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Crossroads Site Plan Gets Planning Board Approval

The 6-3 vote came after about three hours of resident testimony Monday night urging the board not to approve the application.

After nearly three hours of public comments about the Crossroads shopping center development, the Mahwah Planning Board approved the Crossroads application in a 6-3 vote Monday night.

More than 100 residents attended the meeting, and dozens spoke out against the 600,000 square foot shopping center, citing concerns about traffic, safety, and quality of life issues.

After the public testimony, Planning Board member Ward Donigian moved to reject the application, which was met by applause and cheers from the crowd. Donigian, Chuck Jandris, and Jerry Crean were the only planning board members to vote in favor of the denial. During the subsequent vote to approve the shopping center’s preliminary site plan, those three were the only dissenting votes.

Many board members said they were voting in favor of the application only because they felt they had no legal basis to deny it.

“I do not want to open the town up to potential litigation,” Peter Rudolph said before voting.

“The Planning Board has listened to the concerns of this community on every aspect of this application over two years, and I believe that the original application has changed dramatically for the better,” Mayor Bill Laforet said before casting his vote.

“We have truly had a partnership in doing what we can within the confines of [Ordinance] 1684,” the township ordinance allowing for retail development on the Crossroads property surrounding the Sheraton Hotel.

The vote came after advice from board attorney Peter Scandariato that the Planning Board can only reject the application if it felt it did not comport to Ordinance 1684, which outlines the permitted use of the site, or if it felt that the ingress and egress to the site were unsafe.

Issues like whether or not the board felt this retail use was appropriate, it’s potential impact to the quality of life in Mahwah, and off-site traffic implications could not legally be the basis of a planning board site plan denial, he said.

“That is not within the jurisdiction of this board,” he said, noting that zoning decisions like that can only be made by the township council.

During his closing statement, Crossroads attorney Jim Jaworski cited the municipal land use law saying that planning boards must approve preliminary site plan applications that are in line with the ordinances governing them. He also pointed out that the developer did not request any variances, and “we believe we comport fully with Ordinance 1684, we have said that from the beginning.”

Many residents said they were disappointed in the approval, and that they felt the development will change the character of Mahwah.

“It’s a lovely beautiful mall, but it doesn’t belong here,” one resident said.

“Mahwah is Bergen County’s Parkland. That distinction goes away once you start building shopping malls.”

Resident George Scherer, who said his family has lived in the township for five generations, also asked the board to deny the plan.

“I have deep roots in this town,” he said.

“I am proud to say I am from Mahwah. Now, I’m starting to have my doubts.”

The Ordinance in question was passed by the township council in a 4-2 vote in March of 2011, after a meeting during which hundreds of residents spoke out against the project. The council later rescinded the ordinance one day after the developer submitted its application to the planning board. The back and forth led to several lawsuits that have since reinstated the Ordinance allowing for the shopping center.

Joey Bourgholtzer, who has been one of the leaders of the Stop Mahwah Mall resident group, said Monday, “I really believe that the Planning Board wants to do what’s right for Mahwah, but that you’ve had your hands tied by the council.”

Monday night’s meeting marked the 21st in a two-year long preliminary site plan hearing in front of the planning board that outlined and refined the plan for the development. According to Jaworski, the developer must now seek state approvals from the DOT and DEP before returning to the board for final site plan approval.

