Council: New Crossroads Mall Ordinance Will Be Adopted "As Quickly As Possible"
Residents will see a non-binding referendum asking their feelings on a retail development on the November ballot
The township will be voting, in a non-binding referendum, on whether or not it wants to see a shopping center developed on the Crossroads property on the corner of Routes 17 and 287.
In addition, the township attorney John Conte Thursday night determined Ordinance 1698, which was introduced by the Council last week, was worded properly, so it will now head to the township’s planning board for review. 1698, if adopted, would repeal the three ordinances – 1684, 1686, and 1687 – that would allow for the retail center to be developed.
To the over 170 residents in the crowd, the council stressed that they will move to adopt the ordinance “as quickly as humanly possible,” but that state statutes outline certain time elements that must be adhered to.
Taking into account the notices that must be made to the public, property owner, and adjacent property owners, the earliest the town council would be able to adopt the new ordinance would be September 1, they said. However, that is dependent upon the actions of the planning board.
The agenda for the planning board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday night, August 22, should be amended to include the consideration of the new ordinance, according to planning board member and liaison to the council, Councilman Chuck Jandris. The PB legally has 35 days to review the ordinance, and submit its review to the council.
The council approved a special meeting for September 1, assuming that the Planning Board returns a favorable review after Monday’s meeting. The scheduling would likely change should the planning board take longer to review the ordinance, the council said.
The town council Thursday night also approved a referendum which it must deliver to the county clerk’s office by 10 a.m. Friday in order for it to appear on the November ballot.
After some debate about what exactly the language of the referendum should be, the council decided upon: “Should the Crossroads property (lot and block specified) be rezoned primarily as retail/mall – yes or no?”
Council members Lisa DiGiulio, Roy Larsen, Harry Williams, Chuck Jandris, John Roth, and Mayor DaPuzzo all expressed concerns that the wording used should be simple.
“We don’t want to have any interpretation issues,” Jandris said.
All council members, save Sam Alderisio, voted for placing the question on the ballot, which marked a change in vote for Council President John Roth.
“I have in the past, and do now support the Crossroads,” but due to the “number of people who have come forward in support of the referendum,” and “in an effort to end the divisiveness over this issue in the town, I am voting yes,” Roth said.
A number of residents and members of the Committee to Stop Mahwah Mall, an activist group suing the township over the potential development of the mall, expressed their gratitude to the council for responding to their public concerns.
Residents also brought up concerns that the Crossroads developer might file a site plan before the required process for adoption is completed, rendering the ordinance change moot.
According to Conte, the developer likewise has requirements to meet in order to submit a completed site plan.
“Often times, subsequent documents are required after the initial submission,” Conte said.
Residents in attendance expressed their appreciation for the chance to share their opinions on the project at the ballot box.
Though many Stop Mahwah Mall supporters shared their opinions, several residents voiced their support for the mall, a novelty at recent council meetings.
“I’m in support of this mall,” said resident Tracy Mitchelli.
“And I am glad that my neighbors are coming out to voice their opinions, but a lot of my neighbors want a mall.”
Another resident who identified herself as a professional planner, though not one that worked in Mahwah, said she was “disappointed” that the council was moving to repeal its previous decision on the mall’s development.
“I hadn’t come to the meetings because I was happy with the decision you made,” she said.
Bergen County Freeholder Robert Hermansen, a Mahwah resident and former Mahwah councilman, told the council of his concerns that the township’s “divisiveness” over the Crossroads development might lead to the “clouding” of other issues facing the town.
The upcoming mayoral election, he said, “should go back to focusing on what’s best for the people of Mahwah.”
Hermansen has endorsed Mayor DaPuzzo on DaPuzzo’s campaign website in the upcoming election, which pits the current appointed mayor against Councilwoman DiGiulio and Mahwah Sunoco owner Bill Laforet.
Many residents have expressed that the Crossroads mall issue will be an important factor when casting votes in November.