Redevelopment Consistent With Our Master Plan and Zoning
Redevelopment is the most significant tool we have to grow our tax base, increase the vitality of South Orange, and to fulfill our legal obligations for affordable housing. At the same time, redevelopment projects can strain our public services, add to our already congested streets, and can negatively impact those living nearby both during and after the construction phase. This is why redevelopment requires comprehensive planning - it delivers obvious benefits, but it must be coupled with infrastructure investments that support that redevelopment and make the entire village a better place for all residents.
We support redevelopment that is consistent with a comprehensive plan for South Orange.
The new Master Plan is the first step in this direction. Over the past year, hundreds of citizens across the village contributed to the public debate that will inform this roadmap. Once that plan is adopted by the Board of Trustees we will move on to the crucial task of revising our zoning laws to be consistent with the Master Plan. This updated zoning will define the size and density of allowable projects in a zone along with a set of uses allowed for those buildings, and together with the Master Plan will provide clear guidance for both residents and developers looking to renovate or build.
Updated zoning laws that accurately reflect what we as a community want to see in each zone has the added benefit of creating a fair, level playing field for all property owners and developers.
Clear, unambiguous zoning is the foundation for redevelopment, not an obstacle; it gives developers the certainty they need to move their projects along quickly. Relying on exceptions creates uncertainty and takes valuable time and resources from both the developer and our own professional staff. A developer can still request a variance, just like any property owner, but that request would go into the same review process as every other resident, with public testimony from professionals and the opportunity for any resident to question the witnesses and participate in the review process.
In addition to guiding the updates to our zoning laws, the Master Plan we adopt must identify the infrastructure needed to support the added density that comes with redevelopment.
Redevelopment generates new tax revenue, but it also creates the need for traffic, roadway and parking improvements, improved sidewalks, lighting and crosswalks for pedestrians and bikers, and upgrades to open spaces and recreational facilities. These should be outlined clearly as part of our Master Plan — not left as afterthoughts and extras. Our plan must also acknowledge the negative impacts of redevelopment on property owners and residents living near these developments and identify what steps we will take to mitigate these.
With new zoning in place and with investments by the Village in the infrastructure to support and mitigate the impact of growth, developers will come. We are a very attractive town already to developers — these changes will make South Orange more attractive to homeowners and developers alike.