Gottardo DiGiacopo January 30, 2014 at 10:02 AM
Hank respectfully, Smiling next to your smartphone in bed, i'll bet your very handsome. now all you need to find is an atom of funny.
Hank January 30, 2014 at 10:28 AM
I call it like I see it..... http://no-mall-in-mahwah.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=119537324....great moments in BS
Gottardo DiGiacopo January 30, 2014 at 11:03 AM
and the illusions slightly better than utterly isolated
Hank January 30, 2014 at 01:59 PM
exactly, I'm glad you finally agree with me.
Andy Schmidt January 31, 2014 at 09:21 AM
Unintended puns are often the best ones, Richard: "bulleting board" How appropriate! As far as the mall discussions. In all these years (including those that I lived and worked in Paramus and Maywood), I've yet to meet any resident of Paramus (or Clarkstown) that was expressing to me how GREAT it was that they had the mall(s) in town -- why would anyone be fooled into thinking we'll all feel any differently when we look back to this in a few years?
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 10:08 AM
Richard LevineJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:07 am Andy - You would probably appreciate the following comment regarding a $20 million real estate refund to the Palisades Center Mall in NY, which appeared in the New City Patch in 2013: Steven Levine of Congers spoke against reducing the mall’s assessment because of its considerable use of the town’s police and judicial services. “This mall has been a blight onto our community,” he said. While the developer and some unknown others make a killing, this might be what the rest of Mahwah has to look forward to.
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Here are several of the more dramatic crimes at the Nanuet Mall in NY as noted by a blogger: The Nanuet Mall also had its share of tragic headlines. In 1994, a Bronx man carjacked two local teens at the mall and forced them to drive to a vacant field about 15 minutes away before shooting them both at point-blank range. One died, but the other miraculously survived. Years earlier, in 1981, several members of the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army stole $1.6 million from a Brinks armored car that had just serviced the Nanuet National Bank branch on the mall’s upper level. Two police officers and a Brink’s guard were killed in a shootout with the robbers during the ensuring police chase against the county. - See more at: http://www.labelscar.com/new-york/nanuet-mall-closing#sthash.Lr6sHl66.dpuf This does not include the rapes, assaults, picketpocketing, and minor robberies that occurred over the years. We will probably have some similar, regular news in Mahwah after this mall opens.
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer January 31, 2014 at 10:54 AM
Hi Richard In regards to security and police, I think this was discussed and addressed.
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer January 31, 2014 at 10:59 AM
Here is a list if the largest shopping centers in NJ. You can see the varying sizes and amount if stores. This is going to come down to the tenant mix. http://www.njbiz.com/section/listcentral?djoPage=view_html&djoPid=9903
Mahwah Resident January 31, 2014 at 11:01 AM
This is for all who attended the planning board meeting this past Monday. Does anyone have any information or the name of the women who spoke first to the mayor and said she is now homeless because of this town. She said she used to work for the town? I think as a town we should try and help her but I need additional information. Any help would be great!
Hank January 31, 2014 at 11:19 AM
Richard you forgot to mention the Boogey Man.
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 12:09 PM
Have we considered the following activities for the Mahwah Mall? This was noted on CBS News website: Counter-Terrorism Teams To Patrol Malls, Train Stations In 3 NY Counties
Thunderbird Pride January 31, 2014 at 01:10 PM
Out of curiosity and for comparison, does anyone know what the square footage of Ramsey Interstate is? They say that Crossroads will be 600,000 sq. ft. I think I read that the Palisades is close to 900,000 but that is an indoor mall all connected. Garden State Plaza is like over 2M square feet and indoors also so it is not even close to comparison. According to Wikipedia Paramus park is over 770,000 square feet, but that is also an indoor mall. This Crossroads is spread out so I would view it more like Interstate where you have individual stores that people would go to. Or maybe like Woodbury Commons? I was just at Garden State Plaza last weekend and noticed all the kids hanging around. But I have to think that if it weren't for the mall being indoors there is no way those kids are hanging around outside in the freezing cold. I then thought about Interstate and I don't really think I see kids hanging around there in the parking lot. I guess what I am trying to figure out is what we can try to compare Crossroads to. I don't think you can look at an indoor mall that is much bigger than Crossroads and make a good comparison. Anyone had ideas on what we could compare Crossroads to?
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer January 31, 2014 at 01:19 PM
Thunderbird, scroll up. I posted a link that gives the square feet and number of stores for a lot of shopping centers in nj.
Thunderbird Pride January 31, 2014 at 01:50 PM
