PB Meeting Minutes 09-23-19

Call to Order

Chair Wynn called the meeting to order at 7:35 pm and announced that the meeting has been properly noticed in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act and that the meeting is being recorded and can be viewed on the Township website or on Channel 34. 

Roll Call

Chair Wynn, Councilor Schlager, Ms. Willis, Mr. Cook, Mr. Rooney, Mr. Ianuale, Mr. Barr, and Ms. Loughman were present.   Vice Chair Brodock, Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Gilmer were excused.  Board Attorney Arthur Neiss, Board Engineer Erin Abline and Planning Director Janice Talley were also present.  


A motion to approve the minutes from the September 9, 2019 meeting as amended was made by Chair Wynn, seconded by Ms. Loughman and approved unanimously with Mr. Ianuale abstaining.

Resolution Application 2627:  Andrew Moldovan – 15-17 Hawthorne Place (Block 3109, Lot 13)

A motion to approve the resolution as amended was made by Chair Wynn, seconded by Mr. Rooney and approved unanimously.

Application 2623:  Montclair Art Museum – 3 South Mountain Avenue/14 St. Luke’s Place (Block 1406, Lots 1 & 3)

The applicant was represented by Alan Trembulak, Esq. who was substituting for Richard Schkolnick, Esq.  Paul Anderson, the project engineer and planner, summarized the changes to the plan.  He stated that the fences have been redesigned to provide vertical cables rather than horizontal cables and have been slightly relocated for child safety.  He also clarified the exact height of the retaining wall and fence, clarifying where a height variance is required.  He also showed how the reflecting pool has been redesigned to make it barrier free. 

The previous meeting the Board had expressed concern over safety issues with respect to the walls and asked that specific details of the fencing and stairs be provided.  Mr. Anderson discussed these details as shown on the detail sheet in the site plan.  The Board asked if the space between the water wall and fence can be eliminated or perhaps a parapet can be added to the proposed wall.  Mr. Anderson responded that this would increase the visual height of the wall, noting that the 3 foot 8-inch tall fence will disappear in the ten-foot high plants with the proposed design.  He noted that he has added dry wells to the design to help recharge water, rather than recycling the water.

Mr. Anderson stated that the planning proofs provided at the previous meeting have not changed and concluded his testimony with the statement that the benefits of providing a barrier-free outdoor art space outweighs the detriments of the requested height variance. 

The public was invited to question Mr. Anderson.  Robert Rick, an attorney for a neighbor on St. Luke’s Place, stated that his client initially had issues with drainage from the museum, but these issues have been satisfactorily addressed.  There were no further questions.

The public was invited to comment on the application.  A local artist stated his support for the project, noting that the Sun Vow statue is studio-made and not a site-specific statue.  A local attorney who specializes in historic preservation stated that the project will result in the loss of too much natural landscaping that characterizes the historic site.  Another member of the public stated that the Sun Vow should not be moved because it was the pride and joy of one of the founders of the museum, was designed by an internationally-recognized artist, and establishes an intimate dialogue with the exterior of the building.  A curator of the Museum stressed that the museum must maintain the ability to move art as new exhibits are created to keep the museum dynamic and successful, noting that the founders of the museum donated 54 paintings and two sculptures to be used by the successors of the museum as deemed appropriate. 

A resident emphasized that the Planning Board has the right to protect the historic grounds on the site, including the Sun Vow sculpture.  A member of the Historic Preservation Commission discussed the Commission’s position on the application, noting that the cultural landscape is an important consideration.  A local architect asked if there could be a compromise, allowing the museum to develop the side yard but maintain the Sun Vow statue in its current location.

The president of the Museum Board of Trustees stated that the Sun Vow statue is a stylized, romanticized symbol of mythical native people and is the wrong symbol to be in front of the museum entrance.  He stated that the Trustees will relocate the statue to a more appropriate location.  Another Museum Trustee stated that the plan represents their vision to create an active space on an unused part of the property and make it more inclusive and user-friendly.

Mr. Trembulak stated that the application is for site plan approval with two variances relating to the height of the wall.  He stated that no comments have been made about the height of the wall, and that the benefits provided by the aesthetic improvements, including the addition of 82 new trees and 76 new shrubs, and the accessibility improvements to the site outweigh any detriments. 

The Board discussed the application, noting that the location of a statue on museum grounds is not within the authority of the Board under the Municipal Land Use Law, particularly since the Nomination Report does not mention the statue.  The Board also stated that there will be little loss of green space with the creation of the Art Park. 

Considering that the wall may be an attractive nuisance for children and difficult for landscapers to manage, a Board member recommended that the museum review the plan with its property insurance safety engineer to ensure that the design meets appropriate safety standards.

A motion to approve the application was made by Chair Wynn with the condition that the applicant use native NJ plantings.  The motion was seconded by Councilor Schlager and approved unanimously.

A resolution to retain Designs for Life as the Board Sustainability Professional to review sustainability plans submitted as part of applications was made by Chair Wynn, seconded by Ms. Loughman and approved unanimously.

Payment of Bills

A motion to pay bills was made by Mr. Rooney, seconded by Chair Wynn and approved unanimously. 


The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 pm.