Even though the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) last Monday addressed, for the second time, the recommendations that it sent to council last month regarding the master plan for what is locally known as the Hunter property, the West Webster Avenue Area 1 Redevelopment Plan will be voted on by council next year.
The Hunter property was designated an Area In Need Of Redevelopment last year by the MLUB and since then had remained inactive until mayor & council referred the redevelopment plan to the land use board for review. Last month the MLUB reviewed the plan and unanimously approved it and sent it back to council with four recommendations. That MLUB meeting did not have Councilman-At-large Joseph DeIorio, who is the liaison for council, in attendance.
During the December 6th municipal meeting, the governing body was to review four (4) recommendations from the MLUB to see if mayor & council would agree or decline them. At that meeting members of the governing body were at a loss to the specifics of what the MLUB had recommended. The four areas of concern had to do with having shared parking as being automatically allowed in the redevelopment plan, who would maintain a bike path that is a requirement as per the plan, explicit language that addresses 3-bedroom market units along with 3-bedroom affordable housing units, and clarifying the terms ‘shall’, ‘should’, encourage’, and ‘strongly encourage’.
Since there was no one from the municipality who attended the MLUB meeting, there was no ability to have the matters clarified which caused a delay in the redevelopment plan. Additionally, no member of council had reviewed the tape or called the MLUB to see how the matters could be clarified. Had the council liaison attended or had councilmembers reviewed the recording from that meeting, all those resolutions would have been addressed.
Instead, the matters returned to the MLUB to have them explain themselves again but this time with Joseph Baumann from the law firm of McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, LLC – the municipality’s special counsel for redevelopment in attendance – in attendance on December 10th.
The MLUB once again reviewed three of the four recommendations since council agreed with removing shard parking as an automatic allowance for the project. The land use board relayed to Mr. Baumann their issues and he will return to the governing body on Thursday night to have council once again vote on them.
With the year coming to a close, the ordinance which would formally approve the redevelopment plan would have to wait until next year. The reason for the delay is that an ordinance requires two readings – one for introduction and a second for a public hearing and vote by the governing body. Since there will be a new incoming mayor and fifth ward councilman, having the introduction at the end of the year with one administration and then having that unfinished business handled by a new administration is not legitimate. THis delay will also, most likely, have the entire redevelopment plan go back – once again – to the Municipal Land Use Board to yet another review.
Over a year after the area was deemed in need of redevelopment, the plan for a proposed residential four-story complex at the corner of Locust Street and West Webster Avenue which could have been completed by year’s end now has an uncertain future with a new mayor – Joseph Signorello III – and councilman – Robert Mathieu – having run a campaign that countered and questioned significant proposed development of residential units started by Mayor Carl Hokanson during his four years in office.
The next municipal meeting where the three resolutions are set to be voted on will be on Thursday, December 20th, at 110 East Westfield Avenue at 7 o’clock in the evening.