Last night, the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) approved the Draft Master Plan Reexamination Report. The reexamination report was in line with a municipal law on the books that states a review is to be conducted every six (6) years. Although state law requires that a Master Plan reexamination should be conducted at least once a decade, the local law was never changed. The report was prepared by Neglia Engineering Associates, the borough’s and MLUB engineering firm. The last reexamination was conducted in 2009.
There are four components to the Reexamination Report but one of the major recommended changes is the list of 11 areas which the municipality should consider as potential redevelopment areas.
Eight of the areas are along Westfield Avenue. The entire length of Route 28 (Westfield Avenue) in Roselle Park is designated by the state – according to Neglia Engineering – as a Smart Growth Area. This designation is a criterion for allowing an area to be categorized as an Area in Need of Redevelopment. The eleven areas are (in no particular order of priority):
- Westfield Avenue East (eastbound) from A.J. Stone Corp. to Senior Spirit
- Westfield Avenue East (eastbound) from Linden Road to South Sheridan Avenue
- Westfield Avenue East (westbound) at the corner of Sherman Avenue (Brake-O-Rama)
- Westfield Avenue East (westbound) at the corner of Berwyn Street (Optimo Store & Garden Dry Cleaners)
- 10 Westfield Avenue West (Sullivan Property)
- 21 Westfield Avenue West (Park Cinema)
- Westfield Avenue West (eastbound) from FDR Hitches to Myles F. Kelly
- Westfield Avenue West (eastbound) from J. White Co. to Burger King
- 113-123 Hawthorne Street (Leberco Laboratories)
- Webster Avenue West (eastbound) from Locust Street to George C. Chatzupoulos Sports Complex
- The triangle of Locust Street (northbound) at Webster Avenue West to Lincoln Avenue West (eastbound) between Chestnut Street and Locust Street (Ryan Property)
Most objectives from 2009 Reexamination Report remained valid with a few exceptions. One was that the old report recommended that the municipality upgrade older industrial areas in order to maintain jobs and preserve the nonresidential tax base. The new report stated that the borough’s manufacturing sector is on a continuous decline due to reliance on a more service-based economy. The recommendation now is to focus on a new objective to create jobs and attract viable businesses.
Some points added to the 2009 report included:
- Instituting an aggressive code enforcement program to address illegal rental apartments;
- Seeking new opportunities for new bus shelters with an emphasis on incorporating them into redevelopment projects;
- Including provisions for bicycle traffic in connection between existing and proposed recreational facilities.
The new report recognized that the zoning ordinances and zoning map have not been amended as recommended in 2009 but stated that such changes should be done. The 2016 report also pointed out a typographical error in borough code 128-107.6.A.(1) that should be changed from a “maximum lot area of 80,000 sq. ft” to a “minimum lot area of 80,000 sq. ft.” That along with three (3) other recommendations on pages 7-8 still need to be completed.
One surprising piece of information shows an unemployment rate in Roselle Park of 15% in 2014. This is twice as much as both the national and state rates that year. The table itself does not have a resource cited. If accurate, such an unemployment rate should be a determining factor in deciding whether residential or commercial development should be a focus in the borough.
As part of the recommended changes, the 2016 Master Plan Reexamination Report states that the borough “should aggressively encourage new development on Westfield Avenue in order to promote more spending to occur within the Borough of Roselle Park.”
Neglia Engineering also recommended that the municipality consider eliminating NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) groups as it relates to the permissible uses in zoning districts. These codes are currently used to determine what type of business can or cannot go in a certain area. NAICS has been an issue in the past, most notably with Easy Fitness With Jeannie (link) in 2014.
During the discussion among MLUB members last night, Al Nitche asked aloud, in reference to the 2016 Master Plan Reexamination Report and the future of Roselle Park, “We have sections where you have a factory and then you have a house and then you have a store and things like that throughout town. I just wondered do we want to perpetuate that? If we don’t, this is the opportunity to start to do something about it. Some of the industrial areas that we have in Roselle Park are really too small to support anything that . . . [will] employ hundreds of people.”
Mr. Nitche added, “Do we want to convert to a purely residential town or do we want to perpetuate some of these little industrial conclaves that we have around town?”
That question is important, especially now that there is the opportunity to guide the direction of development with reexamination of the master plan. Currently, out of the 3,695 listed properties in Roselle Park, 89.5% of them are residential. That does not include apartment buildings, which, if included, goes up to 90.5%. In Roselle Park, there are 207 lots that are commercial and industrial properties (excluding apartments) which is 5.6% of all structures in town; that is further separated into 183 commercial lots and 24 industrial lots.
Any removal of commercial or industrial properties and converting them to apartment developments will increase the borough’s population along with the demand for services and resources by all those residents. It will also increase the homeowner’s burden of the tax levy – the amount that the municipality and school district can raise through property taxes. The less that comes from commercial properties, the more taxes that will come from homeowners.
This Master Plan Reexamination Report allows for the municipality to plan out how to proceed with economic growth while understanding that all development cannot be residential and should include – at the very least – equalized mix use as well as commercial development. Such development will increase Roselle Park’s economic base while not becoming a burden on its schools and services or homeowners.
The Master Plan Report will now to go Mayor & Council for their review and recommendations. once approved by the governing body, it will go back to the MLUB for final review and approval.
The next Mayor & Council meeting is scheduled for July 21, 2016, at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Roselle Park Municipal Complex. The next MLUB is scheduled at the same location and time on August 15, 2016.
Below is a copy of the draft version of the 2016 Master Plan Reexamination Report. The word “DRAFT” was watermarked onto the document by Roselle Park News.