Legal challenges are expensive, and the developer and township have formidable legal teams. While we feel strongly that the law is on our side, this is still going to be a battle. Please donate whatever amount you feel comfortable with. Every dollar goes directly toward paying the legal fees associated with the lawsuit.
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Why are the members of A Better Lackawanna appealing the Lackawanna Plaza development?
We hate to do it, but we love Montclair. An appeal of Lackawanna Application 2543 was unavoidable due to the complete lack of impartiality and judgement of the Montclair Planning Board.
A Better Lackawanna is therefore joining with like-minded citizens in suing the Montclair Planning Board, the Montclair Town Council, and the developer and owner, The Pinnacle Companies and The Hampshire Companies, respectively. We demand a completely new application based upon safe and legal access to the parking lot and in compliance with the Master Plan for Montclair.
Foremost, note that A Better Lackawanna seeks the construction of a supermarket; a chief concern we have with the current plan is that it will not result in a viable building for the long-term success of a market due to inadequate access and parking. In addition, the developer has not proven that the existing handsome historic train sheds cannot be re-used.
Briefly, we challenge the development on the following grounds:
Ignores the Master Plan. Montclair’s Master Plan was created to allow for growth yet still maintain livability. The Lackawanna development plan violates many aspects of the Master Plan; in fact no attempt was made by the Planning Board to make the developer comply. Examples include the needless destruction of historic structures and the creation of a giant parking lot as a “front yard.” Two alternative plans were presented which would not violate the Master Plan yet neither the Planning Board nor the developer considered these.
Inadequate traffic planning. There is currently no legal way to make a left into or out of either new parking lot entrance, on Bloomfield Avenue or Grove Street, yet the developer’s design (and traffic study) does not take this into account.
The parking lot is gigantic, yet too small – The planned parking lot will be half the size required by zoning. This is because the building is massive, leaving little room for cars. This is called a “self-created hardship” in legalese. A valet car operation will be allowed to use street parking yet the Planning Board’s expert said there would be no impact from this – in an area of town already critically short on parking.
Lack of oversight of tenant requirements. The approved plan is not what is being built. The developer insisted on a 47,000 square foot building (the size of a Costco on an Interstate highway) despite a supermarket expert testifying this is far too large for a viable market in a downtown setting such as Lackawanna Plaza; in fact, Lidl wants only 29,000 square feet, yet the Planning Board approved the larger building without clarifying how the remaining space would be used (space which could have been used to meet zoned parking requirements). At a minimum, the Planning Board should have required new traffic studies, a new loading dock design, and new signage renderings. Importantly, the public was not allowed to question the developer or its experts on the new design.
Procedural issues. There were dozens of procedural irregularities during the Planning Board process, any one of which justify an appeal, and which, taken together, show how the Planning Board never seriously considered any negative impact from this massive project. From the outset, the Mayor and Town Council made clear they wanted this oversized development, despite what an independent Planning Board might have concluded or what the public wants.
Historic Montclair. While the Lackawanna Plaza train sheds await the wrecking ball Preservation New Jersey has just declared the entire site as one of 10 on its list of New Jersey’s most endangered historic places for 2019.