The clock is ticking

Friends & Neighbors,

Chatham Borough now faces the biggest decision in its long history: the fate of Post Office Plaza.  

Our Mayor & Council are set to reveal the options this Monday, April 18th, and hold a FINAL VOTE only two weeks later, on May 2nd

That is not enough time to think about – much less let us residents comment on – a decision that will affect all of us and generations to follow. 

Please help the Mayor & Council get this one right. 

1. Sign this letter: https://forms.gle/9gmtKu4SE6Yr4YP28, which asks the Mayor & Council to include a broad range of proposals on the menu of voting options. 

2. Alert friends & neighbors: Cut, copy and forward this by e-mail or text, and share it on social media.

3. Bring friends & neighbors to the Town Hall this Monday, April 18, 7:30 pm, Chatham Middle School auditorium, 480 Main Street. 

4. E-mail the Mayor & Council (chathamborough.org/government/mayor):

  • Ask them to give themselves more time to think – and consider what we residents want – before voting (June 1 is not a hard & fast deadline – see link here http://chathamchoice.org/2022/04/);
  • Insist that they include on the menu of voting options a broad range of proposals for Post Office Plaza – at least one that does not involve new construction, or impinge on our public parking lot (such as Market-to-Affordable).

Wait! They’re postponing it AGAIN?!

For details and links, tap here: https://www.chathamborough.org/meetings/meeting-documents/mayor-council-meeting/2022-mayor-council-agendas/2022-mayor-council-agendas-1/1923-03-30-2022-final-agenda/file

The postcard above appeared in Chatham mailboxes on Monday 3/28 and Tuesday 3/29. That night – on the eve of the Wednesday 3/30 Town Hall – the Mayor & Council suddenly announced that they were POSTPONING the 3/30 Town Hall AGAIN, this time claiming that “very recent developments involving POP require further review and analysis.”

Two choices

You want to spruce up Post Office Plaza and meet our affordable housing requirements?

There are essentially two ways to do it:

1) sacrifice our convenient, surface, public parking lot and let a developer build a commercial project that will turn downtown Chatham into a crowded, traffic nightmare, or else

2) satisfy the affordable housing quota by subsidizing 15 existing apartments, and pretty up POP as WE see fit, while preserving our popular surface public parking,

Which option sounds better to you? Not sure? You need to see them? Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

The developer-driven option would look something like this:

That’s best we can tell from what little has been revealed about the most recent known proposal. (Think it’s off in any way? E-mail brigidmcmenamin@msn.com.) Details at: Www.chathamchoice.org/2022/01/is-this-what-you-want-for-chatham/

The second, far more moderate option would look something like this:

Above shows a great proposal by longtime Chatham community leader Fran Drew, to make Post Office Plaza more attractive and useful without sacrificing our convenient public parking or clogging our streets with additional traffic.

Fran Drew’s proposal is a far better fit for Chatham Borough, and it complements the sensible, moderate, kind way to provide affordable housing. More information: http://chathamchoice.org/2021/07/

Is the Council even considering the sensible, moderate, kind approach to POP? The Mayor won’t say!

Will we get stuck with the developer’s choice anyway? We’ll know on April 18, when the Council votes on it!

To see the five proposals under consideration, come to a special Town Hall meeting:

Wednesday, March 30, 7:30 pm, Chatham Middle School auditorium, 480 Main Street

A step in the right direction

The Mayor has agreed to postpone the first Town Hall meeting to March 30, 7:30 pm in the Middle School auditorium. For details, tap this link:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/sections/real-estate/articles/chatham-borough-postpones-monday-town-hall-on-post-office-plaza-sets-two-new-dates-of-wednesday-march-30-monday-april-4?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Chatham+News+Alert%3A+Chatham+Borough+Postpones+Monday+Town+Hall+on+Post+Office+Plaza%3B+Sets+Two+New+Dates+of+Wednesday%2C+March+30+%26+Monday%2C+April+4&utm_campaign=Chatham+News+Alert%3A+Chatham+Borough+Postpones+Monday+Town+Hall+on+Post+Office+Plaza%3B+Sets+Two+New+Dates+of+Wednesday%2C+March+30+++Monday%2C+April+4

That’s a good start.

Now it’s time for the Mayor to reveal the five options under consideration, so we can prepare for that Town Hall meeting. If his lawyer said it was ok to do that for the Monday 3/21 meeting, there’s no reason he can’t release the information on Monday 3/21.

The Mayor would be wise to include at least one good option – this one:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/let-s-do-the-right-thing-ce1dc053-a5c7-4cbf-805b-5f4f405864d1

That’s the perfect compliment to Fran Drew’s popular proposal:

Chatham residents are excited about this fresh idea for Post Office Plaza, conceived in 2020 by Fran Drew and Kristy Chmura and drawn by landscape architect Dimitry Levetsky, as a welcome alternative to the schemes proposed by the big Kushner developers in their bid for corporate welfare tax breaks at the expense of our little town.

http://chathamchoice.org/2021/07/

Unless we support it, we’re liable to wind up with something like this:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/it-s-time-for-smart-downtown-development-to-move-forward-in-chatham-borough-developers-post-office-plaza-design-update

Is this what you want to see in the middle of Chatham Borough?

It’s no wonder the redevelopers have proposed such horribly tin-eared designs for Chatham’s Post Office Plaza.

They’re taking their cues from an unreliable source that would sacrifice quaint Chatham to crippling overdevelopment.

