in a parking deck’,” Cummings said.

He wanted to know if the removal of parking from Union Street to Bloomfield Ave. was still happening. Janice Talley, who is in charge of planning, explained that the current plan does not require the removal of parking spaces in the area. Instead, developers are required to conduct a thorough study on the impact of traffic when their site plan is being approved.

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