Two schools of thought
Aug 10, 2014 | 1350 views | 13 13 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

At our July City Council meeting, I referenced “two different schools of thought” for how to respond to the ever-present development pressures in Hoboken. Let me elaborate on that statement. The first school of thought is that larger scale development should almost never occur, that we should rarely issue zoning variances, and that we should be reluctant to “up zone” various areas of Hoboken via zoning code revisions or redevelopment plans. The second school of thought is that larger-scale development than our current zoning laws permit is inevitable, and that we should both minimize and shape that development when empowered to, rather than attempt to eradicate it. Personally, I support to the latter philosophy: minimize and shape development to meet Hoboken’s needs, don’t make unproductive, wasteful and futile attempts to outright block it.

Undoubtedly, Hoboken’s current zoning code demands prompt revision. This fact is highlighted by potentially absurd results that can arise from adherence to our current laws. For instance, in many areas of Hoboken, Apple Inc. could more easily get approvals for the building and opening of an assembly plant than for an Apple retail store. Bowling balls could be manufactured in the shadow of the Fourteenth Street Viaduct more certainly and with less obstruction than a bowling alley could be pragmatically built there. These are just two examples of the many land uses currently permitted or barred that would astonish most residents.

It is my belief that our community needs a zoning ordinance, redevelopment plans, and occasional variances that encourage the land uses we currently have a deficiency of. Examples of Hoboken’s present shortages and needs are: larger residential condominiums, sold at a market rate, so as to retain more of our growing young families; senior-only housing, also offered at market rate; cutting-edge green construction; both active and passive open spaces; large public and private uses where groups of people can congregate and be active (i.e. public swimming pools, a private batting cage, a public ice skating rink, a private rock-climbing wall, public tennis courts, a private golf driving range, etc.);enough classrooms and desks for all of Hoboken’s school-age children; positive tax dollar contributing commercial uses; and a community trust that sensibly offers affordable housing for purchase. Market forces, left unconstrained, will rarely incentivize the development of these uses in today’s Hoboken.

Simply blocking large developments, or leaving unchanged a sometimes-archaic zoning code, won’t satisfy these community needs either. However, working with developers (who prove to be willing and fair partners) to construct what Hoboken desires, is a school of thought many Hoboken residents subscribe to. Hoboken’s current stewards should actively shape and minimize development, but be hesitant to outright block it. The rationale here is that a development plan prevented today will more often than not merely go into hibernation, reappearing in future years with its proponents revitalized and regrouped, but their plans unperfected and our community’s needs still unmet.

David Mello
City Councilman at-Large

Comments
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greenapple1
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August 16, 2014
Excellent points councilman. One must remember, the will to actively obstruct rather than be productive will always exist. Nimby-ism is real. Negotiations take work, being heavy handed does not. Heavy handedness also does not work. Try it with your kids and let me know what jail or asylum to visit them in twenty years.

Hoboken is a great and unique community. It's popularity is a sign that it's growth works. Why else did all these people move here. Obstructionist have been trying to stymy progress for decades. Now, not all the development that happened was good, but it was progress. It put us in a position today to continue that progress.

I am glad that the current administration gets it, and will work hard to move Hoboken forward and include some of the many needs of our old and new population.

Progress happens by making things happen, not stopping the great things that could have been. Every great project, such as the Hoover Dam, Flat Iron building, to the Brooklyn Bridge all had critics and groups of people who argued against their creation. We don't remember the critics, but we sure do appreciate the accomplishments that our elected officials refused to stop from happening.
HoboTokyo
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August 17, 2014
Fantastic example of developer talking points or, perhaps, real estate agent. 'Progress' 'Moving Forward' and an attempt to compare out-of-scale DEVELOPMENT to the Hoover Dam and the Brooklyn Bridge (which, I note are NOT RE development projects.) Sure, let's silence the critics - this way we'll be sure to get our progress (progress = code word for profit) faster, quicker, more, More, MORE.
PAX07030
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August 16, 2014
As usual I think Melissa has it backwards.

She seems to be the unhealthy one.
assilem
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August 15, 2014
HoboT, you have got Mello's number! Inch by inch making way for lands grabs and his own agenda. Now that on this past Wednesday, he got his people appointed to the zoning board his is trying to forcefully planting obviously slanted ideas so the average man in the street becomes drunk on his views if they hear them over and over again. Mr. Mello, please stop feeding unhealthy slanted ideas to low information voters.
PAX07030
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August 16, 2014
Melissa your even crazier then usual.
VoteHoboken
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August 10, 2014
I agree with Councilman David Mello that a their needs to be a rethinking of the Zoning rules in Hoboken. The practice of zoning by variance should not continue.

