The opinions expressed below are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Village Green or its editors.
I will not be attending the Maplewood Planning Board meeting tonight at Town Hall where there will be discussion about the site plan for the proposed development at the post office site. Like many of my neighbors, I am exhausted by the vitriol that has taken over our town around this issue. But the truth is, I am not attending because despite having collected more than 700 signatures of people who oppose the current development, I know it will make no difference.
My opposition to this building is simple: I do not believe that selling such prime public land for $1.25M, and then giving the developer a $200K credit on top of that for demolition of a functional mid-century modern building is a good deal for us taxpayers. And I will never understand why we gave this developer a tax abatement, when the second paragraph of the RFP to develop the site states that “given the project site’s prime location, the Township expects proposed projects be privately financed and will not provide tax abatement.”
These two points alone seriously weaken the argument that the “process has been followed.” To those who say that this building is a part of our town’s redevelopment plan, I suggest it may be time to re-examine a plan that is anchored in 2007. To what end are we welding ourselves to a plan that was developed before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression; before the rise of the sharing economy; before the “local” movement; even before the release of the iPhone?
Truth be told, I am baffled by any passionate support for this development. To my eye this building is a McMansion with no new affordable housing units; five chain-store-ready retail spaces; a ridiculous plan for “aromatherapy ventilation” in the common residential spaces; and a promise of a flurry of “walking wallets” (the developers’ actual words to describe the lucky new tenants). Personally, I would much rather see a modern renovation of the post office that emphasizes its clean lines. I can picture new windows, pristine landscaping all around the building, and maybe even a reconfigured loading dock repurposed for outdoor dining made ready for an expansion of a local restaurant. Unfortunately it seems that is not a picture that anyone with any decision-making power in this town can summon.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s planning board meeting, I will keep my lawn sign proudly planted. Not because I am some sort of insane obstructionist with nothing better to do, but because it stands for something. It stands for quality. It stands for my desire for a smarter development that offers a significant financial return while also accurately reflecting the creative, unique and wonderful town I call home.