Montclair's 'Transit Rich Assets' Key to Future Growth

Township Manager Marc Dashield and Township Planner Janice Talley talk about the Master Plan and future development on Tuesday.


Imagine driving into Montclair and passing by 10-story buildings on Bloomfield Avenue, or walking past five-story buildings overlooking the Upper Montclair train station and Watchung Plaza.  

While these monoliths may be a foreign sight in Montclair in the present, they may become a reality within the next 30 years as the township determines how best to balance long-term growth with sustainability. 

Recommendations for how best to utilize Montclair’s land and housing resources, known as the unified land-use element of the township’s Master Plan, was unveiled Tuesday at a 4th Ward community meeting where about 60 residents turned out. 

However, unlike traditional land-use plans, the township is also including a never-before used circulation element, which will take into account the different sorts of transportation in town. 

“What the township is preparing is not a typical land-use plan,” said Township Planner Janice Talley. “This is really a land-use and mobility plan [which will be] tying together transportation ... policies and land-use policies.” 

Recommendations for the township’s unified land-use and circulation element, said Talley, focused on the town’s “transit rich assets,” such as the six train station hubs and countless bus stops throughout town, in addition to its roadways, sidewalks, pedestrian connections and bicycle routes. 

The recommendations included two- to six-story buildings around the Upper Montclair, Walnut Street and Watchung Plaza train stations. In addition, improvements to pedestrian and bicycle transportation were suggested, as well as adjusting parking requirements.  

In Montclair Center along Bloomfield Avenue, seven- to 10-story buildings were recommended to be constructed around Lackawanna Plaza, Bay Street train station and Church Street. A new jitney shuttle, improvements to walkways and bicycle paths, and adjusting public parking were also recommended in this area of town. 

Building around these transit areas will allow Montclair to bear the increased grow expected in the coming three decades, estimated to be more than 3,500 units. 

Transit oriented development is smart, said Township Manager Marc Dashield, because it encourages those residents to have fewer cars and use alternate means of transportation, and bring in less children in those smaller units so as not to burden the school system more than it already is. 

While Montclair will change, Talley added the integrity of the township will be preserved. 

“Part of planning is preserving residential areas and maintaining economic base,” said Talley. “... We don’t want to stop growth. The plan allows Montclair to grow in an appropriate manner.”

These recommendations, however, will not determine precisely what will be in these areas, said Dashield. 

“This lays out a vision and a plan for the future,” said Dashield. “This is a vision  .... This is just the beginning.” 

The township’s unified land use and circulation element is one part of Montclair’s 30-year Master Plan, and does not include housing, open space or historic preservation elements. 

The adoption process for the Master Plan will begin in March. The Master Plan will ultimately be voted on by the Planning Board.

christopher swenson February 22, 2013 at 07:18 PM
I attended this while the discussion was on the Master Plan. What the article did not say is how angry most of the residents were about the plan. There were heated objections to the building heights, reducing open space, traffic, etc. Dashield and Talley said there was still time for input from residents in this process. The P Board needs to approve the Master Plan and then the Town Council would need to approve the zoning changes that would be necessary to implement it. My sense is though, this is a done deal. The PBoard has already seen the draft plan and if they had raised serious objections to it, it would be different. If you look at who is now on the Planning Board, I would guess the new appointees (obviously Mayor Jackson and Councilor McMahon since they ran on this) are all in favor. The funniest part of the meeting was when someone asked Ms. Talley what the time frame for the plan was. When she said 30 years there was out loud laughter. The average age in the room was probably 65. It was ironic to me that there was so much opposition from 4th Ward residents. The 4th Ward gave Jackson a historically large majority and this is essentially is the plan he ran on-just some more details are being filled in. I don't agree with the "vision" of it, but our slate lost and this is what folks voted for. Give him credit for doing what he promised. Of course he also promised a forensic audit of the town, so maybe there is still hope.
CMFAS55 February 22, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Chris - that is the problem. I suspect that the majority of the 4th ward and others who voted for Montclair 2012 paid no attention to the platform except for the promise to keep municipal workers employed. I suspect that they also bought the garbage referring to other candidates as Tea Party activists. Jackson seems like a good guy but the 2012 slate plan was pretty clear cut - raise revenue by developing heavily around the train stations and look to sell Montclair muni services to other towns. While even those who voted for Montclair 2012 are entitled to complain about how they actually run the town, this is exactly in line with the platform they ran on.
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 February 23, 2013 at 01:09 AM
The Mayor, the Town Council and the Planning Board are all wrong on this. It is no longer a question of what platform was used to gain election, it is a question of whether these public officials are acting openly and in the interest of the community or for some other (private?) interests. The point is, the people who pay taxes and need to live by (and pay for) the decisions made by this Town Council simply do not know what is going on. tryingtosurvive may for one or another reason want to see Montclair turned into an urban development zone, but it is not what the vast majority of the town's people want. But even regardless of whatever this secret 30 Year Master Plan may be (though well having regard for those who will end up paying for it), the fact remains that there is nothing judicious or clear in their manner of governance. And this is what gives the most cause for concern. We do not know why this Town Council want to purchase the former Social Security Building on Bloomfield Avenue and block it from being used to assist the homeless. We do not know how much of the town's people's money they plan to spend on it or what they will do with it after purchasing it. We simply don't know.
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 February 23, 2013 at 01:23 AM
(cont.) We do not know why the town needs to build a new administration building (and a jail!). The Town Council claims that the current buildings are old and dilapidated, on the one hand, but on the other hand they claim that businesses are lining up to take over those buildings and pay taxes on them. Of course, there are lots of vacant commercial spaces in Montclair already, but all these businesses are just waiting for the huge Montclair public work force to abandon the old buildings so they can move in and pay off the town's debt. The most ostentatious move the Town Council has done has been to give developers a pass on paying taxes. Why? Simply stating "The town council has some ideas that they believe will be beneficial to the town." is not enough. The Town Council has a responsibility to make those ideas public and discuss them openly and transparently with the town's people. And it needs to do so in specific terms with cost analysis. Otherwise they are neither "ideas" or "visions," but simply political (and dangerous) fantasies. And trying to turn the onus toward those who legitimately disagree by saying "Does anyone else who posts here have some ideas on how to reduce the debt and improve services?" is disingenuous. Obviously whatever member of the Town Council is thinking this is also deaf to their own constituents. They simply did not listen to the good folks that spoke up loudly and clearly this past Tuesday evening.
frank rubacky February 23, 2013 at 03:28 AM
In all fairness, none of the 3 slates or the mayoral candidates addressed the master plan draft during the campaign. Of course, can't say I recall reading about someone asking, either. Also, Mayor Jackson won every ward except for the 1st, and he lost only by a 100 votes or so. That said, I expect that the 1st Ward will push back considerably on these plans. For example, Montclair Sate's Master Plan has growth of 20,000 more (on campus & commuter) students on the North end. The Township is facilitating a 25% density increase around the U Montclair train station. And once someone explains to the 2nd Ward that North Mountain will become the new Valley Rd, I imagine they might push back, too. Do you think the PB will take this up before, during or after the budget process?


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