CP/T - Cool! Thanks for pointing that out. Lots of great info on that link. It says Interstate is 359,000 so that is smaller than Crossroads. I need to look at that list and see if any of the sites in the 600,000 range are outdoor areas like Crossroads will be. I know people are calling this a mall. But when I think of a mall I think of the indoor places like GSP, Palisades, Willowbrook, Paramus Park. I don't think that is what this is. I think indoor malls bring their own issues. I am not sure if those issues all apply here. It would be helpful if we had something to compare this to. I remember reading here on Patch (or it might have been in the Suburban News or Villadom) about a place that they were trying to model this after. Maybe in Pennsylvania? I think one of the people who spoke at the planning board talked about it because I remember her making a point of saying that it was in a cornfield or something like that so that it was different than here. Does anyone know what that place is? I didn't pick up on it if they mentioned the name.
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 03:42 PM
You raise a good point, that if it is an open mall with no ceiling there will be less possibility of people hanging out. One definition of a mall: A large, often enclosed shopping complex containing various stores, businesses, and restaurants usually accessible by common passageways. If you look at Sperling's Best Places the violent crime and non-violent crime for Mahwah is one-half that in Ramsey, and one-quarter that in Nanuet. The Nanuet Mall and the Ramsey mall's are open malls---no overall roof. In my list of crimes in the Palisades Center I left out in error prostitution and child abuse. How much PD staff would have to be added? Would the two police officer estimate be adequate?????
Andy Schmidt January 31, 2014 at 05:27 PM
What is open today, may not be open in 10 years from now. There have been other "shopping centers" in the state (even Bergen County) that eventually were "connected", roofed over etc. Now that this place is "retail" it's only a matter of time for it to grow like a weed. Ask the residents around the Garden State Mall some day. Some of us lived in the area long enough to remember how "modest" and reasonable this place was in scope. Now they had to put up gates so that neighboring residents get at least a few hours and days of reprieve from this monstrosity each week.
Hank January 31, 2014 at 05:31 PM
kids hanging out and crime: the rte 4 malls are visited every 7 minutes by jitney busses from Paterson and NYC. Now if you go to Riverdale malls there are no kids hanging out.....no bus service
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 06:57 PM
See the following link to get to better know the owner of Garden Homes, Inc in Short Hills, NJ, the parent company for the developer: http://www.nj.com/morris/index.ssf/2013/08/judge_announces_award_to_wilfs_business_partners_in_epic_lawsuit.html
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 07:51 PM
Here's another article about the Wilf family: http://observer.com/2013/10/big-bad-wilf-did-zygis-stardust-take-it-all-too-far/
Andy Schmidt January 31, 2014 at 08:39 PM
Hank, following that logic, there shouldn't be THREE malls within biking distance of each other in Paramus. There shouldn't be a Palisades Mall next to the Nanuet Mall and Spring Valley shopping areas along 59... yet they are. We don't have to speculate - we just have to peek over our fence in every direction to know what's "in store" for us. The council can't figure out how to spend free money for the pool for how many years until time runs out, can't figure out how to address election signs for more than one election cycle... but then they couldn't wait a few months to wait for the results of the referendum before pushing through that zoning change and reversing their own votes and settings up for suits from every direction? Classic!
Gottardo DiGiacopo January 31, 2014 at 09:19 PM
Andy, don't waste your time with his superfluous injections
Richard Levine January 31, 2014 at 09:27 PM
The old mall will soon be out, and the open-air, multipurpose mall is the mall of the future recently according to the indutry: http://www.northjersey.com/news/bergen/239868311_North_Jersey_malls_could_be_in_trouble_if_developer_is_right_about_the_decline_of_traditional_shopping_centers.html Is this correct or another pipe dream????? I suspect the latter.
Hank January 31, 2014 at 11:43 PM
Sorry, I just love the fact that the mall is driving you guys crazy. I would like to add that they should ban all Range Rovers from the mall. They attract criminals.
Gottardo DiGiacopo February 01, 2014 at 07:59 AM
Everybody needs something to love Hank. Enjoy the roast beef when Crossroads puts up the Arbie's... you know for destination shoppers. As for the mall driving us crazy, where having a party today. A party is a bunch of friends together in a room eating and laughing and drinking champagne.
Hank February 01, 2014 at 08:03 AM
You can get 3 meals out of a Costco beef eye round
Gottardo DiGiacopo February 01, 2014 at 08:22 AM
And take one of them to bed with you and your smartphone ;O)
JP February 08, 2014 at 03:32 AM
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/07/costco-things-you-didnt-know_n_4725587.html
JP February 08, 2014 at 03:47 AM
Maybe you'd all like the Ford Plant back? Many of you don't seem to remember that do you? It would still be there if circumstances were different. Stop the complaining about a mall going in and deal with it. It's not your property to control.
Andy Schmidt February 08, 2014 at 06:57 AM
Correct, JP. That's why it was not zoned for manufacturing as "you don't seem to remember". Those who purchased the property bought it knowing what the zoning was. It's not our property to control, it was their choice to develop as zoned, hold it as an investment or dispose of it to somehow who wanted to do either. Nobody has been objecting to any of that. The entire matter is one of the zoning that was temporarily changed by the council/mayor just long enough to allow for prior and after NON-permitted use - and to invite law-suits by 3 parties. The memory loss is your's!

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