Ridgewood Planning Board
Regular Public Meeting
February 15, 2022
The following minutes are a summary of the Planning Board meeting of February 15, 2022. Interested parties may request an audio recording of the meeting from the Board Secretary for a fee.
Call to Order & Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act: Mr. Joel called the meeting to order at 7:42 p.m.
Roll Call – The following members were present: Mayor Knudsen, John Young, Councilwoman Reynolds, Richard Joel, Dianne O’Brien, Melanie Hooban (7:48 p.m.), Frances Barto, Igor Lyubarskiy and Sergio Alegre. Also present were Stephen Wellinghorst, Esq., Board Attorney; Christopher Rutishauser, Village Engineer; Malvika Apte, Village Planner; and Jane Wondergem, Board Secretary. Debbie Patire and Darlene Johnson were absent.
Public Comments on Topics not Pending Before the Board – There were no comments at this time.
Committee/Commission/Professional Updates for Non Agenda Topics – Mayor Knudsen reported that the Historic Preservation Commission had a meeting and reviewed several signs in the CBD, a residential application and discussed the Historic Preservation Element of the Master Plan.
Phase 2 Master Plan – Public Meeting - John Barree and McKinley Mertz, Heyer, Gruel and Assoc., and Annette Schultz and Rachana Sheth from NV5 were present.
Mr. Barree made opening remarks and introduced the PowerPoint presentation, discussing the timeline and draft recommendations.
Mr. Barree started the presentation with the Downtown Economic Development Element, stating the goals and discussing land use, a broader range of economic activity, design and aesthetics.
Ms. Sheth discussed access to transit, circulation and their recommendations.
There were no questions from the Board members or professionals at this time.
Nancy Brennan-Hill, 136 Doremus Avenue, commented that the recommendations sound good and asked how these ideas and recommendations will happen. Mr. Barree explained that this is a step in the process, a guide for the town.
Rurik Halaby, 1 Franklin Avenue, asked why high density development should be limited, commented that revenues that would allow the town to thrive should be permitted.
Hans Lehmann, 234 Union Street, commented that there has been significant change in how people operate since the pandemic, more walking and biking and less auto. Mr. Barree said that a majority of the Committee discussion deals with making the downtown safer.
Mayor Knudsen stated that the foundation of the presentation is the Visioning process which the Village was involved in with public outreach and that this process is not a directive coming from the Planning Board or governance.
Sheila Brogan, 302 Kensington Drive, said that she had been on the Safety Committee and that one-way streets and bike lanes had often been discussed. Ms. Brogan asked what would be the process to make those things happen. Ms. Sheth said that if the town wanted to move forward with those things they would need to conduct a feasibility study. The Master Plan is a vision of what is wanted.
Fred Jubitz, 56 Heermance Place, asked about considering underground parking for high density development. Mr. Barree said the recommendations are not to consider more high density development at this time, and that it is very costly to construct underground parking as well as the challenges to excavate in this area.
Mr. Barree continued the presentation with the Land Use Element and the zoning recommendations, design standard review, use recommendations, residential flexibility, tree ordinance and storm resiliency.
Ms. Schultz presented the recommendations for the Circulation Element, which is an optional element. Ms. Shultz commented that the Village already has strong public and governmental support in this area, giving the examples of complete streets, walking and biking access to schools and parks, trails, etc. Ms. Schultz stated that what is needed is to improve the conditions of the roadways, adding mass transit options and bicycle safety and access.
Ms. Sheth and Ms. Schultz talked about the specific goals regarding the Circulation Element such as roadway safety and Complete and Green Streets Policy and Complete Street typologies.
Board members asked about the R-7 and T Zone districts. Mr. Barree explained that the R-7 Zone is residential, but more commercial in nature and the Transition Zone is where commercial meets residential. Board members asked if the T Zone should be expanded to protect the residential neighborhoods. Mr. Barree said it is unusual to have one or two parcels in a zone, it is usually a block.
