New Weehawken ordinance throws wrench in Hartz Mountain redevelopment

Hartz Mountain Industries must now resubmit its application with the appropriate changes

On Wednesday, December 18, the Weehawken Town Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance, which would change the land-use requirements in the city.

Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner referred to the ordinance largely as a codification of the changes made to land-use and building requirements that have slowly been amended over the years. The original was implemented in 1984. That marks more than 35 years of changes now codified by the ordinance.

The new ordinance permits an increased number of residential housing units in the Lincoln Harbor neighborhood of Weehawken. Initially Lincoln Harbor was zoned for commercial use. The ordinance also allows for an increase in the total amount of square feet for housing redevelopments.

Hartz Mountain Industries has been developing Lincoln Harbor commercially for more than 30 years. Only recently did it start building residential housing units in Lincoln Harbor in the lead-up to its proposal of the tower complex.

The timing of the ordinance is controversial because it comes in the wake of the October 29 town council meeting in which the Hartz Mountain Industries development was voted down. After nine meetings and plenty of public backlash, the town council denied the application on the grounds of limited parking spaces and obstructed views due to the height of the proposed towers.

The most notable restriction, implemented in the new building requirements, caps building heights at 160 feet. This is largely to protect the historic views of New York City and the Hudson River from Weehawken Cove.

Hartz Mountain wants to build the towers in a proposed Redevelopment Zone, where the height limit is 50 feet, which translates to roughly a four- or five-story building.

Hartz’s original proposal was for towers of 206 feet. This means that Hartz was more than 150 feet over the existing limit in the Redevelopment Zone. It has not yet indicated a height in its newest proposal for the towers.

Parking also an issue

The other major part of the ordinance deals with parking in Lincoln Harbor. In 1984, the first site for residential housing was developed without any parking on the street.

The developers will need to change their proposed parking plan. Originally, the proposed towers were to be constructed alongside approximately 400 private parking spaces only for residents of the development.

The new ordinance will require that more than 200 parking spaces be built in Lincoln Harbor under any redevelopment plan.

The new rules would also require 70 additional parking spaces for Weehawken residents who do not live or work in the development. Mayor Turner argues this will allow residents to be able to find parking if they want to enjoy the waterfront and other nearby amenities.

“The new ordinance ensures 200 new parking spaces,” Turner said. “We’re requiring four-hour free parking that will be monitored by the township Parking Authority.”

Residents are concerned

Since the first planning meeting, residents have voiced their concerns about the massive redevelopment taking place in Lincoln Harbor. Multiple activist groups have organized around the cause in order to stop Hartz Mountain Industries from building the development in Weehawken.

‘Save Weehawken’ is a local community group run by concerned citizens of Weehawken, Union City and Hoboken. According to its mission statement, it seeks to protect quality of life, to protect Weehawken’s waterfront and environment, and to stop irresponsible development.

It is adamantly against the Hartz Mountain Industries development. Its slogan is “Stop the Towers.” Its homepage reads, “Stop the overdevelopment. Save Weehawken. A massive development on our waterfront, wrong for Weehawken.”

Fund for a Better Waterfront is also dedicated to fighting further development along the Weehawken Waterfront. Ron Hine, executive director of FBW, has been a vocal opponent at meetings and hearings regarding the Hartz Mountain Redevelopment. FBW seeks “to complete a contiguous public park along the Hudson River and, through leadership, advocacy, and collaboration ensure that future development in the Hoboken area meets the highest standards of urban design.”

Hine could not be reached for comment regarding the passage of the new ordinance. At the October 29 meeting, he said the process had been unfair toward all involved. He also noted that this proposal overlooks the neighboring Rebuild by Design park initiative in Hoboken.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.