The One and Only 750 Walnut Avenue-What to Do?

To my fellow residents of Cranford, the thought of 750 Walnut strikes ire in all. 900 apartments fully built out will 100% have an impact on us. As someone who lives on Walnut Avenue, backing up is dangerous enough, increase that traffic and I will have to say some prayers before I back out of my driveway. Will school age population increase…absolutely. Cranford has a great school system so this will draw “renters” to the town to access this.

But what I am here to say is that I’m not a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). In this instance I’m a Negotiate in My Backyard (NIMBY). What the NJ courts has created with COAH regulations is a monstrosity. Developers don’t care about affordable housing. They will sue so to maximize the density using the COAH builder remedy lawsuit. They care about $. On my reading of Cranford’s affordable housing plan, yes the town is protected. But after 12/31/18 this is all thrown out the window and every developer can sue on basis of builders remedy lawsuit.

Another factor is the term affordable housing is misleading. It should be workforce housing. As this creates affordable rents for middle class housing this is very important. I’m a product of rent stabilized apartment in NYC where I grew up and my parents still reside. Could we afford to live in NYC without this rent control…absolutely not.

With that, as a NJ professional planner and someone who works for a developer I look at this as an opportunity to dictate what will be developed. Hartz Mountain has every right to develop. Suburban office parks are a thing of the past and will continue to fall in disrepair. HM will go the redevelopment route with NJ Housing Law. http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/au_docs/40a_12a_1.pdf

Do they fit some criteria for the redevelopment laws. In my opinion yes.

So with that saying what can we do. Let’s be open minded here. Are 900 units too much for the property…absolutely. Is the full build out site plan horrible…absolutely. So let’s work as a community with the Township Council and HM on developing something that we can be agreeable.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Limit the density. It is way too much
  • Create a combination of age restricted, multi-family and single family homes
  • Create a public park in the front
  • Create ground floor restaurants and small convenience shops
  • Create a bike path around the property connecting to the golf course
  • Connect a pedestrian path to the golf course
  • Make it a sustainable community
  • Have solar panels, other energy efficient features
  • Have a community garden with a full time farmer on site providing fresh vegetables

These are some of my ideas. See below a rough sketch. But let’s think of creative solution, as we can fight, which we will but ultimately HM will develop there. Let’s create a community there that we can take pride in and make the best out of what NJ Courts have dealt us.