Imagine driving into Montclair and passing by 10-story buildings on Bloomfield Avenue, or walking past five-story buildings overlooking the Upper Montclair train station and Watchung Plaza.
While these monoliths may be a foreign sight in Montclair in the present, they may become a reality within the next 30 years as the township determines how best to balance long-term growth with sustainability.
Recommendations for how best to utilize Montclair’s land and housing resources, known as the unified land-use element of the township’s Master Plan, was unveiled Tuesday at a 4th Ward community meeting where about 60 residents turned out.
However, unlike traditional land-use plans, the township is also including a never-before used circulation element, which will take into account the different sorts of transportation in town.
“What the township is preparing is not a typical land-use plan,” said Township Planner Janice Talley. “This is really a land-use and mobility plan [which will be] tying together transportation ... policies and land-use policies.”
Recommendations for the township’s unified land-use and circulation element, said Talley, focused on the town’s “transit rich assets,” such as the six train station hubs and countless bus stops throughout town, in addition to its roadways, sidewalks, pedestrian connections and bicycle routes.
The recommendations included two- to six-story buildings around the Upper Montclair, Walnut Street and Watchung Plaza train stations. In addition, improvements to pedestrian and bicycle transportation were suggested, as well as adjusting parking requirements.
In Montclair Center along Bloomfield Avenue, seven- to 10-story buildings were recommended to be constructed around Lackawanna Plaza, Bay Street train station and Church Street. A new jitney shuttle, improvements to walkways and bicycle paths, and adjusting public parking were also recommended in this area of town.
Building around these transit areas will allow Montclair to bear the increased grow expected in the coming three decades, estimated to be more than 3,500 units.
Transit oriented development is smart, said Township Manager Marc Dashield, because it encourages those residents to have fewer cars and use alternate means of transportation, and bring in less children in those smaller units so as not to burden the school system more than it already is.
While Montclair will change, Talley added the integrity of the township will be preserved.
“Part of planning is preserving residential areas and maintaining economic base,” said Talley. “... We don’t want to stop growth. The plan allows Montclair to grow in an appropriate manner.”
These recommendations, however, will not determine precisely what will be in these areas, said Dashield.
“This lays out a vision and a plan for the future,” said Dashield. “This is a vision .... This is just the beginning.”
The township’s unified land use and circulation element is one part of Montclair’s 30-year Master Plan, and does not include housing, open space or historic preservation elements.
The adoption process for the Master Plan will begin in March. The Master Plan will ultimately be voted on by the Planning Board.