the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Westwood Mayor Ray Arroyo explains how Trento is attempting to once again overrule local zoning and allow developers of qualifying office parks and shopping centers to redevelop with residential mixed use, sticking taxpayers with the coats of new schools, added police and fire,water, sewage ,traffic and road infrastructure :
“The Borough was asked for comment by the Pascack Press after an article recently pointed to the Westwood K-mart as the last one still operating in the State of NJ . Many residents are speculating about what is planned for the anchor’s plaza.
As I explained to the Pascack Press, the Borough has no correspondence from the Kmart property owners regarding either their current, or future, intentions. No use variance application has been filed with the Zoning Board of Adjustment, nor has a request for a re-zone been proffered to the Governing Body. The property remains zoned for a shopping center. The Borough’s Master Plan, revisited just two years ago, recommended that some additional commercial uses be permitted in the Shopping Center zone.
Residents should know that Assembly Bill: A-294, currently in committee, would over rule local zoning and allow developers of qualifying office parks and shopping centers to redevelop with residential mixed use … as of-right. No use variance would need issue. The bill, if passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Murphy, would override local zoning prohibitions and preferences. It would treat all subject office parks and shopping centers, everywhere in the state , as “distressed properties.” And it establishes, by statute, a residential component as a permitted use, to relieve that distress.
Use variances, by contrast, require applicants, on a case by case basis , to surmount the highest burden of proof, and convince a supermajority of Zoning Board members (5/7) – that a use …not permitted in a zone …is particularly suited, for a particular site within that zone.
The Municipal Land Use Law makes these legal burdens arduous, because the statute presumes that a local government would have permitted the use, by ordinance, if it found the use to be desirable and appropriate for the zone. That it enhanced, rather than undermined, the delicate eco-system of interdependent uses that comprise a town’s zone plan.
The League of Municipalities opposes A 1294
as it “undermines the careful planning and consideration that has gone into municipal zoning. Further, the Municipal Land Use Law already provides a mechanism that would allow for necessary zoning changes.”
The MLUL and other state statutes provide several tools for local governments to address changing markets, and to amend outdated zoning ordinances. The towns themselves make that assessment and are charged with taking a global view of the borough’s zone plan, and Master Plan, in order to promote the general welfare of our constituents.
Municipal control of local zoning allows us to enhance commercial viability with an understanding of particular local conditions. There may be parts of the state where the land uses addressed in A 1294 are truly dead zones, and mixed use would be an appropriate transformation.
But there is nuance to the symbiotic distribution of uses in a well-arranged zone plan. And those are intimate, grounded considerations that vary from town to town.
They ought’nt be set aside by state-wide, one-size-fits-all legislation.`