The Westfield Town Council voted 7-1 on Tuesday to introduce an ordinance that allows for a downtown redevelopment plan to move forward.
It will next go before the Planning Board on Monday night for the board to make a recommendation to the council about whether the proposal is consistent with the Master Plan. If that recommendation happens, the council could vote for final adoption of the ordinance at its Feb. 14 meeting.
Third Ward Councilman Mark LoGrippo – who for the past two meetings has initiated motions to delay the ordinance, that were not seconded – was the lone dissenting vote. Councilman David Contract was absent from the meeting.
One Westfield Place, proposed by HBC, the owner of the former Lord & Taylor, and its real estate arm Streetworks Development, would be a mixed-use, transit-oriented development that would occupy several sites along the railway.
The proposed development includes 138 apartments and 16 townhomes for those 55 and older, 16 non age-restricted townhomes, and 35 loft-style apartments. The proposal also includes turning the Lord & Taylor building into 100,000-square-feet of office space and more than 13,000-square-feet of street-level retail.
Along South Avenue, immediately east of the train station, two mass timber buildings would comprise 210,000-square-feet of Class-A office space and 12,000-square-feet of street-level retail space, the developer has previously stated.
“I’m very grateful to the many residents who took the time to come out last night and provide their feedback on the One Westfield Place proposal,” Mayor Shelley Brindle said Wednesday in a statement to NJ Advance Media. “The opportunity for public input on this proposal has been nothing short of robust – including multiple in-person information sessions with elected officials, Preview Center tour opportunities, Facebook Live discussions on various aspects of the plan and a detailed online information center.”
Frank Fusaro, president of Westfield Advocates for Responsible Development, a group that opposes the project, said the group is “extremely disappointed” with the vote.
“That the mayor and council did not listen to any of our requests – mainly the one asking for the vote to be postponed,” Fusaro said in a phone interview.
Fusaro’s group started a petition in December that has collected more than 2,000 signatures. Westfield has a population of about 30,700, according to the U.S. Census.
Fusaro said he asked the council members if they all had read the 157-page redevelopment document that was posted on the town’s webpage on Sunday – 36 hours before the meeting – and none answered him.
Of the people who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, Fusaro said he counted approximately 31 who were opposed to the ordinance and about 12 who were in favor.
“The town council is now on record for refusing to listen to the residents,” said Carla Bonacci, a member of Westfield Advocates for Responsible Development. “We will continue this fight through Feb. 14 and beyond if necessary.”
Brindle said with a project of this magnitude there “will undoubtedly be differences of opinion, as there should be.
“This administration ran successfully on bringing forth a holistic and visionary plan to improve our downtown, and I firmly believe – as do the many supporters of the project – that One Westfield Place will address the objectives that we all seek: Restoring many of the 2,000 jobs we’ve lost in recent years, revitalizing our downtown, and stabilizing our taxes over the long term.”
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Allison Pries may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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