Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, September 4, 2015

Planning Board hands off Muhlenberg ball to Council

The handoff: Now the success of the play is in
someone else's hands.

Plainfield's Planning Board unanimously adopted a resolution declaring the former Muhlenberg Hospital property as "in need of redevelopment". The measure now goes to City Council for further action.

After hearing the report and proposal from its consultant, H2M Associates, the board discussed its fourfold options: a declaration for "redevelopment" or "rehabilitation" and a "condemnatory" or a "non-condemnatory" plan.

Referring several times to JFK as the city's "partner" in the redevelopment process, H2M's Jennifer Giorgianni, walked the board through the report. H2M's recommendation was to adopt the broadest declaration ("redevelopment") since it would give the City "more negotiating room" and the less hostile form ("non-condemnatory"), meaning that the power of eminent domain would not be used.

It was painful to hear the recitation of the shabby state into which JFK has allowed the Muhlenberg complex to fall since it was closed in 2008.

It seemed clear to me that allowing the property to so severely deteriorate indicates that JFK intended to "waste" (a technical term) its assets in order to discourage any possible rehabilitation of the building for any health-related purposes.

That would have been part of a strategy to fend off any health- or medical-related uses for the facility.

The City Council now must decide what to do next. It can approve the Planning Board's designation and direct the Planning Board to prepare -- or have prepared for it -- a redevelopment plan, which would then come back to the Council for approval.

Or it can do nothing.

Homeowners in the area surrounding the now-shuttered Muhlenberg property should keep in mind that all of this may mean that residential development will be on the table going forward.

It was not made clear if the Council will take up the proposed recommendation at its meeting next Tuesday (Monday is Labor Day) or if it will not come up until October.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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