City Council – protect our neighborhood zoning!
Apr 21, 2013 | 2230 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

It’s move in day. You’re excited. This is going to be your new home. You know it’s the right place because you’ve taken the time to meet the neighbors and walk around the neighborhood. But what you don’t know is that the neighborhood you’ve invested in could change at any moment. Why? Because according to the city planners the zoning isn’t there to maintain a neighborhood’s character, the zoning is always fluid as needed to entice developers to build.

My community is currently asking the city to say “no” to a developer’s request to change the zoning.

When the developer approached the Pavonia Block Association in October 2012, the community told him to stick to the zoning the city had laid out for the neighborhood. At that point he was asking for 294 units, roughly 150 more than allowed. After this community feedback the developer moved forward with the purchase of the property. He then approached the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association with a revised plan for 206 units. This received strong opposition and a vote to not send a letter supporting the development to the city. After the developer’s community presentation of 206 units, he moved forward and filed a request to change the zoning to allow 245 units.

Our small block association, a block away from the development, voted 21-0 against supporting a change in zoning. In hopes of spreading awareness we have started a petition with signatures from residents opposed to the density. Most people we talk to don’t know about what the planning department has in mind for our community. This plan goes beyond this development into 10th Street north of Jersey Ave.

We as a community have a responsibility to create a better JC for all future residents. The developer might offer the community something today in exchange for a variance allowing a density increase, but what sort of community will we be building for those in the future? The park renovations he does will be deteriorated in 10 years, but the problems that come with increased density will remain (traffic, overflowing trash cans sewer problems, park congestion, crowded schools, path train mobs). This is short sighted for our community and our city.

We support responsible growth and development of our neighborhoods but each time the zoning is changed to increase density for a developer’s profit, a new precedent is set, and the impact to the character of our communities is compounded. This is happening to many neighborhoods across the city, from Hilltop to Van Vorst.

The City Council is supposed to vote on this ordinance on Wednesday of this week. To learn more go to Google group Rezoning Hamilton Park.

Kirsten Greene

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May 04, 2013
Dear Ms. Greene, I feel your pain! North Jersey towns in our area seem to be facing this similar issue of over-development and consistent requests for ever more egregious variances. Since when do developers get to change our zoning ordinances? Towns have a Master Plan, carefully and thoughtfully laid out by professional planners to ensure that a town's character remains intact and to provide a road-map for future development. Town Zoning can only be changed to a new Master Plan after a new plan is well thought out and proposed to the town residents. Residents have a say in whether or not the town Master Plan is amended or not - NOT the developers. We might minimize our battles in this respect if towns and their residents get back to the basic education about "what" the town Master Plan is, and "when" it is appropriate to allow a variance. As I have discovered in my own personal experience, it is NOT to be based on arbitrary opinion, but necessarily based on legal argument and careful consideration of the benefits to the entire community (not just the developer or owner of the property) and that the negatives to the community (again, not just the developer or property owner) can be accommodated without substantial detriment. You may want to post on your Association's web site the Zoning Ordinances and purpose of your town's Master Plan to help educate residents that may not be familiar with it and may not know that they have the right to voice their opinion about it. Thank you for your letter - it really clearly laid out problems we are facing in this area.