Just look at the models shown at page 51 of our POP Redevelopment Plan:

https://chathamborough.org/government/documents/redevelopment-projects-documents/post-office-plaza-redevelopment-documents/1345-post-office-plaza-redevelopment-plan-04-09-2019/file

Imagine the traffic! Is that what you want for Chatham?

Tell our Mayor and Borough Council right now! https://chathamborough.org/government/mayor

Tell them you prefer something like this:

The clock is ticking. Why are we still in the dark?

What do our Mayor and Council have in mind for the Post Office Plaza overhaul that will change our town forever? Nobody knows.

They haven’t even revealed the options under consideration, and yet they expect us to discuss the five final options at a high stakes, mass public Town Hall meeting to be held in the next few weeks!

That’s something not even a professional town planner could do well.

The Mayor ought to reveal the options at this Monday’s Council meeting, so we can be prepared to discuss them at the Town Hall meeting he’s promised to hold before the end of March!

Instead, he’s planning to go into yet another back room session regarding mysterious negotiations with unknown parties.

Check out the agenda: https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/chathamborough/d2d94dd7-6822-11ec-85e3-0050569183fa-913d29f1-6f3f-49bb-ae95-b01c193418d6-1647030868.pdf

Please tell the Mayor and Council that it’s time for transparency: (Contact info at: https://chathamborough.org/government/mayor)

Come to the Council meeting this Monday, March 14, 7:30 pm:

Too little, too late!

Our Mayor promises he’ll soon hold a special public meeting to lay out five options for Post Office Plaza – which the Council will then vote on at one of its regular Monday night meetings. (Start at minute 6:24.) https://chathamborough.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=75

That isn’t good enough. Now is the time to fix it.

Go to https://chathamborough.org/government/mayor.

E-mail the Mayor and Council:

  1. We need to see those five options well before that special public meeting, so we’ll have a chance to evaluate them.
  2. We need to know that among the options presented will be the one that’s best for Chatham: Satisfy our POP affordable housing quota by subsidizing 15 existing apartments. Make POP more attractive by landscaping and resurfacing the parking lot, and NOT selling, gifting, leasing, or otherwise disposing of any Borough land; or reducing the amount of free, open air, surface public parking; or building any kind of parking garage; or granting a PILOT tax break – or any other kind of corporate welfare. Why? http://chathamchoice.org/2022/02/our-little-town/
  3. With the future of Chatham at stake, we need more than one such special public meeting, something our Mayor explicitly promised on 27 January 2020. (Start at minute 13:00.) https://vimeo.com/387823706?embedded=true&source=video_title&owner=40797229


Our Little Town

Can we count on Chatham Borough Mayor Thad Kobylarz to protect us from over development that would destroy our little town?

Find out at the Monday Feb 28 Borough Council meeting, where the Mayor says he hopes to have news on Post Office Plaza. https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/post-office-plaza-redevelopment-update-expected-chatham.

(The meeting is 7:30 pm at Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level, or you can attend virtually here: https://www.chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2386)

Given the settlement our Mayor and Council approved on June 14, 2021, http://chathamchoice.org/2021/09/, it appears that we have only two real options:

  1. Cave-in, and build a big commercial housing project – smaller perhaps, but similar to the Kushners’ 4-story, 118-rental-unit block that would increase density, choke our streets, rob us of our public parking lot, burden our schools, diminish our quality of life – and probably cost Chatham a bundle, while providing a mere 15 affordable units. http://chathamchoice.org/2022/01/is-this-what-you-want-for-chatham/ OR
  2. Stand firm, and persuade Fair Share Housing to let us preserve our public parking lot and small town quality of life, while satisfying our POP affordable housing quota by subsidizing 15 existing apartments scattered around town. http://chathamchoice.org/2021/10/

Of course, the second option is far better for Chatham and for the newcomers. If we make this choice, they won’t be set aside, crammed between the Post Office and the railroad tracks. They’ll be our next-door-neighbors and an integral part of our community.

In return, we’ll be able satisfy our affordable housing obligations for POP, and gain a bit of diversity, without increasing our population, density, traffic congestion, or air pollution.

As such, if we choose the second option, we won’t need to worry about higher costs for police, schooling, fire fighting, public works, etc. We’ll pay only the difference between the market rent and the affordable rent set by law for those few units – a knowable amount – instead of gambling our future on a big housing complex, whose effect on our net revenues Chatham has never even tried to estimate! 

Best of all, by choosing the second option, we’ll preserve our free public parking lot, and our chance to landscape it and add a park, a popular proposal suggested by community leader Fran Drew http://chathamchoice.org/2021/07/dont-sacrifice-chatham-to-the-big-developer/, instead of getting stuck with a White Elephant complex we won’t need as affordable housing law evolves. 

How can you help insure that Chatham makes the right choice?

Before the Feb 28 Council meeting, email the Mayor and Borough Council https://chathamborough.org/government/mayor.

Tell them that:

  • Before we take even one more step with Post Office Plaza, we need to know the costs and implications of each option, as our Mayor first promised in January 2020. (Minute 13)  https://vimeo.com/387823706
  • We’d rather trim the Borough budget a bit – or even increase taxes a little – to subsidize existing apartments, than play Russian roulette with Chatham’s future.   
  • We’re 100% behind the Mayor negotiating to subsidize existing apartments rather than building a new apartment project that will destroy our quality of life, and we are counting on the Council to support that, too.
  • When they come up for re-election, we will vote accordingly.