Verona’s public schools superintendent, Steven A. Forte, has sent a letter to the Verona Planning Board expressing “deep concern” about the proposed development at 176 and 200 Bloomfield Avenue.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by MyVeronaNJ.com, is highly unusual. (You can read the letter here.) The Board of Education is not typically among the groups asked to submit letters of opinion on projects that go before the Planning Board or Board of Adjustment. DMH2, a Sparta-based developer, brought its proposal for the two Bloomfield Avenue lots to the Planning Board in August after the Board of Adjustment unanimously voted against a key variance needed for a previous version of the project in March.
Forte notes that the project will be in close proximity to two Verona elementary schools: Brookdale is just 750 feet away and Laning is about a quarter mile from the site, which is adjacent to Everett Field. Testimony on the project has indicated that to turn the steeply wooded lot into the mixed-use project, which will have eight apartments over ground-floor commercial space, DMH2 will need at least 90 days of blasting. “On behalf of the District,” Forte wrote, “I am expressing concern that such extensive activities will have a negative impact upon the structural integrity of the District’s facilities, and affect all students and staff members, particularly those at Brookdale and Laning Avenue Schools.”
Jack McEvoy and Jessica Pearson, two Montclair Avenue residents who have been leading opposition to the project, spoke to the Board of Education in August. McEvoy detailed the disruption that might occur from the blasting: He noted that when traffic is diverted during the work it could send more traffic close to the schools, and said that the blasting could be loud enough to be heard and felt in the schools. McEvoy also raised the prospect that the blasting could cut gas and electricity service in the area, which could cause schools to be closed without warning. (You can view that presentation here.)
In his letter Forte asked the Planning Board to require the developer “to take any and all reasonable action” to ensure that there would be no disruption of the schools’ days and that the structural integrity of school facilities would not be affected. Forte also is seeking to have the Planning Board require DMH2 to conduct a predevelopment inspection of the schools at the DMH2’s expense.
It is not known what impact, if any, Forte’s letter will have on the Planning Board’s hearings. Letters from Verona’s fire inspector, construction official and the Verona Environmental Commission were put on record at the August 22 meeting of the Planning Board. The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 26.