These concerns have prompted the city to rewrite its master plan for how development should occur over the next 10 to 20 years. The pledge of a new master plan was one of Mayor David Roberts' campaign promises during last year's election. Recently, the urban planning firm of Abeles Phillips, Preiss & Shapiro Inc. (APPS) signed a $270,000 contract to guide the city through the monumental processes of overhauling the Hoboken Master Plan in the next 12 to 18 months.
Defining the master plan
According to Paul Grygiel, the master plan project manager, and APPS partner John Shapiro, a master plan is a document that guides the growth, redevelopment, and enhancement of a community. Also known as a comprehensive plan or general plan, a master plan is comprised of text, maps, and figures.
Grygiel added that although the exact form of the plan may vary from city to city, a master plan usually contains three general components: What a community is, what it wants to be, and how it will become what it wants to be.
According to Grygiel, the first component is the factual basis for the rest of the plan. It documents existing conditions through maps, population, employment, housing data, and other relevant information.
The second component includes a series of goals and objectives, with specific plan elements covering topics such as land use, transportation, and economic development that elaborate upon the goals and objectives.
The third component is an implementation strategy. This part, says Grygiel, is particularly important.
"[A master plan] is the basis for zoning and other legal documents, and it guides public officials in making decisions regarding development," he said. "A master plan is most effective when it doesn't just sit on the shelf, but is referred to on a regular basis by citizens and government."
Process of writing a master plan
Now that APPS' professional services contract has been signed, the planning firm has drafted a timetable to complete the process over the next 18 months. The process is scheduled to be completed in three phases: phase one is background studies and mapping, phase two is preparation of the master plan, and phase three is the preparation of the Unified Land Development Regulations (ULDR).
The first phase will lay the foundation for the master plan. APPS will write a comprehensive "background study report" that takes a snapshot of the city and compiles information necessary for the preparation of the master plan.
The background study report will include information about demographic and economic trends, land use and design, circulation and parking, natural and open space, parks and recreation, community facilities, utility services, recycling, and historical preservation.
During this phase, the firm will also take the initial steps for mapping, including geographic information system (GIS) mapping. GIS is the process of creating a digitized map and informational database for the city. The GIS maps are going to be created using the city's paper maps and aerial photography.
Some elements that will be represented in the new digital maps will include existing land uses, zoning, ownership information, building footprints, sewer mains, and water lines, among others.
Also in phase one, the city will form a Mayor's Master Plan Advisory Committee composed of interested residents and business leaders. In addition, APPS plans on creating Master Plan Subcommittee consisting of one or two members of the Planning Board, one or two members of the City Council, a representative of the mayor's office, one or two members of the Mayor's Master Plan Advisory Committee, the city engineer, the Planning Board secretary, and the consultants.
According to APPS, the final aspect of phase one is beginning the process of community outreach. According to Grygiel, community outreach will start roughly halfway through the process of preparing the background studies report. The consultants will work with the advisory committee and Master Plan Subcommittee to set up a citywide public meeting on the master plan.
That meeting is should occur within the next two months. The purpose of the meeting will be to explain the purpose, scope, and requirements of the master plan, describe the overall project timeline and opportunities for public involvement, and to solicit input from the public.
Phase two, scheduled to take 10 to 12 months, moves from building the foundations for the plan to actually preparing the master plan document itself.
The first step in this phase is to finish the GIS mapping and formulate goals and objectives. The consultants will assist the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Planning Board in drafting new goals and objectives, which will be refined based upon public input. According to Grygiel, as with phase one, public involvement will be a critical part of this process. This phase includes a series of community workshop meetings to solicit ideas.
Currently, the city plans to hold three to five topical workshop meetings. Topics could include such issues as traffic, parking, redevelopment, recreation, and open space.
APPS also intends on having three to five geographical meetings held in the northeast (Stevens, Maxwell House vicinity), southwest area, southeast area (Hoboken terminal, lower Washington Street), and central area.
The ideas issued by the committees and residents will then be taken into account for the preparation of the first draft of the plan. When the draft is completed, the city will present the plan in two citywide meetings and ask for comments and reactions to the draft. Those comments, along with comments from the Master Plan Subcommittee and Advisory Committee, will be used to develop the final draft of the plan. When the final draft of the plan is completed, a public hearing will be held to consider and adopt the plan.
As the plan is reviewed and adopted, the process enters into phase three. This phase is scheduled to last six months. APPS will prepare the Unified Land Development Regulations (ULDR), which will primarily involve translating the Master Plan recommendations into clear implemental regulations and standards, said Grygiel.
In laymen's terms, the policies will be adapted into new zoning code regulations.
According to APPS, the firm will begin work on the ULDR by outlining the changes to the city's current zoning, subdivision, and site plan provisions. The outline will describe how those distinct laws will be merged into a single document and how the entire document will be organized and formatted.
The firm will solicit the input of the city's zoning office, the city's engineer and the Community Development Department staff as to where changes should be made. Then, based on that analysis, APPS will provide a preliminary description of the major changes that will be required to bring the zoning, subdivision, and site plan provisions into compliance with the master plan and state law.
Based on discussions of the outline with the subcommittee, APPS will prepare a complete draft of the ULDR, including a new zoning map.
The consulting firm will also undertake a general "cleanup " of the subdivision and zoning regulations to reduce duplication, ambiguity, and outdated provisions. According to officials, public involvement in phase three will be limited to the required public hearings.
Use of sub-consultants
One unique aspect of this master plan process is that APPS and the city will employ a number of sub-consultants to assist in information gathering and preparing the plan. Each of the sub-consultants will focus on specific aspects of development such as business district improvements, historic preservation, urban design, open space, transit and transportation.
One of the more interesting additions is the selection of Norman Mintz to consult on the vitalization of Washington Street. Mintz is the co-author of the book Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown, which makes the case that the path to urban success lies not in huge mega-projects but in neighborhood revitalization.
Another sub-consultant is Jeffrey Zupan, a nationally regarded expert on transit and pedestrian planning, having authored three well-known books on the topic: Urban Rail in America, Public Transportation and Land Use Policy, and Urban Space for Pedestrians. Also hired is Project for Public Spaces, (PPS), a nonprofit research, educational and urban planning organization. PPS' mission is to create and sustain public places that build communities through programs in parks, plazas and central squares, transportation, public buildings and architecture and public markets. Since being founded in 1975, the organization has worked in over 1,000 communities, within the U.S. and abroad, helping communities grow their public space into vital community places.
Mary Delaney Krugman will assist in identification of historic resources in Hoboken and the development of the Historic Preservation Plan Element. She has extensive experience in evaluating and documenting historic resources and in analyzing the effects of zoning regulations on historic properties and districts.
Wilber Smith and Associates (WSA) will serve as the primary transportation sub-consultant, providing advice with regard to traffic, parking and pedestrian and bicycle issues. WSA will also provide assistance with the GIS mapping.
The final sub-consultant is Fox & Fowle Architects (FFA). That firm will consult on urban design issues, especially when it comes to the waterfront. FFA experience includes designing Manhattan's Hudson River Park and Glen Cove's waterfront in New York.