Decreasing Mahwah's 'Dependency' On Driving Among Master Plan Suggestions

Board urges residents to attend meeting Monday night on document that will shape future laws in Mahwah

Monday night, the Mahwah Planning Board will begin a public hearing 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 .

The board and township officials will be soliciting input from residents on what should, and shouldn’t, be included in the document, and are urging residents to attend Monday night’s meeting.

“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.”

The township has posted the current draft of the new proposed Master Plan on its website. Reading through the dense document, residents will find the following suggestions:

Traffic Improvements

The Master Plan proposal suggests several measures that it says should be taken in the future to improve traffic flow in Mahwah. They include:

  • A town-wide shuttle system
  • Redesign of the Route 17-287 intersection; the document calls the redesign a “priority” because of the
  • Creation of a

More Mass Transit

Sharing vehicles with nearby municipalities, adding and improving commuter parking, and adding more sidewalks and bicycle paths throughout the township are just some of the suggestions made in the new Master Plan draft as to how to decrease residents’ “dependency on automobile transport” in the future.

According to a table from the document, Mahwah residents are less likely to use mass transit than locals living in surrounding municipalities:

Commuter Public Transit Usage

NJ Transit Main & Bergen Line municipalities  

Source: Census 2000


Bus (%)

Railroad (%)






















Franklin Turnpike Downtown

Creating a more pedestrian-friendly, “downtown” atmosphere on Franklin Turnpike, especially south of the  Shopping Complex and at its intersection with Miller Road, is one of the goals set forth in the plan. It recommends changes be made to make the area more open to restaurant and retail development that invites foot traffic, and more conveniently incorporates  as a township center.

Creating A Unified Development Plan Along Route 17

The Master Plan suggests the township create laws to fix 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 .

[See the entire Master Plan here].

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.

Mayor Bill Laforet, who sits on the township's Planning Board, said the Master Plan will guide township zoning and development ordinances for at least the next 10 years.

"The Master Plan sets public policies regarding growth and development. The information and concepts presented in the Master Plan are intended to guide local decisions on public and private uses of land, as well as the provisions of public facilities," he said.

During Monday night's public hearing, Planning Board Chairman Todd Sherer said the  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.”

The public hearing will begin Monday in the  beginning at 7 p.m.

In preparation for the meeting, you can read a pdf of the entire Master Plan on the township's website.


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Andy Schmidt September 12, 2012 at 06:51 PM
M. Basho - well put. The location of library and town hall were chosen based on short term necessities and then-availability of real estate, instead of making it part of a long-term vision for the township. We'll all deal with the fall-out of those decisions for decades. I'm glad to see that (finally) an attempt of a comprehensive plan is being made - the question is now whether we can find council members who can look beyond short term gains and instead align their decisions with long term plans which will deliver lasting benefits.
JP September 14, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Historically, development in Mahwah has been more a result of individual circumstance rather then mass planning, but sometimes it does occur. For instance, a hundred years ago we had a huge, beautiful mansion/resort hotel house (Miller estate) with a large man made lake (Oweno Lake) frequented by recreationers and populated with flocks of white swans surrounded by acres and acres of park like land occupying all of the Cragmere section of Mahwah. Now that's all gone, all due to unfortunate circumstances (fire, etc) and a mass plan to develop Cragmere for houses was executed after the land was sold. So, unless a mass rebuilding of the center of town is going to happen at once, I just don't see major (consistent) changes happening over decades of time to get that town center type of look. Certainly not in our lifetimes. Great book to read to get an understanding of how we evolved is "From Pioneer Settlement to Suburb, A History of Mahwah" by Henry Bischoff and Mitchell Kahn.
Andy Schmidt September 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM
JP - great book. So much of the country's early history took place in this area. It's also amazing to see the changes throughout the decades, yet how many sites are still around, and to learn the origin of many names we see all over town.
Hank September 14, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I read the book also. Good reading. I wonder if the Ramapo Indians had some issues with it though. (btw Mitch Kahn was one of my professors back in the day)
JP September 17, 2012 at 05:15 AM
I'm honored to live and have worked in this town that has such an interested and diverse history since the early 1700's. I would love to see the Cragmere area as it was at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. It must have been quite a site.


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