After nine months of hearings – and amidst concerns voiced from the public as well as reluctance from some members – the Fair Lawn Planning Board voted unanimously Monday night to give the go-ahead to Landmark’s Daly Field housing development.
Grassroots citizens group Neighbors to Save Daly Field, which has opposed the 165-unit development, encouraged residents to voice their concern at the meeting, expected to be the final hearing of the lengthy planning board process.
“Fair Lawn’s Planning Board is made up of politically-appointed board members and they need to know how the public feels about this development,” a flier circulated by the group read.
Many residents echoed concerns that had been prevalent throughout past hearings, like the impact of the high-density development on area traffic and pedestrian safety. Environmental concerns were another sticking point for many residents.
Eileen Johnson gave emotional testimony on the potential environmental impact of the development, reading the side effects of two chemicals, chromium and naphthalene, which neighborhood residents fear will be released by unsettling the field during construction.
“This is dangerous. It’s going into our air. I don’t know how far, but it’s going to be directed at me,” she told the board.
Gloria Alessi, who lives just outside the Radburn area, told the board that she witnessed the potential environmental impacts in her own yard when a well dug at the corner of her property killed some of her plants and grass.
“I am concerned about the environmental issues, if they start major digging on Daly Field, on the affect it’s going to have on the rest of the neighborhood,” she said.
Their concerns were repeated by the attorney for Neighbors to Save Daly Field, as well as by some on the board. The counsel for the board as well as the representative of the developer, however, agreed that the planning board had “no jurisdiction” over the potential environmental impact of the project.
The board’s jurisdiction was limited in other ways, most substantially by a “builder’s remedy” suit Landmark filed in 2007 in which the court ruled that it could not decide the fate of the application based on its size or use, and only on variance issues—which the board agreed had all been resolved by the time of their vote Monday night.
Still, the citizen’s group hoped that the board would resolve some of the issues it had with the proposal, such as the “segregation” of its 33 affordable housing units — which the developer is required to construct according to state affordable housing regulations — in a cluster along the train tracks.
“I know you can’t stop this development...but the developer has not listened to the residents of Fair Lawn at all,” resident Frank Miller said, echoing the concerns stated by others that the board was moving too hastily in its inevitable approval of the plan.
“The work isn’t done,” added Joel Rosen, the group’s attorney, in his final plea to the board, urging them to take into consideration the residents’ concerns about construction of the project.
But, the developer’s attorney, Ronald Shimanowitz, countered in his own summation. “This board is duty-bound to follow the court order as well as the ordinance,” he said, referring to the successful lawsuit by Landmark to have their development judged based on existing town zoning ordinances.
The board agreed, and Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski, a vocal opponent of the development throughout the process, put forth the motion to approve the development.
“I took an oath to faithfully, justly, and impartially enforce the laws,” he said, after reiterating his concerns about the project. The board could not engage in “grandstanding” by ignoring the ruling of the courts, Trawinski added.
“I could do that here. It would be very easy for me to bring a motion to deny this application....I’m increasing the tax burden on my kids and my grandkids, because I have no doubt that a superior court judge will hand us our head in a hand basket.”
Trawinski, along with other members, did add conditions to the motion of approval, many of which required the developer’s help in mitigating potential traffic hazards and maintaining landscaping consistent with the Radburn neighborhood. The developer will also be required to submit a plan to integrate the affordable housing units more fully into the development.
After agreeing on the conditions, the board entered its largely inevitable unanimous vote of approval on the project.
As Trawinski put it: “The most reluctant yes I ever cast.”
Stay with Patch for more in-depth coverage on how the development's approval will impact Fair Lawn.
Correction: the original version of this article mistated the name of Neighbors to Save Daly Field's attorney.