Unfortunately I could not attend the Community Center meeting last night. From the sounds of things I would not have gotten in anyway.

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/cranford/articles/cranford-residents-organize-to-resist-750-walnut

For non-Cranford readers, a large parcel near the southern border of town was an office / warehouse park that is owned by Hartz Mountain, the flea collar people. The anchor tenant recently left / was kicked out and they want to rezone for over 900 rental units.

http://www.goleader.com/news/docs/2017-06-05-CF-Hartz/Hartz_Site_Plans.pdf

This did not sit well with thousands of Cranford residents.

Understandably. That’s a lot of units.

Being a southsider, I drive on Walnut Avenue daily. I have an incentive to have traffic be metered or  be not much worse that it is today. It does get busy several times per day already. (An aside: I have long been in favor of a weight-sensitive light with left turn signals on Walnut northbound for those turning left on Chester Lang, but more for cars wanting to turn from Chester Lang to Walnut Ave northbound. They can sit there waiting for quite a while and with these units that wait will be longer.)

With people leaving for work, coming home and driving to stores and activities, this would add thousands of vehicle trips on Walnut per day. You think the backlog at Lincoln is bad now….

Plus I agree that a large residential development (which would add about 10% more households to the town) is likely to stress the schools (I could go on a rant on how the schools probably could do more with less, but that would be every rant ever). It would heavily affect Walnut Ave, Livingston Ave, and Hillside Ave schools since all of those students would be assigned to those schools. Or they’d need to be bused to the northside schools. THAT would go over with the northsiders…

Yes, the development would be paying taxes, but the schools may be at a point of capacity where they cannot accommodate the number of children physically in the space with the additional influx. With capital projects being ludicrously expensive due to inefficiency, paying union prevailing wages, and overruns, any increase in school tax revenue would be heavily offset by the increased costs. Most likely resulting in more bond debt.

Hartz is entitled to see what they can do with the property that would create the most value and generate the most cash. Unfortunately the NJ economy limits the potential uses due to obscene tax rates and regulation. Also, retailing has overcapacity, office space has overcapacity, and residents would be fighting even harder against any heavy or potentially polluting industry so close to homes.

So that leaves residential, nursing homes, and not much else, (I don’t think a hospital could work with one in Rahway so close).

Another issue with residential is that it is very tough for the land use to change once it is residential. Rental units would require eviction and some legal battles before buildings could be razed. A very hard bell to unring. Business buildings are much easier to change and reconfigure (kicking out 5 tenants is easier than 900). So if Hartz gets their wish, we’d have to live with it for many, many years.

I’d be interested to see if any leeching of any materials from the adjacent site (a former GM ball bearing plant that is now Hyatt Hills) is in ground samples of the Hartz site, and there may be contamination from Hartz’s activities from back in the day.

So, in my opinion, pretty much the citizen’s best shot at stopping this is to make it so the numbers could not work for Hartz. Demand that they build a school or expand the current schools. Demand widened roads and traffic signals that are timed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety up and down Walnut (maybe even at Lincoln, maybe even up to North), perhaps even purchasing additional property to accommodate the widening. Demand traffic management by Walnut Avenue School with a parking turnout for people’s safety. Insist they test the living heck out of the soil. They need obstacles. Bad press is not enough.

That would be tough to do…Renting 905 units is going to be pretty stinking profitable. Lets say they have a 10% vacancy rate and rent them out at an average of $2,000 per month (that includes the cheap COAH units). Assuming 815 units are rented, that’s $1.6 million in revenue per month. Or almost $20 million a year. We’ll have to come up with a LOT of obstacles.

But, if the expenses to get it built and rented impact the numbers so badly it hurts the potential profitability for the next 10 years, they will look at another use.

But that means we as residents have to permit another use. Hartz owns the property and is entitled to do something with it. If we are against every last thing we’re just NIMBY idiots that show that Cranford is hostile to all business, and that is not a reputation you want to have.

Advertisements