Sunday, July 10, 2005

Meetings this week: Council tonight and the Abbot Manor vote on Wednesday

TONIGHT - TUESDAY - July 12 - 7pm - City Council, budget meeting - City Hall Library

To get a ringside seat on the city's budget hearings, be at City Hall Library from 7 to 9 p.m. And mark your calendars for many more Tuesdays and Thursdays to come.

Budget hearings, in which department and division heads make their pitches to the City Council for funding in 2005-06, began July 7 and are scheduled to continue through Oct. 27 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All the budget sessions are from 7 to 9 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

Comment: The budget was a big issue in last month's primary elections. There was a lot of finger-pointing during the campaign but citizens had no way of separating truth from spin. Citizens need to be present in order to understand decisions and how they were made.

WEDNESDAY - July 13 - 7pm - Zoning Board of Adjustment - City Hall Library

A BIG decision: The Abbott Manor project, a five-year-long (or thereabouts) series of public hearings, is coming to a vote (though it may not be the end of the story).

The corporate owners of the Abbott Manor nursing home at 810 Central Avenue have requested a multitude of variances for their Central Avenue property and for an adjoining West 8th Street lot next to the Episcopal Church Rectory. Abbott Manor is located in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District. One of Plainfield's stately homes, it was converted from that use decades ago; the building is an architecturally contributing structure for the district.

There is no proposal to tear down the original structure, however the size of the addition Abbott wants to build into the backyard and extend onto the side lot remains substantial.

Over the course of time this project has been opposed by many more Plainfielders than it has been supported by city residents. The Abbott organization has made and submitted numerous revisions to their original plan, but their fundamental desire for major construction and expansion of the existing facility has not changed.

Public comment has ended; Wednesday night the Board will vote after years of testimony and legal wrangling. I expect this meeting could be standing room only thus my advice: Get there early.

--Barbara Todd Kerr

DISCLOSURE: I rented an apartment for 14 years in the Van Wyck Brooks House on West 8th Street. I have attended many of these zoning meetings over the years. I personally oppose this construction effort and it's previous this location. And I have testified before the Zoning Board about my concerns.

KEYWORDS: Abbott Manor, historic district, Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, zoning