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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Community Baptist Church Hosts The Master Plan Public Hearing

June 27, 2012. Englewood's Master Plan Public Hearing at Community Baptist Church was so well attended that the line of participants waiting to sign in extended out the doorway of fellowship hall through the lobby to the front door. Several of the presenters came into the lobby with sign in sheets when it became clear that the process of signing in was burning daylight.

The fellowship hall filled with a diverse group of eager Englewood residents overwhelmed the Mayor and his staff. They had set up the room expecting 50 people and there was well over a hundred. Mayor Huttle started the meeting with comments about diversity and slogans like "one body," "one city,". He alluded to being happy about the city wide excited faces in the group. He introduced it as the Planning board's Master Plan. "We want as much input as we can possibly get from the general public." 

"A Master Plan is a policy document that guides the use of land within a municipality in a manner that protects public health and safety and promotes the general welfare. A Master plan identifies community objectives and strategies for achieving them. The Master Plan lays down the framework for the planning board and governing body to develop the elements of good land management and use. This includes meeting local housing and economic development needs and protecting important natural resources. The State of New Jersey requires that each municipality’s Master Plan be updated at least every 10 years." 

He introduced the team of consultants selected by the City of Englewood to prepare the Master Plan and facilitate the public engagement process. Mark Keener of Brown & Keener Urban Design, a division of RBA,  Use this link to learn more about this company.
Rob Lane and Rob Freudenberg of Regional Plan Association (RPA)      
Use this link to check out Regional Plan Association's websites and past projects.

It was explained that a Master Plan was not needed if the town in question was built out. It was also suggested that if the Plan was thought "Perfect" action should be taken to keep it that way. It was suggested that Englewood was not perfect. Wow! You think? The first Consultant was introduced as Mark. They all seemed nervous. We were instructed to consider the following topics:
  • Job accessibility 
  • Bedroom community
  • Concerned with institutions, hospital, library, schools
  • Centers of life in the community
  • How does one keep Commerce relevant
  • Re-purposing of industrial area

It was suggested that this is where things are likely to change
    This does not appear a happy
    • light rail
    • Car dealerships
    • Use of space to park cars downtown
    • Hospital can creep out into community and neighborhoods (Creep was his word)
    • Decommissioned schools
    • Industrial Area
    • There was no mention of James Street. Why? That is downtown...Uhmmmmmm...
  • Rob Lane was the next speaker. He is a pleasant seeming guy that reminds one of Woodstock. He many have just been a bit too impressed with the number of people of color in the room. He admitted that he had never conducted a session with so many people. (He told us what we were allowed to discuss) He wanted us to come up with the top 3 things the Master Plan should take on in the following areas:
  • Economic health
    • Revitalize industrial area, decide what would be best use 
    • Objective: Live, work, create jobs in town
    • Community health
    • Bring Community together
    • Integrate Houses of Worship
    • Expansion
    • Manage Traffic and Parking
    • Support and integrate the Library
    • Downtown
    • Neighborhoods
    • Industrial
    • Hospital
  • Parking Deck..route 4 park and ride
Dacey was the Facilitator of my group. We drew the short
straw and got the Industrial area. There was leading talk about changing the zoning of the area to include other types of businesses. There was no talk of what specifically the area is zoned for right now. 
  • How progressive does Englewood want to be?
  • It was suggested that the Green Way was the way to go.
  • Object to increase the resale value
  • Employ more people
  • Encourage entrepreneurs
  • Create an area where people will live and work together in mixed use structures
  • Create jobs and tie the area to downtown
    • Apple store..apps
    • Gizmos demonstration stores that have parent store in another place
    • side walks
    • bike racks
    • parking
    • trolley (rumor is that this service will be discontinued)
    • Entertainment
  • How do we connect downtown to Crowne Plaza and buildings south of route 4
    • Suggestion was to spruce up Van Brunt St. to make is more attractive a route
      • bike racks, bike lanes, perhaps cobble the street, light posts like the Ave.
      • Make it and extension of the Ave straight through to route 4 up an over.
Then it was time to quit and report back to the large goup. The groups were encouraged to give short reports of suggestions agreed upon in each. Unless, I missed one, there were 15 groups. I jotted down phrases and key words from each group. This went quickly and my notes are a bit less than copious in this area.
  1. Parking resources used and allocated. Stores are serving one population and not others. This needs to be addressed
  2. Unification and less segregated. Lincoln & Liberty Schools still related to Education or Recreation Traffic- inefficient system
  3. Recreation Center - young and old people to have access. Get rid of the animals and deer- control - re-route trolley to cover more of the City...add another one
  4. Industrial area - mixed use residential for just young people commuting to the City. Retail service
  5. Jobs. Tax revenue. Subdivide in mixed use space. Community Center. Senior Citizens. Youth. Revitalize 
  6. MacKay Park. Revitalize Sports.
  7. High Tech - businesses must be supportive of each other. Focus is on residents time & work
  8. Revitalize Downtown - recreation center for youth. An open space plan
  9. More dynamic Chamber of Commerce
  10. Repair Ice Rink. Deal with the flooding on Forest Avenue. Reprogramming of Historic Preservation
  11. Neighborhoods - MacKay Park re-open. House and work connect each other. Unity Day. Interfaith Day. Public Schools need work. Better utilization of funds or 
  12. Downtown - vacancy issue. Attract businesses more people using downtown. Community Center. Lincoln School and Fire House area. Educational Center. How will the Light Rail service the Community.
  13. Community Neighborhoods - Environmental activity that services the neighborhood. Keep the character of the neighborhood. Deal with the public schools. businesses. light rail
  14. Industrial area. The area should be rezoned to create a mixed use of space. Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to bring in their businesses. Loft type residences with a live where you work idea. Vibrant community. Van Brunt St should be spruced up as a connecting thoroughfare from Downtown to Crowne Plaza, up and across route 4 to the residential area on the South side. Green ways. Bike paths and bike racks. Light rail to connect folks from hospital through downtown to the south side of route 4.
  15. Neighborhoods is core of Englewood and should be focus. Retail encroachment. Community Center needed. Repair the ice skating rink. Provide roller skating. Deal with traffic problems, parking problems, speeding accountability for Master Plan is responsibility for everyone. The information included on Master Plan should be in other languages of the residents in town.
  16. Neighborhoods - Community Center. Vocational Training- Have Englewood Day again. Whatever is done must benefit the current residents of Englewood. Attract business and firms that help keep the neighborhood healthy and stable.
Wrap up: Envision an improve a quality of life recognizing the compromises, gathering the facts. Stay tuned. The next 2 meetings will be in different parts of town. 

The Master Plan Public Hearing was a start on a long journey to visibility. We are not invisible in the Community and our children are not invisible in the school buildings. Our children are not invisible. Everyone is visible. It was a beginning. The conversation has begun.

More photographs: if member of
facebook. I like walking away from meetings like these with something in my hands. The definition of Master Plan would have been a good idea.

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