Revisions to city’s master plan get OK’d

7 March 2014 41 views No Comment

Dear Residents:

Please see article in the March 6, 2014 Suburbanite entitled:
“Revisions to city’s master plan get OK’d”

I am happy to announce that the Planning Board adopted the 2013 master plan on February 20th. This document was updated early to reflect current times.

Englewood Planning Board approves changes to master plan

Thursday, March 6, 2014



Northern Valley Suburbanite

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ENGLEWOOD – After months of city-wide meetings, the Planning Board adopted the 2013 master plan on Feb. 20.

Planning Board members voted 6-1 to approve the plan, with Curtis Caviness casting the sole dissenting vote.

A municipality will typically update its master plan every six years, but officials decided to update the document early to reflect current times. Mayor Frank Huttle III previously said the 2009 master plan was using “decade old census data.”

Hundreds of community members flocked to three city-wide meetings throughout the past year to give their input on what should go into the master plan, which is an outline for future growth and development.

Brown & Keener, the planner who authored the document, broke up its recommendations into five categories: Destination Downtown, My Neighborhood, Englewood South, Mobility, and Our Town.

About five people attended the meeting to adopt the master plan, while one resident spoke at the public comment.

David Popkin opposed the recommendation to create a historical commission “that has teeth.” Popkin, who lives in a home on the National Register of Historic Places, believed he should have the same rights as his neighbors to modify his home without the restrictions placed by a historical commission.

“Some 25 years ago, my eighth-grade social studies teacher made a comment: ‘you’re not the owner of your house; you’re only a temporary custodian during the limited period of time you’re on the face of the Earth,’” said Popkin. “I don’t consider that to be where I am. I pay the same taxes everyone else pays.”

Lewis Baer, a Planning Board member, said the body received a lot of public input about the advantages of having a historical commission. He said that the commission was a recommendation in the master plan, but the city council would decide whether to create the commission.

Planning Board Attorney Michael Kates added that the council could make accommodations in a potential historical commission ordinance, including possible tax abatements for the burden of maintaining a historical home.

Before the vote, Huttle discussed last minute changes to the plan that were in response to issues brought up during public comment at a master plan hearing on Jan. 23.

At the hearing, community members brought up topics ranging from the public school system, the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, the future use of Liberty School, the feasibility of an arts district and a desire for a physical community center.

Planners added a recommendation to have the Englewood Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) take a leadership role in managing a proposed cultural arts district in the downtown centered around bergenPAC. At the master plan public hearing, some residents expressed skepticism to establishing an arts cultural district in this area.

The EEDC would create a “strategy for arts culture and industry that are to be implemented through programs, marketing, branding and real estate ventures,” said Huttle.

Another paragraph was added into the plan that promoted adding senior independent living and assisted care facilities, stating the additions would benefit the tax base and create employment opportunities.

“These independent living and assisted living facilities employ many moderate income workers who often utilize public transportation,” said Huttle, quoting the master plan.

Creating a parking authority in cooperation with the EEDC, was another recommendation added to the master plan, said Huttle.

The authority would monitor the South Dean Parking Garage and street parking in the downtown, as residents have raised concerns over the years that employees of Palisade Avenue businesses feed the meters all day preventing shoppers from using key parking spots, said Huttle.

While a number of residents expressed concerns about the public school system during the master plan public hearing, Huttle said the document “has no jurisdiction over the school system.” Despite this, a paragraph outlining the history of public school system buildings and number of enrolled students was added into the planned in response to the comments.

During the meeting, Huttle raised concerns about an added statement recommending the addition of townhomes in single-family neighborhoods with oversized lots “in specific instances.” The statement, which Huttle consider “too broad,” was removed from the plan before adoption.

“I’ll be damned if I have a sentence in here that says we’re going to build town houses in single-family neighborhoods in oversized lots,” said Huttle.

City Engineer Ken Albert, who would later agree with Huttle to remove the oversized lot statement from the plan, said if planned approximately, townhomes may offer more green space, less impervious areas and more landscaping to buffer against single-family neighborhoods.

Albert said the city also has issues with many of these large oversized lots being converted into houses of worship. There are 53 houses of worship throughout the city, said Albert.

“Houses of worship are great for neighborhoods, but because our land is less expensive than competing towns, these large lots one by one are being converted into houses of worship,” said Albert. “We have this need for town houses. The need is expanding daily.”

Huttle believed other statements in the master plan “provide pretty clear language to protect single-family neighborhoods,” but also addressed the need for townhomes. One such statement in the document addressed the prospect of town houses, saying “the city should create appropriate town house zoning in strategic locations.”

“That sentence is filled with careful planning,” said Huttle.


Mayor Frank Huttle III
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