The renewed push to put redevelopment plans in place in the Western Edge, NW, SW and NJT Yards will allow Hoboken to ask developers for the give backs to make the city better and more livable for everyone. Once in place these plans will let all sides know what is expected of them.

Compromise is not a dirty word when used in the context of redevelopment and those compromises will benefit Hoboken as a whole and at the same time encourage developers to upgrade those remaining areas that need upgrading.
HoboTokyo
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August 12, 2014
I agree that we shouldn't be zoning by variance, but we SHOULD be developing under the restrictions of a zoning ordinance. Variances should be few and far between. Just because Hoboken had developer control and political corruption up the wazoo for decades does not mean that the little habit of zoning by variance is still in vogue. This is an administration that is not part of that history. Disappointing to read comments that come strait out of the Anthony Russo/Dave Roberts/Peter Cammarano playbook by people that also seemingly support this administration. Perhaps massive development is fine for both "sides" as long as it's "their crowd" in the driver's seat. Redevelopment is a developer scam to maximize profits and rip off taxpayers at worst and, at best, originally a plan to lure developers to build in areas that no one wanted to build in. I also don't see how cramming more and more highrises into Hoboken (the original Hurricane Sandy bath tub) is going to make Hoboken more 'liveable for everybody.' I think Mello's letter is sincere but, in truth, he spends more time in rooms listening to developers over a negotiation table than he does listening to and negotiating with citizens that have been fighting horrendous developments for decades. His list of gimme's (give backs) are not necessarily worth the damage. For example, is a tennis court or golf driving range worth blocking the windows/views of 50-100 residents? Not if you're one of those 50-100 and a few of the rest of us completely that sympathize with that predicament. How many windows do we block and how much open air do we do-away with in order to point to some 10-20 story super-green building? And don't get me started about adding density in exchange for another charter school when we can't afford the ones we already have! Additionally, studies have shown the the demand for market-rate senior housing pales in comparison to the need for affordable senior housing, yet Mello only mentions market rate (developer talking point alert - wonder where the idea for market rate housing came from?) It's true developer/property owners have a right to develop their properties, BUT it should almost exclusively be according to the laws & ordinances of the municipality. No one can/will stop anyone from developing a property according to those laws & ordinances. Sure, review the zoning ordinance, but leave redevelopment at the door.
VoteHoboken
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August 14, 2014
Reality says there will be development in Hoboken and planned carefully development is far superior to unplanned development.

On can either refuse to see reality or accept it and do the best we can within that reality.

The areas left in Hoboken in need of redevelopment are largely industrial and on the edges of the city.

The chances of blocking any existing resident's views is minimal. Throwing out extreme possibilities is not helpful to a reasonable discussion.

To even make any sort comparison to two criminals like Anthony Russo and Peter Cammarano who were convicted for taking money from developers for their own personal gain is way off base.

HoboTokyo
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August 10, 2014
No up-zoning in exchange for a Charter School. We've got to start serving all demographics equally. In order to demonstrate that this is what you are doing - here is my suggestion: you spend the next 6 years figuring out how many desks we actually have in town to determine if we "actually need" any more desks. Don't forget to insert a talking about how complex the 'problem' is. And, perhaps, MOST important, remember...at ALL times, that it doesn't matter how many people are "forced to leave" over the next 6 years because there isn't a 'desk' for their youngster, you'll get to it...SOMEDAY.
assilem
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August 15, 2014
HoboT and that charter school, HOLA it was given Green Acres property taken away from the Boys and Girls Club. It was wrong to take away property from the B&G club because they need the recreation in that area. In addition to taking away recreational area from the low/middle class the property taken away from Green Acres was never paid back to the Government. In further discriminatory actions the Mayor chooses to fund a pittance to the Boys and Grls Club while dropping large dollars for recreation in more affluent sections of town.
recallbethmason
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August 10, 2014
very well written..hopefully the zoning board members will be reading this and understand there are two sides to every discussion.
assilem
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August 10, 2014
I will be enjoying the Highlands tomorrow for the tenth celebration of the Highlands Preservation Act. You see Dave, the right representation/advocacy need not be - in your words - unproductive, wasteful and futile.

Mello and Wefer need to go!
Councilman Mello
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August 10, 2014
As a former graduate studies intern with the Highlands Council, I would strongly argue that their use of TDRs. (Transfer of Development Rights) and sending/receiving zones is a perfect example of the following the school of thought I subscribe to. The Highlands Council has NEVER tried to outright block development, but rather has worked to consolidate it in the regions of our state where it is appropriate and greatly minimize it where it is not. Their approach has been highly productive.