Cranford OKs Walnut Plan, Talks Pool Opening Delays

For The Westfield Leader

CRANFORD — Pools and redevelopment were on the minds of many committee and community members at both Monday and Tuesday night’s meetings.

On Monday evening, Jay Rhatican, vice president of land use and development at Hartz Mountain, and Michael Ash, redevelopment counsel for Cranford, talked about the plans for 750 Walnut Avenue. Mr. Rhatican said the plans include 30 acres split into two lots, one for commercial development with the other lot for residential development. In the commercial lot, there will be two flex space buildings, Mr. Rhatican said, and the residential lot will include 250 units among two buildings with an affordable housing component.

Mr. Ash said their goal for traffic was mitigating current and potential future problems. Mr. Ash also said there had been several meetings with residents in the area and are planning to address the main problems residents have brought up. Although, Mr. Ash added, not every concern would be dealt with right away and some issues would be dealt with later in the development.

On Tuesday evening the council ultimately passed a resolution approving the redevelopment plan for 750 Walnut Avenue.

Commissioner Gina Black said during the vote she did not feel comfortable with the fact that several versions of the agreement with Hartz Mountain have been presented with no real clarification as to, according to her, which one the township would be adhering to. Ms. Black also added she did not feel the meeting Hartz Mountain held with residents a week before addressed the concerns residents had. Ms. Black was the only member to vote no to the resolution.

In other business on Tuesday night, all the members of the committee personally apologized to the residents for the delays on the Centennial Pool and Splash pad opening. Township Administrator Jamie Cryan assured residents the township could get the Centennial Pool open by July 4 weekend.

On Monday evening, Recreation Director Steve Robertazzi, said there was still work that needed to be done before the splash pool can open, but did not offer a timeline on completion.

Mr. Robertazzi said the custom pump for the Centennial pool would not be shipped until August 8, citing supply chain issues that many industries have dealt with since the pandemic. According to a letter sent to pool members, the pump is still in Shanghai, China, despite being ordered in February. Mr. Robertazzi said at the meeting that there was a potential solution with a rental pump that could power the pool for a few months.

Commissioner Brian Andrews highlighted a new resolution on Tuesday evening that could help with flood mitigation. Mr. Andrews explained there is an agreement with the federal government to buy out homes in the Orchard Brook area. Mr. Andrews also said the land will be owned by the township and will have to be a green space once the homes are cleared. This comes as part of the federal government’s “Blue Acres” program which is meant to mitigate flood prone areas.

It was also announced by Mr. Andrews that while the township was going out for bid to find a new bulk waste collection provider, there was a possibility they might have to come up with other alternatives. Mr. Cryan said at Monday’s meeting that there were potential alternatives, such as a site in Westfield that residents could drop off by the carload, but Mr. Cryan was hopeful some bids would come in and generate competition.

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