"Please listen to us" read one of several signs held by members of the audience at Monday night's meeting of the Montclair Planning Board.
And listen they did.
After hours of discussion over multiple nights, the Planning Board will pass along a recommendation to the Township Council to decline a deal with CentroVerde developers that would allow two more stories at one of three buildings proposed for the site.
In exchange for approval to bump the building at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Valley Road from six to eight stories, the township would have under the deal received funds from the developers to be used to convert a nearby parking lot to a park, as well as make streetscape improvements down Valley Road. The projects were valued at $1.27 million, according to Pinnacle CEO and President Brian Stolar and LCOR Senior Vice President Jim Driscoll.
Before a packed council chamber, the developers presented revisions to their plans to the board and answered questions asked at a meeting held earlier in the month.
But it would not be enough.
Planning Board member Martin Schwartz was the first to declare he would vote down the deal. Schwartz said losing a parking lot would be detrimental to businesses in the area, and the parking deck on the CentroVerde complex was too far to replace the lost spots.
Schwartz also said the building's mass would damage the "village" feel of the area.
Carole Willis was next to announce her opposition, saying she did not feel it was in the town's interest to give up development rights on the township owned property where the 32-space parking lot now sits.
Other members of the board to oppose the deal were Fire Chief Kevin Allen, architect Stephen Rooney, Sally Ross and Chairman John Wynn.
Paul Rabinovitch and Peg Seip both said they would have recommended the proposal to the council with certain conditions.
"The difference between six and eight stories is not enough to hold
up a really valuable project," Seip said.
The other two Planning Board members, Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and Montclair Councilman Rich McMahon, declined to comment on the recommendation since it would be coming to the council.
Jackson did defend the board and council's decision to hear out the developers on their deal, which would have brought a potential $3 million to the township's coffers.
"For us to dismiss that automatically, I think is not prudent," he said.
The council can now accept or reject the Planning Board's recommendation.