Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TOD "Visioning" Advocated

Councilman Cory Storch pitched Tuesday for a “year-long visioning process” on transit-oriented development and is hoping Monday’s regular City Council meeting will produce endorsement of the plan and its $65,000 projected cost.

Although the current economic situation has slowed development and redevelopment, Storch said in the agenda-fixing session that Plainfield must be prepared for future opportunities related to a tunnel project that he said could produce a “one-seat ride” to Manhattan by 2017.

Claiming that real estate values are likely to go up along the Raritan Valley rail line, Storch said, “It’s very important for Plainfield to be prepared – we have to be at the front of the line.”

To that end, Storch advocates a partnership with Rutgers University and New Jersey Institute of Technology for the visioning process, starting with talks this summer and getting citizen input through the fall and winter, to produce a report by spring.

In April, Storch discussed issues around such a study on his blog.

As liaison to the Planning Board, Storch said the city’s master plan is very close to approval and “calls very much for the study that is being proposed.”

Generally, transit-oriented development supports higher density around train stations and other transportation hubs.

City Council President Rashid Burney said the plan should include education on “why density is good for Plainfield.” Having a consensus also helps with financing for developers, Burney said.

Councilman William Reid questioned whether Storch had the consensus of the administration on the plan and its cost.

City Administrator Marc Dashield said consensus has not yet been achieved, but added, “Plainfield is poised to come out of this. We’ve got plans – things are moving.”

By way of contrast, the administration called for transit-oriented development at the mayor’s 100-day report in 2006. Besides two existing train stations, city officials said they wanted to restore two defunct stations in the West End.

At the meeting , Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs showcased a developer with plans for condos on South Avenue, but the proposal failed and it came out in the wash that the developer’s partner had been sentenced in 1997 to 48 months in jail on 17 counts of mail, wire, insurance and bank fraud.

Another developer proposing massive development at Richmond and East Third Street in 2006 turned out to be on the state debarment list, meaning he was barred from public contracts until April 2007 due to infractions. He later dropped the project, but then proposed a multi-story apartment project on South Avenue that was rejected by land use officials.

The caveat here is to make sure that transit-oriented development, if supported, is really viable

--Bernice Paglia


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