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.)