In Winter 2012 two community meetings were held, and a third meeting–a presentation by the hired planner–was held one year later in January 2013. The community meeting notes are available here, and the January 2013 read-out by the planner here. There are no minutes from the planner presentation, nor is there any documentation mapping the community input to the ideas presented by the planner. Later in 2013 a petition was created that garnered about 600 signatures in a couple of weeks, at which point it was presented at a Township Committee meeting. The petition asked that the Township provide conceptual materials (drawings, massing diagrams, perspectives) in addition to written documents. Comments submitted by signers are available here.
There were two key official actions during the 2011-2013: adoption of a report that showed the legal basis for declaring the property in “Need of Rehabilitation”, and adoption of a “Redevelopment Plan”. Both of these documents are available on the township website. The legal basis for these documents was a sluggish sewer near the intersection of Woodland Place and Maplewood Avenue.¹
Township officials often refer to a period of many years–dating back to the late 1990s–since the plan to replace the Post Office was discussed. The events starting in 2011, however, were the first public actions taken and the first ones that were announced publicly.
The planning for the site was motivated by the desire to remove the mail delivery vehicles from the center of the Village and to better utilize the large space (11,000 square foot building foot print). The Postal Service had a 50 year lease that was to be terminated in 2013, and that became the target date for having a plan.
At no point during the planning period was the intrinsic commercial (or environmental) value of the building formally evaluated. Despite it being the newest, strongest, largest structure in the Village, the Township forwent evaluation of its potential for interior and exterior upgrades or expansion. No discussion is documented which assessed the long-term pros and cons of demolishing the publicly owned structure and selling the land at the historical center of the Township.
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¹ NJ Local Redevelopment law allows aging and defective infrastructure to be used as a basis of declaring a site in need of rehabilitation. The law, however, allows, does not require, a program of rehabilitation to be undertaken in response to the declaration–in fact, the law only outlines the procedures for re-development–often interpreted to be mean demolition. In addition, the basis for the designation (a sluggish sewer at Highland and Maplewood avenues) is well removed from the Post Office site itself, and has not been considered for repair at this time (the town chose to install a bypass that assures proper sewer service for the new project, but leaves service to existing properties uncertain, and the defect itself unrepaired.