MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Montclair Planning Board meeting for July 27, again held remotely, was unexpectedly short. A perfunctory discussion on approving the minutes of the previous Planning Board meeting, which normally would be a minor concern, turned out to be the main issue of the meeting when it turned out that the major item on the evening’s agenda – an application for an addition to a Bloomfield Avenue storefront – was postponed.
The kerfuffle began when board member Carole Willis proposed amending the minutes from the July 13 meeting regarding the discussion of the report from the Master Plan Subcommittee. Board member Anthony Ianuale said that he did not have time to go over the changes and offered to abstain from voting for their approval. Willis tried to help Ianuale with an explanation, saying that the changes she made were to the section referring the master plan committee report. She said she put in a whole block of the meeting’s content that had not been in there before. She offered to read it along with him so he could get the gist of it, but he still said he preferred to abstain.
Board member Daniel Gilmer then said that he understood the changes to be a recitation of what had been in the report, and he wondered if it was necessary to include a transcription that was already in the record. Willis explained that what she inserted had all come from what was discussed and broadcast onTV34 and YouTube. She said it needed to be in the minutes to summarize the report.
“The crux of the report,” she said, “was the R2 section, and so since my section dealt with what you read first, and I said, ‘I agree with that,’ it seemed that it was necessary to [include] that.” She added that there wsa not one change from what was on the TV screen and added that board member Carmel Loughman read into the report what was directly on the screen.
At that point, Loughman said that she read the report into the record for anyone who might have been distracted from being on the telephone. She said that including such changes is contradictory to what the Planning Board had been doing – giving a broad outline of discussions and referring people to playbacks of the meeting videos for people who wanted more detail. Willis countered that putting the crux of the report – three pages in large type that can be read in five minutes – into the record would help people understand what had been discussed.
After more back-and-forth about the report, Chairman John Wynn finally intervened, saying he wanted to take a look at the minutes again and recommending tabling them for the time being. “There’s no emergency to get them passed this evening,” he said. He said that the minutes could be finalized at the August 10 meeting.
Vice Chair Keith Brodock suggested an alternative, proposing that the minutes be left as written with the Master Plan Subcommittee’s majority and minority reports appended to them. Chairman Wynn said he had thought of that, but he still wanted to take a look at the minutes. And so they were tabled until the next meeting. Only then was Planning Director Janice Talley able to announce to viewers that the application on the agenda had been postponed due to suggestions about the project by the Historic Preservation Committee at its meeting on July 23. The application for 423 Bloomfield Avenue will be heard on September 14.
Chairman Wynn asked what had been scheduled for September 14 originally. Director Talley said that the application to develop the property at 65 Church Street (the Hahne’s parking lot) was slated for that night but she said it could be started at the meeting following the one on September 14. The developers for the Church Street project, she said, hadn’t even gone to either the Historic Preservation Commission or the Development Review Committee first, so, as there was nothing else scheduled for September 14, the hearing for the 423 Bloomfield Avenue project could proceed on that date.
Beyond that, Director Talley assisted the Planning Board in making necessary changes to the board’s meeting calendar for the fall. The second meeting of September will be on September 21 to avoid conflict with the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur on September 28. She also said that the November meetings had to be changed because the meetings as originally scheduled conflicted with meetings of the Township Council. The board ultimately chose to reschedule its meetings on November 2 and November 16 for November 9 and November 23, respectively.