Two new ordinances were proposed at Monday night's special Town Council meeting to address the concerns previously brought up about security and traffic related to the proposed rezoning of the Crossroads complex.
Plans to change the zoning to create the Crossroads Town Center and allow for the construction of 600,000 square feet of retail space as well as an additional 150,000 square feet of hotel space continue to be debated.
The first ordinance, entitled “Shopping Center Private Security Requirements” would create a provision that would require the developers to provide a private security officer for every 250,000 square feet of retail floor space.
The second, entitled the “Transportation Improvement District”, would create a fund that the developers would have to pay into to help offset the cost of any roadway improvements mandated by the DOT or any other government entity.
The discussion on both of these topics was lively, but both were done to address previous concerns of citizens.
Following this, the floor was opened to the public to ask questions and make statements.
There were more than 30 people from present, and the overwhelming concern voiced was the impact on traffic that such a new retail space at the International Crossroads would create.
In addition to the already thick traffic on Route 17, Route 202, and the Franklin Turnpike, opinions on the addition of traffic trying to avoid these routes on various side streets made it abundantly clear that this was the single greatest concern with regards to this proposed development.
After traffic, the second greatest concern of those who spoke was the impact the addition of this retail space would have on crime in Mahwah. Once more, comparisons were made to fears that Mahwah may become another Paramus.
The other great concern addressed was the environmental impact this development would cause, both in regards to water usage, run-off, flooding and traffic generated pollution.
Of all those who spoke against the proposed zoning change, there were two citizens who spoke in favor of this development. Both believed the benefits it would provide to the town in jobs and revenue outweighed the possible drawbacks.
Following the public portion, the council members voiced various opinions of their own.
Council President DaPuzzo reminded everyone that this was only a preliminary stage in this process, and that this would be nothing more than the introduction of the Ordinances. After that, they would go to the zoning board for debate and adjustment.
He also reminded everyone that there was a similar outcry when the Home Depot on Route 17 was proposed, and yet the concerns proved after it was constructed and opened to be unfounded. And while he acknowledged that traffic was an ongoing problem, speculation on added traffic was less of an issue than “new traffic that would never be on the roads before.”
Councilman Alderisio remarked on the unique plan proposed for this ordinance, and that it would be for the good of the town.
Councilman Roth pointed out that this was a choice before them now, and that development would happen at the International Crossroads eventually.
“What if we don’t change Mahwah intelligently?” he questioned. Stagnation and inaction would do Mahwah no good, but the possibility of $2.5 to 2.8 million in new revenue could not be disregarded, he went on to point out.
Councilman Larson opined that if they did not choose to take action of some sort for this space, it could be possible they might have to add new housing at the International Crossroads, which would add even further to local infrastructure concerns.
Councilwoman DiGiulio suggested a non-binding referendum to better gauge the feelings of the citizenry of Mahwah.
“Is this the way we want to change Mahwah?” she asked more than once.
Councilman Williams felt that he and the rest of the town council had been elected to make these sorts of decisions, and that while local citizens had voiced numerous concerns, a referendum would just cloud the issue.
He went on to comment that the opinions of academics and professionals needed to be weighed against concerns based on fear and speculation, and that was how he would base his opinion.
Councilman Spiech required further clarification on several points in the proposed ordinance, and voiced his concern that in all of the previous meetings, and all the citizens expressing their opposition to this proposed plan, there had been only three showing support.
No vote was put forth to introduce the proposed ordinances. The issue was tabled once again and would be added to the agenda for the regular council meeting on Feb. 10 at 8pm.