Plan Recommends ‘Downtown’ Feel To Franklin Turnpike, Other Changes
New Master Plan, which officials say will lead to revised township laws on land use, will begin public hearings next month
On September 10, the Mahwah Planning Board will begin public hearings on a document that has been in the works since 2005. The over 130-page Master Plan is the updated version of a planning document that officials say is the first completely overhauled version the township has commissioned since 1989.
“If you care what Mahwah is going to be like in 20 years, you should care about the Master Plan,” Township Zoning Official Gary Montroy said. “It basically looks at what we like, and what we don’t like about Mahwah, and recommends ways we should adjust in the future to change what we don’t like.”
Some of the suggestions in a draft version of the new Master Plan for changes to Mahwah include:
- Creating a more pedestrian-friendly, “downtown” atmosphere on Franklin Turnpike, especially south of the A&P Shopping Complex and at its intersection with Miller Road. The plan recommends changes be made to make the area more open to restaurant and retail development that invites foot traffic, and more conveniently incorporates Veteran’s Park as a township center.
- Fixing the “haphazard appearance” of buildings and commercial developments along Route 17. The plan suggests buildings along the highway “[lack] cohesiveness and/or a unified design theme,” and suggests ways to improve the area’s appearance.
- Implementing “green building” initiatives in residential and commercial developments. The plan looks at ways to promote open space and recreational facilities in the township.
- Creating new opportunities for public transit usage, pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and other reexaminations of the “circulation element” in Mahwah. The document looks to provide for more energy efficient transportation throughout the township.
According to the draft version of the document, which was prepared by previous township planner Burgis Associates, Mahwah has had a Master Plan since 1975. The last reexamination of the document was in 2007. The new version, first commissioned in 2005, cost the township about $95K, Mahwah Business Administrator Brian Campion said.
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association describes a municipality’s Master Plan as a “blueprint” for its future residential, commercial, industrial, environmental and open space development. It states:
Local development decisions affect your quality of life in many ways, including: a healthy environment, clean and plentiful water, safe roadways, compatible land uses, adequate public facilities, and impacts to property values and taxes. A Master Plan is the blue print for a municipality that depicts current land uses, and guides decisions for both growth and conservation in your community. A Master Plan can provide a cohesive focus by outlining development goals and objectives for a community. It can identify suitable districts for commercial or housing developments; farming, open space, recreational areas, and environmental resources; historic and cultural resources; and transportation corridors and utilities.
According to Montroy, the recommendations set forth in the Master Plan are evaluated and turned into new township ordinances. “It’s a three-step process,” he said. “First, is the Master Plan, then zoning ordinances, then a zoning map. This is an extremely important first step because it sets the tone for what developments will and won’t be allowed in town.”
The new Master Plan will also lead to the creation of a "much more accurate and up-to-date" version of a township zoning map, Montroy said. This will allow for more accuracy when the township is considering applications for residential and commercial building projects, he said.
When considering land use applications, the township’s Planning Board looks to the Master Plan as a guide, Board Chairman Todd Sherer said. “It provides an overarching plan for our community moving forward, so it is really important for citizens to get involved and tell us what they think Mahwah should be like.”
During the upcoming public hearing, Sherer said the board will take ideas and questions from the public into consideration before the new Master Plan is finalized and adopted. “It really affects the community at large – so input from everyone, residents, business owners, property owners, developers – would all be appropriate.”
Leading up to the public meeting, Patch will take a more in-depth look at some of the proposals in the draft of the Master Plan. The public hearing will take place September 10 in the municipal town hall beginning at 7 p.m.