In a meeting held on June 20, 2023, the Bergenfield Borough Council voted in favor of an ambitious West Church Street Redevelopment Plan. The proposal aims to transform a 3.02-acre tract, known as the “Old Nissan Property”, into a mixed-use hub, sparking robust debates about borough character preservation and affordable housing. Mayor Arvin Amatorio, Council President Marc Pascual, and council members Thomas Lodato, Buddy Deauna, Domingo Almonte, and Hernando Rivera were present. Council member Ora Kornbluth was absent.
The approved plan, presented by Lyndsay Knight, Director of Planning at Neglia Associates, proposes a mix of residential, multifamily, and mixed-use buildings on West Church Street, featuring live-work studios, neighborhood retail, offices, and medical centers at the ground level. To accommodate these, zoning ordinance adjustments were discussed that would allow buildings up to four stories or 45 feet high in certain designated zones. Mayor Amatorio and other council members expressed concerns over building set-backs and the potential lack of affordable housing and adequate parking.
Despite these deliberations, Councilperson Rivera motioned to designate the area of West Church Street as a redevelopment zone, a motion seconded by Council President Pascual, leading to the council’s favoring vote. Council members assured the public that future decisions would be guided by community concerns and legal regulations, maintaining that the governing body, and not developers, would dictate the course of development.
Public comments echoed council concerns, notably pointing out fears of overdevelopment and potential strain on borough infrastructure. Resident John Smith urged the council to prioritize a comprehensive renovation of Washington Avenue before embarking on new initiatives. On the other hand, some noted the desparate need to increase housing availability.
Separately, another resident, Mary Sullivan, called for stricter regulations on lithium-ion batteries following her brother’s death in a battery explosion.
Additional resolutions during the meeting included hiring part-time laborers for the Police Department and authorizing the submission of a 2023 Bergen County Trust Fund Grant Application for park development. These decisions were met with unanimous approval from the council. The meeting also saw the awarding of a Special Proclamation to Peter M. Matthews, a Vietnam War veteran, named the 2023 Memorial Day Grand Marshall.
The council concluded by recognizing community concerns and assured residents that their voices were heard. Mayor Amatorio emphasized the importance of alternate revenue sources to avoid passing costs to taxpayers. Borough Administrator Gallo agreed to consider creating an ordinance addressing lithium-ion battery regulations. After a closed executive session, the council adjourned.