CLARK, NJ — Mayor Sal Bonaccorso said he is continuing to monitor the progress of a developer’s proposal to build a 905-unit apartment complex on the boundary with neighboring Cranford.
The project, which would add almost 2,000 people to Clark’s backyard, would “greatly impact” his municipality, Bonaccorso said after a special council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 4.
The mayor said that, while it would likely be a boon for Whole Foods, Petco, Party City and the other retailers in the 28-acre Clark Commons shopping center that opened in 2015 on Raritan Road, the project would cause an influx in traffic.
“All those cars are going to the parkway,” he said. “All those cars are going to hit the parkway circle. Clark Commons will be happy. They’ll do very well. But it’s going to tie the Walnut (Avenue) and Raritan (Road) section up.”
When asked if the increase in traffic would be so great as to force engineers to reassess Clark’s traffic patterns and roads, Bonaccorso said, “The short answer is yes. But, until we know what we’re dealing with, we’re not going to do anything. The short answer is yes.”
Hartz Mountain Industries is applying to the Cranford Planning Board to rezone a 30.5-acre tract at 750 Walnut Ave., adjacent to Hyatt Hills Golf Complex in Clark, to eliminate office and warehouse use in favor of multifamily residential use. The developer proposes to raze the existing office building and warehouse and build three, five-story buildings and two, four-story buildings on the site. The complex would also provide 1,775 parking spaces. Of the proposed 905 units, 776 will be market rate and 139 will be Mount Laurel or “affordable” housing.
James Rhatican, vice president of land use and development for Hartz Mountain Industries, told LocalSource in a June 16, 2017, telephone interview that the complex would add about 1,846 people to Cranford’s population.
Bonaccorso and the residents of Clark have kept a close watch on the 750 Walnut Ave. project from the start. “Say No to 750 Walnut” lawn signs, which popped up like dandelions in front of homes in Cranford last year, soon spread to lawns in Clark. And the mayor said members of the Clark Township Council signed petitions stating their opposition to the project and presented them to Cranford officials in 2017.
Cranford, which has occasionally been called “quaint” during Hartz Mountain’s application process, has become an unlikely battleground for the those demanding more “affordable” housing and those decrying “overdevelopment.”
With the 750 Walnut Ave. project looming, Bonaccorso headed a summit on Mount Laurel housing with 17 fellow mayors from around Union County in August 2017. At the time, Bonaccorso told LocalSource that state-mandated Mount Laurel housing is “affecting our schools, sewers, traffic and infrastructure.” He said he was concerned that Union County will “look like New York City” and helped establish a subcommittee to monitor the issue.
He said he has spoken “numerous times” with Cranford Mayor Tom Hannen, pledging his support and offering assistance.
Bonaccorso said there has been an air of cooperation between the municipalities going back to when they worked together to create the golf complex. He said he doesn’t believe the project will move ahead as proposed.
“I really don’t believe it’s going to be 900 or anything close to it,” Bonaccorso said. “Don’t get me wrong. It could be 400. It could be 600, which is no bargain, either.”
Still, he conceded that all Clark can do is “hope and pray and see at this point.”
“We’re just playing it to see which way it goes and try to do what we can do, period. And respective of what happens, it’s going to happen whether we like it or not,” Bonaccorso said. “At the end of the day, with Cranford knowing our feelings and us knowing what they’re trying to achieve, other than that, other than throwing a lawsuit out and throwing a lot of money on law firms and not win, there’s not a lot that we can do.”