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Report: Housing Developments Could Ease Traffic, Pedestrian Woes

Village's traffic expert thinks the four downtown housing proposals might help – not hinder –

The traffic expert hired by the village believes the proposed four downtown multi-family housing projects could ease traffic issues while improving pedestrian safety, according to a report on northjersey.com.

The four developers are willing to enter into public-private agreements to improve signage, sidewalks, traffic lights and curbing, the report said.

It would be "a way to address persistent traffic problems," said traffic expert John Jahr, according to the article.

Residents have expressed concern that the projects, if approved, would tax an already overburdened village with traffic.

Other types of development – like businesses – would be more intensive, Jahr said, according to the report.

Ridgewood's planning board is considering creating a new zone that would allow the developments to be constructed.

The Master Plan amendment would need to be approved by the council for the individual plans to be ruled on by the planning board.

Proposed are Ridgewood Station, at 114 rental units; The Dayton, at 106 units; Chestnut Village, at 50 units; and The Enclave, at 50 units.

Matt Allen February 19, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Ha ha ha. Thanks for the Tuesday morning comic relief. "Other types of development – like businesses – would be more intensive, Jahr said, according to the report." By this logic we should immediately approve any and every proposed 'luxury' development because building project housing would be worse.
jp1 February 19, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Did the traffic expert take any LSD before this statement?
Lisa Baney February 19, 2013 at 01:56 PM
If there are improvements to stoplights, signage, sidewalks and curbs that can actually improve traffic, it would seem obvious that our village should pursue them -- starting with those promising the most significant impact (the oft-mentioned one being traffic lights), but one intersection at a time -- not via a master plan amendment and overall village policy to concurrently allow four large housing/retail complexes and 330 new apartments in our downtown. I encourage the Village to re-direct its approach to allow one of these developments first, via a variance to current zoning, with same type of public-private partnership now offered by the developers, to see if: 1) they in fact have positive effects on vibrancy downtown and village budgets that are touted as the main rationale for approving the housing/retail complexes); 2) the high-end apartment rental and retail market in Ridgewood supports these developments; 3) they do not in fact burden our schools, school budgets, sewer, water and other village services; 4) their visual impact does not overwhelm our downtown; and 5) the odd-sounding predictions by their developments and village traffic consultants are accurate -- that the four unprecedented apartment complexes would improve traffic (not in fact clog traffic or hurt our town). We should not rush to make such a permanent and massive change to the character of Ridgewood, but improve the intersections and approve the developments one at a time.
Gary Rabinowitz February 19, 2013 at 05:38 PM
The quote from Jahr, employed by the firm Maser ( http://www.maserconsulting.com/ ) is priceless. Some facts and links putting Maser's conflict in perspective: Maser does a fair amount of work for both government zoning/planning boards and private developers. See their "portfolio" of projects completed - http://www.maserconsulting.com/portfolio.asp Of the two bases of clients, governments and private developers, which is more important to Maser? Well, the top two people listed on Maser's website under "Staff" are Richard Maser & Joan Verplanck. Maser has been inducted in to something called the NJ Chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (see p. 19, http://www.naiopnj.org/Resources/Documents/PresAwardProgram.pdf ). It gets better, Maser is also a trustee on the developers lobbying group, DPAC (Developers Political Action Committee). Verplanck works for one of the largest commercial RE brokers in the country, Cushman & Wakefield - http://morristown.patch.com/announcements/joan-verplanck-to-join-cushman-wakefields-new-jersey-team Good luck Ridgewood with your independent traffic expert! GXR
OHW February 19, 2013 at 10:47 PM
To paraphrase, there are lies, damned lies and consultant's reports
Brian February 20, 2013 at 02:15 AM
The comment makes perfect sense if you actually read it. These lots are private property. The town isnt going to buy them and turn them into parks or parking lots. The properties are zoned as commercial space and they could be developed as such with little or any chance for the town to have a say. You could have businesses that generate traffic with no change to the current traffic patterns or additional parking. Imagine a Chef Central or NY Sports Club in the Ken Smith lot with no changes to the existing traffic pattern. It would be hard to block such businesses. However, if the zoning is changed to allow the apartments, there may be a chance to get private money to study and improve the traffic flow. The developers could be forced to invest in those changes and to fund more parking for the public. Employing a public-private partnership could end up with a better result for the entire downtown. Lots of people seem to forget that these lots are PRIVATE property which the owners have a right to sell/develop as they see fit.
Jeanette L February 20, 2013 at 04:48 AM
That's almost exactly what I was thinking!
Jeanette L February 20, 2013 at 04:54 AM
Well said Gary! The problem begins when you have developers paying the consultants, who therefore can't be objective! You don't bite the hand that feeds you otherwise you won't get their future business.
Andrew J February 20, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Absolute conflicts of interest! Not surprising given their defiance of common sense. Actually, maybe pedestrian and auto traffic could improve - the roads will be so congested cars will be jam packed, allowing pedestrians to cross the street, just like in midtown Manhattan. Thanks, Gary for the research.
Gary Rabinowitz February 20, 2013 at 04:58 PM
@ Brian - when a conflict of interest is this egregious, how much 'sense' a comment makes becomes largely irrelevant. The bigger problem at hand is: either this expert, Maser, has an agenda and preordained outcome in mind or there is such poor management of the process (or both) that an immediate remedy should be to halt the process immediately. Your attempt at arguing the 'trees' of logic (is this +/- for traffic?) misses the 'forest' of what seems to be a completely tainted and thus invalid process at soliciting supposedly independent experts' advice (isn't Maser working on behalf of the VOR?), weighing evidence, applying law /building standards and forming a conclusion. I don't live in the VOR, but do visit it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but RWers seem most concerned, in order of priority, about the 1) incremental & relatively higher cost of school kids from a high density development, 2) increase to overall ratable base, 3) traffic impact, 4) aesthetics/overall "fit" of multifamily housing to current housing stock. Oh well, perhaps your point would resonate if proper procedures were in place and truly independent experts were involved. Cheers, GXR
