Monday, August 18, 2008

TOD-N Ordinance Up Tonight

A controversial ordinance setting land use parameters for a section of South Avenue will be up for first reading at tonight’s City Council meeting.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

At last Monday’s agenda session, Planning Director William Nierstedt told the governing body that the TOD-N ordinance reflects Planning Board objectives for the site and that council approval would set standards for development there. The target area includes the former G.O. Keller dry-cleaning site at South and Leland avenues. Nierstedt said the Planning Board has reviewed the ordinance “at least four times,” a comment backed up by the council’s current Planning Board liaison, Councilman William Reid.

But Councilman Cory Storch, who voiced objections to the proposed ordinance in July, asked why it did not cover the south side of South Avenue and properties north past the train tracks of the Raritan Valley Line.

In past talks on transit-oriented development, four zones around two existing and two former train stations were delineated, with half- quarter-mile radii around each.

At the Aug. 11 agenda session, Storch challenged the proposal, saying, “This is really what is called spot zoning,” and called for a “visioning process” to determine what residents want for the neighborhood.

“I advocate that we send this back,” Storch said, suggesting the Planning Board had not dealt with the rest of the zone around the Netherwood train station.

But Reid noted the Planning Board had already spent many hours of discussion on the topic.

Reid, who served as campaign treasurer for Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, was appointed to the council late last year to replace Rayland Van Blake, who became a Union County freeholder. He was also appointed council liaison to the Planning Board in January, replacing Storch. Board members also include the mayor’s confidential aide and one of her bodyguards.

The TOD-N ordinance permits buildings up to five stories high and a density of up to 75 units per acre for mixed use structures. One parking space and one bike rack per unit would be required.

Dennis Cooper of Omni Pointe, an Ohio firm that has presented a conceptual plan for a development in the proposed zone, said Friday the plan calls for a 5-story structure with 224 units and 30,000 square feet of retail space. Cooper said the company is “very hopeful” that construction can begin by March or April. The company does not yet own the G.O. Keller site, but is in negotiations with the owner, he said.

The current density in the neighborhood is 25 units per acre, but the increased height and density is in keeping with transit-oriented development standards that allow for such changes near train stations.

Click here for Plaintalker’s previous post on the proposed ordinance.

At the Aug. 11 meeting, Councilman Rashid Burney also called for more community input into the design of any project in the zone. In public comment, resident Chris Rutherford said he was hearing about a “huge 5-story apartment building coming in” and expressed concern about the impact on traffic and schools in the neighborhood.

“I just feel like we’re kind of out of the loop on what’s going on,” he said.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's with this city and Cory? He is not on anything, and certainly has the smarts to give his opinion. It appears that this council goes out of its way to keep him out of things. Council members are on two and three committees and Cory is on none. Could it be that he is not towing the party line?

I am not comforted by the fact that the planning board, who should have some expertise in urban planning is in good hands with a confidential aid (a.k.a. secretary) and body guard. Where is the expertise on this Board?

Does anyone on the board really know what they are doing? Doesn't sound like it to me - treasurer-secretary-body guard are Plainfield's leaders for urban planning. Anyone still not going to vote out this administration next year?

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do not forget the Ordinance to give $1,000,000 [yes one million] to the Company to make plans to fix the streets, but not ACTUALLY fix them [They will come back for all that $$ later, after the election]

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bernice,
Cory Storch conclusion that the current proposal for South Avenue is not appropriate is right on the mark. This is spot zoning- and I'm the real estate expert with many years of rough & tumble experience. Further, a 250 unit 5 story residential structure defies market place acceptability. Without a master plan for redevelopment, that includes the core business center as well as South Avenue, the odds of achieving feasible and atractive redevelopment is no more than a wish & a prayer. Bill Nierdstadt would not disagree with this conclusion. Just ask him! But being a good soldier his public voice is not as candid. Lastly, many qualified people have been denied access to civic engagement because they would put Plainfield first - not the pay to play politics that has run this city for decades. The Green/Briggs team are an embarassment to Plainfield and must go - body guards and all.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUTRAGEOUS! "Board members also include the mayor’s confidential aide and one of her bodyguards." On the Planning Board, Bernice!? How can this city council let this happen!? Where is the outrage? How come Burney isn't on top of this?
This administration is out of control and dangerous and what is really scary is that THEY DON'T CARE about how it looks!! All residents need to rise up at tonight's meeting to oppose them! And to think this mayor is giving out "Re-elect Sharon for Mayor" buttons! Is she kidding!!!???

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We, the Netherwood Neighbors Association do NOT support the proposed zoning changes around the Netherwood Train Station in their current form.

The proposed amendments would give unfettered and potentially damaging authority to any persons seeking to develop the area. We advocate for 3 story buildings but we request that the ordinance amendments include not more than 4 stories, not more than a doubling of residential density and inclusion of open space at ground level.

Our neighboring towns in Union County, Fanwood, Garwood, and Cranford have all erected 3 story Transit Oriented Buildings. Though there is a 4 story building which has been erected in Cranford this is part of a downtown environment.

We have joined the grass root/town wide intiative to petition our Town Council to prevent the Overdevelopment of the Netherwood Train Station Area.

If you, or your Neighborhood Association would like to sign our petition or join our non-partisan petition signature drive please contact our association at or me at

Your Neighbor in Plainfield

5:08 PM  

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