CRANFORD, NJ — The tone was one of anger and frustration as hundreds of residents gathered at the Cranford Community Center on Tuesday, June 27, to discuss strategies for the July 19 meeting at which Hartz Mountain’s proposal to rezone 750 Walnut Ave. will be presented before the board.
The area is currently zoned for office space, and the proposal is to rezone it as a residential area in order to build five apartment buildings that will include a total of 905 apartments.
The development also includes construction of two swimming pools, two clubhouses, driveways and the installation of a new traffic light at Walnut Avenue and Behnert Place.
The meeting was hosted by organizers of Keep Cranford Quaint, who asked for experts in law, real estate and traffic in the community to volunteer their services. So many residents turned up for the meeting that they had to be divided into two groups to accommodate the room capacity.
“Our goal is to talk about the proposal and how it doesn’t fit in with Cranford’s master plan,” Christine Esposito of Keep Cranford Quaint said at the meeting. “We want to prove how it will impact infrastructure, schools and everything. Our starting point for the July 19 meeting is to focus on the fact they want to rezone.”
Hartz Mountain reportedly conducted a traffic study which concluded that the new buildings will not impact traffic. The audience erupted with laughter when at this finding was announced.
“I don’t believe they took enough into consideration when they conducted their study,” Esposito said. “It will impact the flow of traffic, and they didn’t take into account that there’s an accident on the parkway almost everyday. We feel this is a flawed study because it didn’t take into account the traffic on Lexington Avenue.”
At the meeting one resident suggested the group put some thought into its strategy and hire an attorney, and also bring the issue to Cranford Township Committee, urging residents to not give up the fight.
The group is considering creating a Go Fund Me page to raise money for an attorney, and is also planning to create a change.org page to gather more support for the cause. It has already created a Facebook page, which has received attention from residents of other towns, as well. Residents of Clark are invited to join Cranford residents at the upcoming July 19 meeting.
One concern voiced by residents at the meeting about the redevelopment project included overcrowding in local schools, which residents feel are already at their maximum capacity.
Keep Cranford Quaint sold lawn signs at the conclusion of the meeting for residents to show their support and has made flyers to raise awareness of the development. Residents also suggested creating a list of bullet points to distribute to neighbors who have not read the 40-page Hartz Mountain application.
“The application is online at the Cranford website for anyone that wants to read it,” Esposito said.