Cranford Chronicle
May 20, 2011
Letters to the Editor
Chris O’Biren

As a Cranford resident concerned about the future of the township and the development challenges facing the community at both Riverfront and Birchwood, I am disturbed by the intentional scheduling of conflicting meetings dealing with these important matters. At last Tuesday’s public meeting of the Township Committee several residents and a commissioner requested a rescheduling of the Town Hall Meeting planned by Mr. Aschenbach for May 18, 20011 at 7:30 PM to discuss proposed development at 215 Birchwood Avenue. The Birchwood meeting conflicts with the Cranford Planning Board’s meeting to consider the proposed amendment to the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan.

Mr. Aschenbach is a member of the Planning Board. I find it troubling and more than a little odd that he would intentionally disregard his responsibility as a member of that board by deliberately creating a meeting conflict. On May 18, 2011, at the same time that he chose for the Birchwood meeting, the Planning Board will consider a highly irregular request to substantially change the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan adopted in December 2010, after years of discussion and negotiations. Among other changes, the amendment calls for substantial increases in residential and commercial density at the site without adequate safeguards to provide requisite additional parking

To propose such significant changes to the plan at such a late date with no public discussion is wrong. Residents are being asked to accept an impact fee negotiated in private between an attorney and the developer as fair and proper, when instinct and all that we know of New Jersey politics cries out “beware of backroom deals.” Neither the township attorney nor the mayor correctly cited the number of additional units. Both said that 18 additional units were being built. In fact there will be 21 additional units, and the affordable housing units proposed merely cover the developer’s increased requirement based on the new larger number of apartments at Riverfront. As a resident I wish to be present at both meetings: I would hope that Mr. Aschenbach has at least as much commitment.

Cranford awaits the judge’s ruling on the builder’s remedy lawsuit brought at Birchwood by Cranford Development Associates due to Mr. Aschenbach’s firm convictions that Cranford did not need an affordable housing plan. He failed to appear either day at the Fairness Hearing in November 2010, as he promised, and since then there has been no news from the court on the lawsuit. What is so pressing at Birchwood that he must neglect attending the Planning Board meeting? He forces Cranford residents to choose between attending one meeting or the other when a simple change of date to his recently scheduled Birchwood meeting solves the problem. What is he avoiding? What is he hiding?

The proposed change to the Riverfront plan is an attempt to balance the 2011 budget by stealing from the quality of life and property values of those residents living in the vicinity of the Riverfront Redevelopment areas. Mr. Aschenbach should at least have the courtesy to fact the questions of those his newly found love affair with density will harm.