This is the second part of a two part story about the Nishuane Park water well project. Click here to read part one.
The proposed construction of a water well in the 4th Ward is roiling nearby residents who turned out Wednesday to criticize and object to the project.
More than 80 residents crowded into the conference room in the municipal building yesterday to condemn the township's plan to place a water treatment facility on a half acre of protected open space in Nishuane Park.
“It is one of the last vestiges of beautiful parkland left in Montclair ... and all of us use it,” said resident Dr. Jason Slosberg. “We don’t want this to happen. ... I want that park to stay there.”
This project is like having “a bridge to no where in Montclair,” said Alan Clark, who has lived in Montclair for more than 60 years and resides across the street from the proposed project.
A 38- by 41-foot water treatment facility has been proposed to be built over the unused well, in addition to an access road leading onto High Street and a temporary workspace. The entire project will take up less than a half acre. However, the land is protected by the state Green Acres Program, and would need approval for the construction.
But many residents were there that evening to ensure no approval would eventually be bestowed for the well.
One after another, dozens of residents stood up and denounced the plan. The primary issues brought up throughout the three hour meeting were:
- Noise from the building
- Air and ground pollution from the chemicals treating the well water
- Loss of parkland and recreational space
- Effect on property values
- Over-development, particularly in the 4th Ward
Not one resident stood up in favor of the project.
Many also found fault with how the township publicized the information about the meetings. Council Renee Baskerville, the only councilor to stay the duration of the meeting, said the township usually gives a notice to all households within 200 feet of a proposed development -- which it did not do for Wednesday’s meeting.
However, the township did post Wednesday’s meeting on its website on Dec. 19 and Thursday’s meeting on Dec. 17. In addition, signs were posted around Nishuane Park about the meetings.
The second meeting about the project is tonight, Jan. 17.
In addition, many residents harshly criticized Mayor Robert Jackson and many of the councilors for their absence from the meeting. In addition to Baskerville, Councilor Rich McMahon was at the meeting, but he left soon after the meeting began.
“The mayor doesn’t have the courage to be here and speak to the people that elected him. ... He is absolutely on board with this,” said resident George Bennett.
Baskerville also vehemently questioned her colleagues’ decision to skip the public hearing about an issue that will “effect the fabric of a whole community.”
“I’ve never seen in my years of being active in this community,” said Baskerville, “... a notice for a public hearing where only one council person wants to come. Why aren’t they here to hear these questions?
“I have concerns that the things that are going on here are not felt to be important enough to other people for them to give us the time of day and respect for a regularly scheduled public hearing in the manner we are accustomed to,” noting that the council chambers would have better accommodated the large crowd.
Options to Building in Nishuane Park
There were few other options to placing the water treatment facility in Nishuane Park, according to Mike Heenehan, an environmental consultant working on the proposal.
Heenehan said the option of doing nothing was not recommended due to the township’s expected development in the coming years.
“We have a [township] master plan that anticipates redevelopment and additional development in the town,” Mike Heenehan, “and we do not have an ability to serve those needs.”
In addition, there are limited other locations to build a facility nearby and divert the water from the Nishuane Park well there. The potential of expanding the water facility in Glenfield Park was also suggested, but that would also divert parkland and not be as productive as the Nishuane well is expected to be.
Baskerville Calls to Residents the Block the Proposal
Fourth-Ward Councilor Baskerville joined the other residents in strongly opposing the well project.
“It has not satisfied me yet that we have a [water] need just for our Montclair township needs,” said Baskerville.
Baskerville called on residents to “flood” the state’s Department of Environmental Projection and Montclair officials with letters, emails and petitions to oppose the project.