Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Muhlenberg Plan Raises Questions

Tuesday's City Council meeting was brief, with only a couple of public comments on the Muhlenberg redevelopment plan.

"This has been going on since 2012," resident Robin Bright said, alluding to a meeting where a real estate expert said the best use of the property where Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center closed in 2008 would be a 600-unit residential complex.

Ever since, housing and who would occupy it have loomed large as worries for nearby residents such as Bright. She questioned the 140 dwelling units in the current plan, saying there might be more.

"It could be any amount," she said

Carlos Sanchez, the deputy city administrator for Economic Development, explained that the redevelopment plan is a guide and the 140 units represent the maximum allowed. The main purpose of any development there, he said, is for medical uses. Sanchez said after the redevelopment plan receives City Council approval on second reading, the city will have the ability to negotiate a redevelopment agreement with specific terms..

The final redevelopment plan (click link to view) will be up for first reading at the regular meeting, 8 p.m. Monday, June 19, in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Second reading is expected at a joint agenda-fixing and regular meeting on July 10.

Resident Nancy Piwowar, an activist for the restoration of a hospital at the site since 2008, questioned whether cell phone towers were in the plan. Bright, who has closely compared iterations of the plan, commented from the sidelines that it was included. Piwowar said she heard the towers were for the reverse 9-1-1 that the city uses for notifications, but no officials confirmed that Tuesday. T-Mobile representatives appeared before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on May 3 regarding upgrades to the existing towers. Language regarding cell towers as a permitted use is in the final plan referenced above.

In another comment on the Muhlenberg site, Councilwoman Diane Toliver asked whether a municipal complex had been considered for the site.

"Numerous of our buildings are old," she said, citing the expense of maintaining them.

But even though Toliver insisted a municipal complex "should and could" be put on the site, City Administrator Rick Smiley said it was not being considered.

Toliver has been suggesting a municipal complex at the site since January 2016 and Councilwoman Bridget Rivers endorsed the idea when Toliver brought it up then. (Click link above to read Plaintalker's post.)


  1. The chosen developer can't even offload the Salem hospital they own.. Tell me where the money to build this project is going to come from.

  2. Isn't the cart before the horse? A "Chosen Developer" is on board even before the Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan is presented to the Council for approval .That will be at the earliest in July 2017. Then "once a redeveloper is selected, the Council will have to approve him/her and the working plan. Again a fait accompli, typical of local politics.The plus is that something is being done.

  3. The 140 dwelling units may indeed represent the maximum allowed, however, Sanchez did not answer my question in reference to the number of units that could go there as assisted living. AGAIN – the combine number with the 140 dwelling units (market rent apartments) and the number of units allocated for assisted living will equal how many residents living on that property? This is what we need to know.

    Robin B

  4. It is obvious that the development as currently outlined has momentum. The Council would be better advised not to waste time ranting about a "Municipal Complex" and asking such questions as:
    1. What are the amounts and terms of the proposed Agreement between the City and the Developer?
    2. What financial guarantee, if any, is the Developer providing to assure the City that the Developer will complete the project and operate the project for a specified duration; say 20 years minimum.
    If the enterprise fails Plainfield will be left with a potential liability. It is suggested that as part of the deal the Developer be required to provide a Bond, or some other form of financial guarantee in a significant amount to assure both the completion of the renovation, and occupancy for a specified period of time. Bill Kruse