Residents rally against Cranford redevelopment proposal
A group of Cranford residents packed the town’s planning board meeting Wednesday to protest a proposal to redevelop the downtown area.
The residents say that they fear changes to the area will hurt businesses and even the town’s character. But the mayor and planning board says that the changes could improve transportation and the economy.
A large group of those opposed to the plan are customers of the town’s beloved tavern, The Riverside Inn, locally known as “The Dive.”
“Just keep it the way it is,” says bar owner Peter Jacob. “It’s not fancy and shiny, but it’s nice. It is home.”
The Dive is part of 18 properties along North Avenue East that consultants have identified as areas in need of redevelopment.
A study of the area is required by state law to determine if the areas meets redevelopment requirements. The study was approved last spring.
Business owners who attended the meeting said that they felt blindsided by the study.
“Every owner named in that study should be been notified,” says the owner of Chapman Brothers Plumbing and Heating.
If a plan is approved, the township has the power to use eminent domain. But Mayor Tom Hannan says that it won’t come to that.
“I have absolutely no intention of using eminent domain for any of these businesses that are operating there. It doesn’t make sense,” he says.
Planners say that the township has attempted to improve the downtown area for 33 years, but plans have fallen through due to the complicated layout. Officials say that Wednesday’s meeting was an opportunity to get the community members involved.
“This is about your downtown,” Hannan told the residents.
But most of those who attended the meeting were turned off by the idea.
“This is a community. It is not a money-making enterprise,” one resident said.
Consultants and the mayor emphasize that the survey report is still a draft and that the findings have not been finalized. They say that they want to listen to all the stakeholders affected.
Mayor Hannan also said that he would introduce a resolution to remove The Dive from the survey area.