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Ridgewood CBD : Better planning, more trust needed

3 amigos in action Ridgewood NJ
photo by Boyd Loving
NOVEMBER 13, 2015    LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2015, 12:31 AM

Better planning, more trust needed

To the Editor:

Sept. 30 was a great night for Ridgewood. Hundreds of residents bore witness to our council approving, by 4-1 vote, four important studies required to make a truly informed decision on a high-density housing amendment that could change the character of our village forever. Based on a motion by Councilman Sedon, amended by Councilwoman Knudsen, studies for financial impacts, school impacts, infrastructure and a comprehensive traffic review, were all approved.

For the first time in years, residents felt that their voices were being heard. Rather than the frustratingly expected, rushed approval of the out-of-scale high-density ordinances, we instead heard a vote that began restoring our trust.

Unfortunately, at this Monday’s meeting, our council took a scary turn towards breaking that newfound trust. Residents in attendance witnessed several members — Aronsohn, Hauck and Pucciarelli — offer commentary questioning the council’s commitment to the studies, with an angle seemingly against prompt commissioning. It further came to light that no work has commenced towards planning any of the studies, despite the matter’s urgency.

Further disturbing were statements by several council members indicating that they couldn’t recall what studies they voted for on Sept. 30, despite the vote’s place in public record. Interestingly, all the residents in attendance knew the vote. A review of the Sept. 30 video shows that all council members were fully aware of the motion and were given opportunity for further clarification. By the time the vote occurred, there were no such clarification requests and the “multiple studies” motion was put forth by the village clerk: “Infrastructure Study,” “Financial Study,” “The School Impact Study,” and “a Comprehensive Traffic Study as outlined by Councilwoman Knudsen: CBD, surrounding neighborhoods, entire Village.”

Knudsen, Sedon, Aronsohn and Hauck voted “Yes.” Pucciarelli voted “No.”

These studies are so important because our Planning Board, despite years of deliberation, strategically missed the mark, never “planning” in a comprehensive manner. Their process was too reactionary to the zoning-change applications. Studies used were too site-specific for proper master planning, leaving many questions unanswered in a process akin to spot zoning.

Regarding one study, Councilwoman Knudsen explained: “… there has never been a comprehensive traffic study done of the Central Business District proper, the adjacent communities and/or the village as a whole. It becomes incredibly relevant when we consider that there are four large parcels being considered for high-density development, coupled with the North Walnut Redevelopment Zone with an assisted living facility of … 76 units per acre, upwards of 98 (units). And coupled with the fact that we are pursuing a parking garage that will add over 300 vehicles to an already narrow, difficult, congested corner of Broad Street and Hudson. So when you take all these collectively, it really becomes imperative that we conduct our due diligence and get this right. So, I think that, to the question: What traffic studies have been done? Not enough.”

“Not enough” is not good enough. Ridgewood needs better. Better planning. Better process and a better foundation for trust.

Please promptly commission these incredibly important studies.

Dave Slomin