Cranford hosts special workshop on 750 Walnut Avenue redevelopment plan – Union News Daily

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CRANFORD, NJ – Formal action was taken on the 750 Walnut Avenue redevelopment plan at a special workshop on Monday, August 23, which residents attended.

Cranford Mayor Kathleen Prunty said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss a particular element of the redevelopment plan, the height of the buildings, as the township wanted to cap the four-story structures and Hartz Mountain Industries, which owns the property, wanted five story capped buildings.

“We went into mediation and couldn’t come to an agreement, so the special master, who is a judge appointed by the court, allowed us to reach out to the public, which we did,” said Prunty on Monday August 23. “So we had an online survey, which we put out everywhere for residents to have their say, and the residents overwhelmingly wanted four stories, which the city committee wanted.

“We voted on it tonight, but tonight was also an opportunity for the residents of Cranford to ask specific questions about the project,” she continued. “A lot of it has to do with traffic, which is a legitimate concern, and the township certainly doesn’t want to do anything that makes it a more dangerous street. We have a great planner, and we’ll get back to the audience with more details, so they can ask questions about that as well. “

The municipal committee voted unanimously to accept a four-story ceiling. Urban planner Annie Hindenlang from real estate consultancy Topology will now start work on the redevelopment plan project, based on four-story buildings.

From the start, the township’s position has been four-story buildings, with part of the project parking lot under the buildings, Prunty said in a press release sent to Union County LocalSource on Monday, August 23. Hartz Mountain had wanted five-story buildings and, after months of negotiations, the township and Hartz reached an agreement on the design of the buildings.

According to the press release, Wednesday August 4, after two days of mediation, it was agreed to have either two four-story buildings, all residential, with parking around the buildings and none below, or two five-story buildings, with four floors of residence and one floor of parking below. The township then requested an online community survey to seek public comment on the number of stories on Tuesday, August 10, with results by Monday, August 23.

The survey was posted on social media, the township’s website and emailed to residents of the 750 Walnut Avenue neighborhood, according to the press release. The survey received 553 responses, with 392 in favor of a four-story design and 161 in favor of a five-story design.

Hindenlang, Township Lawyer Ryan Cooper and Deputy Mayor Brian Andrews attended the special meeting via video call. In addition to his work on the draft redevelopment plan, which will include more details on the building design, open public park space, parking, landscaping and walkways, Hindenlang said a Independent traffic study will assess the impact on Walnut Avenue and surrounding streets. . The results of the traffic study will decide where and how Hartz will implement traffic calming measures in the area, including improvements to pedestrians and bike lanes.

Cranford resident Lydia Allen of Walnut Avenue, who was hit by a car five years ago and attending the Monday August 23 meeting, asked about the safety of pedestrians crossing Behnert Place and Walnut Avenue in Cranford .

“There are many things you can do to slow traffic down on Walnut right now. Because they have such a wide road, it naturally encourages people to speed up and behave more recklessly, ”Hindenlang told Allen. “Some of the interventions that were conceptually discussed would prevent the problems from reoccurring, but no improvement would be recommended that would make the situation safer for pedestrians. The objective is to improve the pedestrian environment there.

Prunty praised that residents had the opportunity to voice concerns about the redevelopment before it happened.

“I thought it was great,” the mayor said. “Sometimes meetings can be controversial and people get angry. This is exactly what a public meeting should be: people expressing their concerns, their interests, their ideas. It was a productive and constructive public meeting. It was great.”

Township committee member Jason Gareis said the public’s contribution benefits the community.

“I think what led up to this meeting actually helped the community in the way we had an online survey to determine if residents were more in favor of a four or five story building on site 750. Walnut, so I think the preparation for this meeting was the important part and making sure that we have the public input for this development, ”Gareis said on Monday 23 August.

Township administrator Jamie Cryan said public decisions matter, and she also praised the night’s meeting.

“It’s important that these decisions are made in public, and it’s important that the public be there, and they did, and they expressed concerns, suggestions, and I think it went really well. “Cryan said on Monday, August 23. .

Another public meeting will be scheduled for mid-September, so that residents can consult and comment on a draft of the new redevelopment plan.

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman

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