Pamela Perron, 123 Kenilworth Road, asked if there had been any discussion regarding transit within the town, such as a jitney. Ms. Sheth said it had been discussed.
Joe Ferrante, 610 Hillcrest Road, asked if there had been any discussion regarding the environmental impact of electric vehicles. Mr. Barree said that an Environmental Impact Assessment is not part of the Master Plan Study, but they are trying to create a balance between vehicles, pedestrians, bikes and electric vehicles.
Rurik Halaby, 1 Franklin Avenue, said he is impressed with the presentation on the Circulation Element.
Mr. Barree continued the presentation with the Sustainability and Green Building Element and the goals regarding green building standards, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, air quality, renewable energy generation, waste management, water conservation, etc.
Ms. Mertz discussed the Community Facilities Element which involves recommendations regarding options for upgrades to Fire, Police and Emergency services; expanding programs at the Senior Center, Youth Center and Community Center, and monitoring enrollment trends in the public school to plan for future growth.
Ms. Mertz also presented the Recycling Element and the Utilities Element.
Ms. Mertz stated the goals for the Historic Preservation Element, which is being done by Dianne O’Brien with input from the Historic Preservation Commission.
Mayor Knudsen acknowledged the work Ms. O’Brien is doing for the Historic Preservation Element and clarified that the Historic Preservation Commission reviews residential applications when variance relief is sought for a historic site or in a historic district, as well as applications for the historic Central Business District. Mayor Knudsen asked how the Village would create a demo delay ordinance for historic homes.
Mayor Knudsen acknowledged the representation of many Boards and Committees in attendance.
Public questions and comments:
David Refkin, 401 Wastena Terrace, from Green Ridgewood Committee, spoke of climate change and asked that the Master Plan process address these issues.
Kerry Jacoby, 160 Godwin Avenue, thanked the Committee for including the Shade Tree Commissions forestry plan and thanked the consideration for a tree ordinance and said that the Commission would like to communicate with the Planning Board regarding anything that would affect the green infrastructure and be a resource for the Board.
Sheila Brogan, Kensington Road, asked if the Land Use Element could include support for universal design elements. Ms. Brogan asked if they had information on towns that had ordinances that allowed for accessory dwellings. Mr. Barree said Princeton and Maplewood allowed accessory dwelling units, with limitations regarding lot size and size of dwelling.
Hans Lehmann, 234 Union Street, commented on high density housing not being considered and asked why affordable housing and special needs housing has not been discussed. Mr. Barree stated that the affordable housing is being worked on by others. Mr. Lehmann asked if affordable housing would be incorporated into the Master Plan. Mr. Wellinghorst explained that the State says every town must address affordable housing in their Master Plan, so there is a separate avenue carved out to address affordable housing and it will be discussed in a public manner.
Mr. Lehmann said he hoped that the accessibility issues regarding walking and biking paths become a reality.
Mahmoud Hamza, 528 Amsterdam Avenue, asked how to make Graydon more attractive to Ridgewood and how to direct the many people who come to Ridgewood for sporting activities to the downtown. Mr. Barree explained that the Open Space and Recreation Plan is being worked on by another team and hope to present at the next meeting.
Nancy Brennan-Hill, 136 Doremus Avenue, asked if there was a way to identify the projects that could be done quickly. Mr. Barree said that the process includes prioritizing projects and identifying short term and long term items.
Rurik Halaby, 1 Franklin Avenue, said there needs to be a plan for the Master Plan.
Mr. Joel says that it is a group effort and an extensive process with many elements and they want to do it right.
Barbara Ferrante, 610 Hillcrest Road, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, mentioned the State Historic Commission and that they try to follow those and is concerned about the loss of a lot of beautiful architecture in the Village.
Mr. Barree made some closing remarks and said the next target meeting date is April 5.
Adoption of Minutes: The minutes from February 1, 2022 were adopted as drafted.
The Board adjourned to Executive Session.
The Board returned from executive session and the meeting was adjourned at 10:04 p.m.
Date Approved: March 1, 2022
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