Skippy Harrington February 20, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Lots of people seem to forget that these lots are PRIVATE property which the owners have a right to sell/develop as they see fit. Yes, except they are all seeing rezoning and changes to the town's master plan to develop the property! The master plan and zoning ordinances are in place for a reason - to prevent the overdevelopment of the downtown. Personally, I'd rather have a commercial business in those locations than high density housing even if it was "aesthetically appealing."
Jeanette L February 20, 2013 at 07:21 PM
I agree Brian. We need these rules for a reason. If you compare Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Wash. you will see that Seattle is a mishmash of zoning regulations and sections that look tacked on. And Portland is easy to get around because it was well planned and thought out. That's what we have to continue with Ridgewood.
Jeanette L February 20, 2013 at 07:22 PM
I meant I agree with Skippy.
Brian February 20, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Jeanette--your point is all the more reason to try to work with these folks to design a plan that works for Ridgewood. When you simply oppose change/development you lose a voice. The owner can then simply develop the property as it is currently zoned which in this case would be commercial space. Why not hear what they are proposing and see how it can be tweaked to work? Skippy--The problem with adding more commercial space is that there are empty storefronts up and down Ridgewood Ave. There is no parking and putting stores in the new spaces would not require creating public parking. They could have parking for their store only and end up making the entire problem worse.
Brian February 20, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Investing Village resources on independent analysts seems like putting the cart before the horse at this stage. I think your list of concerns is correct although I would reverse 2 and 3. Lets settle those and then fact check with a town paid independent adviser. No offense to any of the " traffic experts" but this stuff is not brain surgery. Traffic pattern changes can be pretty readily understood by any of us who drive through town regularly. I think we can see if the plans make sense or not. Play out the scenarios and decide if the proposal is good or bad. I don't know who is connected to what or who donates to who. What I am trying to do is understand the proposal on the table and if it makes the town better or worse.
Lisa Baney February 20, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Yet, good objective data is really needed before taking "expert advice" as a main rationale for a permanent change to a village's Master Plan. I think that is really common sense. Once these large, unprecedented buildings are built, and policy precedent is made in our Master Plan calling for them, we can't change it later. This is important. A cross roads for Ridgewood. And when rationales for these permanent constructs (that might conceivably turn out to have detrimental impacts on the town), are based on projections that -- for many residents -- seem counter to common sense, I think the data (good objective data), on everything from possible ratables increases (touted as a reason the change the master plan), impact on school budgets and student population, impact on the services bills in town, as well as traffic is vital and part of good "urban planning".
Jeanette L February 20, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Brian, having a parking space is a commercial use. It would not be for residential use and that's what we really need. I agree about the stores, however, the difference with the possible residential developments is that they would cause much more traffic, put stress on water usage, and stress on the schools. We do not need more residents in Ridgewood. Because one of the reasons developers give is that residents whose children have grown will move into these places. Unfortunately, there will be no control over who moves into the vacated homes. And think about, instead of having parking near the train station, but residences. Who will want to purchase residences that close by. Remember also that people have spoken of a performing arts center. That area would be better served by that kind of building than what is being considered. The developers and the owners interest are monetary, first and foremost. That is their right, but they do not own property in a vacuum. Rules are made for a reason.
disgusted February 20, 2013 at 11:45 PM
If these apatments are built as proposed how many will be have to be low income by law. The village purchased the horse farm to prevent low income housing there. The costs of having another municipality take your low income housing have skyrocketed, is this cost going to get hung on the taxpayer or will the developer have to handle this.
Jeanette L February 21, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Good question and I bet it wasn't researched by the developers!
Jeanette L February 21, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Well said, Lisa. The problem is that these developments seem to be moving much faster than they should be. What is the rush? No one can really say except for the property owners wanting to make money, which makes perfect sense. However, we are at a crossroads and you are right because once a change has been made, the horse will be out of the barn, and we will not be able to do anything to change it. And this is not just about what will happen to the town now, but it will affect future generations to come.
Robert Steelman February 25, 2013 at 04:44 PM
A word doesn’t get much more arbitrary than OVERDEVELOPMENT. You’ll know it when you see it? I doubt it. It is far easier to see rotting at the core when obsolete buildings and outdated commercial uses are your streetscape. The fact that Ridgewood has several redevelopment opportunities come along close together is more an example of overdue-pent-up-demand for redevelopment. Ridgewood is not alone in facing the challenge of defining smart growth renewal.
Jeanette L February 26, 2013 at 01:10 AM
4 developments in such a small area is NOT defining smart growth renewal. It's renewal gone amok. There could definitely be other uses, like parking lots we need and are STILL debating, I have heard for decades! And the fact that there is such a rush for them to be built all at once doesn't sound right to me.

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