A city’s master plan is reworked every decade or so to provide suggestions for updating zoning laws for development. It provides strategies for the future economic, social, physical, environmental, and fiscal development.
“The master plan sets the vision statement or blueprint for growth,” said Susan Favate, principal planner from BFJ Planning, the consulting firm hired by the Hoboken Planning Board to prepare the 2018 Master Plan Reexamination Report. “It sets a roadmap for how the city as a whole wants to grow and change and be preserved. It is not a law in of itself, but it does set the stage for zoning, where the city wants to spend its money, and make its priorities.”
Planning Board Chairman Frank Magaletta said, “A lot of people moved here because of the character of Hoboken, as well as some of the characters. Now, this is an idea I have seen all over the place, and it’s the idea to keep Hoboken weird. By which I mean, there is a character, there is a social fabric we are growing as a city. So as we are growing, let’s keep the Hoboken weirdness and quality that we like as we grow.”
New Jersey municipalities are required by law to reexamine their master plan at least every 10 years. Hoboken last prepared a Master Plan in 2004, followed by a reexamination report in 2010.
“However, it is good practice to conduct a reexamination process whenever there is a need to document, or plan for, major changes in a community,” said Favate.
According to Favate, Hoboken has changed a lot since the 2010 reexamination report. Favate said the last report was created when Hoboken was at the end of a recession and the housing market was low. Those worries showed in the master plan, as the community voiced concerns with economic development. She said now the city appears to be much more affluent.
The planners are now currently collecting data as well as comments and opinions from focus groups, stakeholders, and the general public.
“The master plan sets the vision statement or blueprint for growth.” – Susan Favate
After the last reexamination, Hurricane Sandy hit, and Hoboken residents and the city government refocused their concerns on flooding, including the need for storm protection and green infrastructure, priorities that were not originally in the master plan.
According to Favate, the 2018 Master Plan Reexamination will seek to address how Hoboken can maintain its character as a historic, close-knit urban community, yet accommodate growth as demand increases for parks and recreation, infrastructure, schools and daycare, affordable housing, and an effective multi-modal transportation system.
Last week’s meeting was the first step in receiving information from the public. Residents were grouped at tables around specific topics: housing and quality of life, traffic and parking, economic development, and parks, recreation, and waterfront access.
After the table discussions, they presented the overall opinions of the table to the entire group.
Resident Daniel Tumpson said he was concerned the table approach may not accurately represent the community’s opinions.
“I am a little disturbed by the general structure of this,” he said. “Everyone was divided into a lot of little groups and not asked to comment on all the topics. I’m concerned that what is being passed on to inform the new zoning law doesn’t necessarily reflect the true feeling of the public.”
Favate said that is why a BFJ representative sat at every table and took notes in addition to the group summary. She also said this won’t be the last opportunity for public comment.
Resident Jim Vance asked how the public would be further involved and how the consultants were sure they got opinions from a cross section of the community.
Favate said BFJ is trying to reach as many people as possible and have several focus groups organized around different themes to help broaden the range of respondents.
The residents asked for a public pool, better maintained parks, a connected waterfront, more passive park space, more transportation options in northern Hoboken, protected bike lanes, loading zones for deliveries, bump outs, more stop signs, redeveloped municipal garages to add capacity and efficiency, and a connected network of bike lanes.
They asked for better staging during construction projects so there aren’t so many construction zones in the same block, and the need for the city to have an office of economic development, an uptown light rail, more commercial businesses.
Residents also discussed the historic preservations of homes and the artist community, and more affordable housing.
Favate said this was the first of several public meetings. Next they will have meetings with stakeholders and focus groups to gather input as well as an online survey that the public will be able to fill out.
Once all the data is collected they will propose draft plans, then a final reexamination report to the Hoboken Planning Board, which will use it as a guiding document for further development, to be completed by April of next year.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.