Thursday, August 24, 2006

Problems with the Cottage Place study area

(Click on image to enlarge. Set printer to 'Landscape' if printing.)

The Administration is proposing that the Planning Board study whether an assemblage of properties stretching along Richmond Street from the railroad tracks north to East Second Street is "in need of redevelopment," a designation that would allow the UCIA to begin moving forward in the area.

You can bank on it: the fix is in. The only question is how long it will take the Planning Board to complete the study.

There have been murmurings of developer interest in the area ever since a Lesniak operative cased the town a ways back.

With a new, pliant Administration in place, 65 King Street is ready to roll. And roll we will.

Whatever the powers that be want put up there -- that card hasn't been played yet -- PT is NOT arguing that development per se is a bad thing.

But PT does have two concerns: the DISRUPTION this land grab will have on plans already made, and the SIZE of the area that will be declared in need of redevelopment.


Quietly, but in full public view, the PMUA has for the past several years been acquiring properties in the proposed study area with an eye to consolidating its operations -- headquarters offices, truck maintenance shops, and fleet parking -- in one location.

The proposal for a study area has already thrown a monkey wrench into those plans. Though the PMUA will have to be paid for its property at a 'fair' price, it will not be compensated for any improvements made after the study gets under way. That screeching sound you hear is their plans coming to a halt.

PT is NOT one of those who wishes the PMUA would go away. Plainfield is cleaner and our sewer system is in better shape for having it. No Council in the past has had the political stomach to fund the work that needed to be done, but the PMUA has done so mostly without fuss and bother.

And it should continue to. But it NEEDS to consolidate its operations. What is the point, though, if every time it patiently assembles a parcel, the UCIA comes along and takes it? If Charlotte De Filippo would govern Plainfield wisely, she would cut them some slack -- or maybe even help them out. But will she?


PT's main kvetch is the SCALE of the study area. Why so small? (This is going to be one of PT's mantras; see "Viagra for Plainfield planning?")

If the city and the UCIA are going to bother at all, why not study an area with boundaries that make sense. Like the ENTIRE block between Richmond and Roosevelt? And why is the corner section on Richmond and East Second Streets not included?
(See a larger version of the study area map here.)

Does this mean that what the UCIA will bring to the table is another underscaled project like South Avenue, with a long list of gimmes for the City to kick in?


  • Expand the study area to include the green sections. Complete the study as quickly as possible and do the declaration so the UCIA can grab the PMUA parcel and the PMUA can get on with its life.
  • Swap the PMUA and the Plainfield Health Center.
Such a swap would have several advantages:
  • The PMUA would be moved over to the Transfer Station area, away from the more desirable downtown location;
  • The Health Center would finally be located where it SHOULD be -- near the center of the population it serves;
  • More opportunities for those feeding at the public trough to get another slurp.
So, will the next three and a half years be about Plainfield or just about paying back the Assemblyman's political debts for having his fat pulled out of the fire last year?

-- Dan Damon

P.S. Has anyone noticed the irony that TWO of the three former Councilors who sued to prevent the establishment of the PMUA -- costing the taxpayers a cool quarter of a million on the way to having their case thrown out as without merit -- are BACK IN THE MIX? Former Ward 2 Councilor Bob Ferraro is now a part-time employee of the PMUA, the very agency he tried to strangle. And former Ward 1 Councilor Liz Urquhart is getting a seat on the Zoning Board.

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