Real Progress Montclair Talks Ideas In The Environmental Arena

Slate releases its environmental policy charging that open space shouldn't be sacrificed in favor of short-sighted development projects




This week, Real Progress Montclair, headed by mayoral candidate Karen Turner, released a statement outlining its ideas for Montclair in the environmental arena:

The Real Progress Montclair team knows that clean public parks, recreational areas and conservation of our community’s precious natural resources, such as undeveloped open spaces, are essential to maintaining Montclair’s unique character, and preserving its environment and quality of life for future generations. However, several recent decisions, including cutbacks to shade tree funding, indefinite postponement of Edgemont Pond dredging and the current council’s decision to sell and develop the Wildwood Avenue parcels, are threatening to erode adequate access to quality parks and open areas while also diminishing the town’s available natural resources and even property values.

The RPM slate believes that, despite the economic downturn, Montclair residents living in the nation’s most densely populated state should remain enthusiastic about and committed to land preservation.

“We are in difficult economic times but I don’t believe, and I don’t believe voters do either, that preserving open space and maintaining our parks should be sacrificed in favor of short-sighted development projects,” said RPM mayoral candidate Karen Turner. “In acting boldly and decisively to preserve open land areas, the Township would be satisfying the mandate of its own Master Plan to protect open space, nature and wildlife against suburban sprawl for the benefit of current residents and future generations.”

RPM believes that while there are many cogent arguments for possible alternative, developmental uses of Montclair’s open spaces, such as housing on the Wildwood property, there are also many other options that should be considered which would have the greatest overall positive benefit to greatest number of people in the community, such as community gardens. RPM At-Large candidate LeeAnn Carlson said, “Friends of Wildwoods community group is comprised of energetic and committed residents who have suggested a clean-up effort funded by a combination of Green Acres funding, environmental grants, and private donations. Montclair can realize long-lasting benefits from both conservation and thoughtful use of our open space. Some in the Friends of Wildwoods have suggested that the preserved Wildwoods space could include a community garden component that could be enjoyed by residents from all areas in town who don’t have space for their own gardens.”

“Outdoor recreation is a huge growth industry in New Jersey right now, so it makes both environmental and economic sense to support Montclair’s precious public lands and provide access to them for our residents,” said RPM At-Large candidate Peter Zorich. “Open spaces are a vital part of what makes Montclair attractive to residents and businesses and it’s an important part of the legacy that we leave for our children and grandchildren.”

“As a longtime advocate of athletics and outdoor recreations, I have always applauded setting aside any available land or open space for use by Montclair’s children,” said RPM Third Ward candidate Chris Swenson. “The health benefits of sports and other organized outdoor recreational activities are well documented, and the more land areas that can be utilized and made accessible for this purpose, the better.”

Roger Paradiso, a founding member of the Friends of Wildwoods community group, applauded RPM’s thoughtful and innovative approach to environmental issues. “The Friends of Wildwoods support land preservation wherever and whenever possible, and we believe that politics should not be put ahead of open space, which is precious and scarce."

"Preservation has always been a bipartisan and popular issue across New Jersey, but we still have much unfinished work to do if we are going to succeed in protecting and preserving the last large tract of Montclair’s open space on Wildwood Avenue,” said Paradiso. “The commitment of the entire Real Progress Montclair slate to open space preservation is commendable, and they clearly understand the connection between it and protecting Montclair’s unique character and quality of life, which is a critically important issue for many voters in the upcoming municipal election.”

A. Gideon May 04, 2012 at 08:31 PM
"If someone occupies a house currently assessed at $900,000 and cannot (truly) afford tax increases, then perhaps that person bit off more house than s/he could chew." Perhaps. But what about the person occupying a $600,000 home that cannot afford a tax increase? What about the person occupying a $300,000 home? What about the person renting that cannot afford to what the rent will rise when the property tax goes up? The same argument could be made at any financial level. And I even admit the validity of it. But I'm not happy with the idea of families being priced out of town. If reducing our spending means that people can remain, then I think we should at least consider the merit of that choice. "Were you as concerned about those "in the middle" when home prices in Montclair were at their peak, and a house that can be purchased now for $525,000 was selling for over $700,000?" I'm not as worried about that as rising home *values* don't force people out. I'm not completely w/o concern in that it makes it tougher for people to move in. But a third perspective is that we've less control over that than over our spending. It would be unfortunate to let our inability to control home values be an excuse to ignore the harm we're doing when we force families to leave through increased taxes. ...Andrew
Kevin May 04, 2012 at 09:04 PM
"The wealth and income of the households that make up this town overall is among the highest in the state; that's verifiable" -Actually I was surprised to find out from a RE broker in town that Montclair doesn't even rank in the top 50 in NJ. Here is a link from a quick search that I did: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey_locations_by_per_capita_income Also, you can see by zip code. Unfortunately these are not numbered so I can give you a ranking. http://wealth.mongabay.com/cities/NEW_JERSEY.html "Yes, I agree---property taxes are regressive" I'm going to differ with you guys here. You are equating the size of a house with income. (Those with higher incomes have bigger houses.) That is not necessarily true. Many of those big house were purchased many years ago and are now occupied by people who have since retired and are now living on a fixed income. Also, many have been downsized or own a business that is not generating revenues at nearly the same level as before. Anyone who bought near the top of the market may be "underwater" in that house now and higher property taxes would only push down the value of the house down further. Conversely, many others have made conservative purchases or bought at the bottom of the market. Either way, someone who pays $15k in taxes receives the same Police and Fire protections and the same school system that those paying $30k + receive.
A. Gideon May 04, 2012 at 09:49 PM
"Montclair doesn't even rank in the top 50 in NJ" That's quite interesting. Thanks. We're not all that collectively wealthy. "I'm going to differ with you guys here. " It looks to me like you're agreeing with me, and perhaps even with both of us. "You are equating the size of a house with income. " I am not. That's part of the point of a property tax being regressive; it is insensitive to income. If I have grasped it correctly, Peter's argument is that people that cannot afford their current home should downsize. I believe he intended it merely for those in expensive homes, but I'm arguing that the same logic applies up and down the property price scale and that this ends up doing exactly what I don't want to see happen: families are priced out of town. But perhaps we're all just talking past one another at this point, and I've completely misunderstood both of you. I'm sorry if that's the case. ...Andrew
Montclair Public May 05, 2012 at 12:16 PM
"My (admittedly unscientific) impression is that there are more RPM signs on the well-manicured lawns of homes well above the median value than there are RPM signs on the lawns of homes at or below that median. When I see RPM signs in that context, I grimace, because I can just hear the rhetorical claim that "we cannot afford it" clanging up against the obvious signals of abundance that the houses in question convey." Pretty much sums up the race as well as the Republican backlash against government services and public employees since the crash. Thank you, Peter
Peter Simon May 06, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Kevin, The second link you provided confirms that 07043 is the 37th wealthiest zip code in New Jersey, right between Basking Ridge and Princeton, and 12 spots higher than Glen Ridge.


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