Mayor Bonaccorso Asks: What Do Residents Want Built at Gypsum Property?

The mayor is asking residents to complete and submit a survey about what they'd like to see zoned for the 28-acre property.

Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso is asking citizens to tell the township what they would like to see at the 28-acre site of the former U.S. Gypsum paper manufacturing plant on Raritan Road, across from Hyatt Hills Golf Complex and Senorita's Mexican Grill.

The mayor is mailing a survey (see it below) to all residents, asking for their opinions on how the town should zone the property. The factory was built in 1947 and operated as a paper manufacturer until its shuttering in August 2009. It has been on the market for more than a year.

Bonaccorso told Patch that a retail property (he couldn't reveal which) has made a deal to purchase the property pending they could get it rezoned from light industrial use to retail.

"I said to them, okay, good luck before the zoning board, and thought that was it," Bonaccorso told Patch. "Then they came back and said that because it was such a huge piece of land that they believed the zoning should actually be decided by the governing body as a change in the master plan. I talked to our attorney and he agreed that maybe a master plan update is needed, and because it's a project of major proportions we really want to feel the pulse of the community on this."

In March, we ran a story also asking residents what they'd like to see at the property. Of the 208 poll votes our story received, 28 percent of respondents said they'd like to see another industrial property, 23 percent said a shopping complex or strip mall, 17 percent said a mixed-use development, and 12 percent chose "other" and left us thoughts in the comments about what they'd like to see. Very few respondents chose housing or a hotel as their vote for the property's use.

Bonaccorso said he also really does not want to see housing at the property. However, he doesn't believe that the property will be able to be sold to another light industrial buyer.

"In this day and age, I think it would be impossible to find another light industrial," said Bonaccorso. "Who is building light industrial in New Jersey today?"

In our story, some readers suggested that the property become a park. Bonaccorso was firm on the impossibility of that when he spoke to Patch and asked residents to please not waste their survey responses by suggesting it.

"'I want a park' is not flying," Bonaccorso told Patch. "The property is worth somewhere in neighborhood of $17 million. We are not going to spend taxpayers' dollars to buy it and then another $5 million to turn it into a park and then get zero return in tax revenue. We also can't go to the county or Open Space or anyone else to make a park happen, because we already have had help with things like Esposito Park, Oak Ridge, Hyatt Hills. It's just not a viable choice this time."

Bonaccorso said he expects that there will not be agreement among all the residents as to what the property should become – "Those who live right there may feel differently than those on other side of town," he noted – but felt that residents needed to be involved in the process. He also expressed that residents must write their name and address on the survey so that no one can stuff the ballot box. Bonaccorso promises to make the responses public after they are received – residents can mail them back or drop them off at the municipal building.

"This is a big project in the center of Clark that we all are going to have to live with for the next 100 years. I want to hear from the residents," said Bonaccorso. "I also want them to understand if township doesn’t act in professional manor in this process, we're going to go to court. We can’t just keep saying no to someone who wants to rightfully sell his land. Eventually they could file a suit against Clark for being arbitrary and capricious."

Zoning has been a controversial discussion topic in Clark recently because of the sale of the who will build 39 townhomes where the former greenhouse was on Lake Avenue. Many residents urged the town to act to stop a multifamily use in an area of mostly single-family homes, some questioning why Clark couldn't just rezone the property.

Town officials, including the mayor, responded telling residents that the town had no power to change the zoning after an application on the property had been received and that the property had been zoned for multifamily housing since 1992.

Bonaccorso explained that the town does have an opportunity to rezone with the Gypsum property because the applicant is looking for a different use (retail) than what the property is currently zoned for (light industrial), as opposed to the Miele's case.

The survey being mailed to residents reads as follows:

At the outset I want to thank all our citizens for their participation in the last election. I feel humbled that you have once again put me in a leadership position to set the path of the Township for the next four years.

On a number of occasions it has been brought to the attention of both me and Council that the Township amends or updates the Master Plan and no one seems to be aware of its contents until a developer wants to erect something in their respective neighborhoods. This is not to imply that either my governing body or prior governing bodies have not followed the proper procedures. It only reflects that while the Township is functioning smoothly very few have something to discuss.

Now I am asking each of you to fill out a survey, so that I can reflect your thoughts, as to what we as a Township want to see on the US Gypsum site consisting of 28+/- acres. The site is presently zoned "Light Industrial". The present contract purchaser is seeking a "Zoning Change."

Kindly take the time to express your thoughts so that I can bring the consensus of the citizens to the Council and the Planning Board to develop an update to our Master Plan.

Do you want Housing? Yes No
Do you want Commercial Retail? Yes No
Do you want Office Space? Yes No
Do you want Commercial with Office? Yes No

If none of the above fit any of your thoughts please take the time to write your ideas and forward them to us in the enclosed envelope or drop them off at Town Hall, Room 24, on or before December 10.
Upon receipt of the survey and comments we will analyze your responses and advise each of you of the results.

Required Information: If not completed, survey will not be counted!
Thank you for taking the time to provide your input.

Will you fill out the survey? What's your vision for the property? Tell us in the comments.

KWC December 01, 2012 at 02:55 PM
'I want a park' is not flying, Bonaccorso told Patch. The property is worth somewhere in neighborhood of $17 million. We are not going to spend taxpayers' dollars to buy it and then another $5 million to turn it into a park and then get zero return in tax revenue. While I understand that there are practicalities and that (responsible) stewardship of taxpayer dollars is an important aspect of a mayor's mandate, this seems small-minded. Green space and community gardens enhance quality of life significantly. The benefits may be difficult to quantify but are no less material for all that.
Shaun December 01, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I think we should make it into a shopping area. Department tores with maybe apartments above and little restaurants much like how cranford and westfield did it.
Mike30 December 01, 2012 at 07:14 PM
X2 for Shaun's idea. A drag strip would be nice:)
John December 01, 2012 at 07:43 PM
In this case, the Mayor is making a wise and informed statement. Spending tax dollars and creating a continuous fiscal burden of maintaining parkland is not a viable and prudent choice, considering there is no return on the back end. It makes much more sense to make this a commercial property (or keep it light industrial). Something that will potentially create jobs and additional tax revenue for the Township. Oh yes,...and I forgot to mention the potential property maintenance contracts that will available to independent local contractors for lanscaping and snow removal services! (wink,wink)
Ric December 01, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I believe we have quite enough retail space in Clark, and much of it is vacant and unoccupied. Adding that much more retail space will serve only to assure existing vacant space will remain so for a long time to come. Office space would get my vote. While there could be some issues with traffic ( retail would be the same if not worse) that issue would be offset by the number of employees who would hopefully add to the existing retail economy in town which in turn might make the existing vacant retail locations more desirable. One other thought would be to relocate the planned Senior Citizen's building to a portion of the property nearest Central Avenue. Residents would then have easy access to grocery shopping, retail at Target etc.. multiple pharmacies ( Shop Rite, Target and Rite Aid), plus easy access to bus service from NJ Transit. A walkway to enable safe pedestrian crossing of Central Avenue would serve to reduce the need for vehicular transportation to the shopping available across Central Avenue.
Dave December 01, 2012 at 11:09 PM
I like the strip mall apartment idea. But also the zoning the mayor speaks of is what the zoning officer in towns job is lol. He mentioned the proposed buyer is requesting a rezoning. He mentions its zoned light industrial. But what he fails to mention is what the proposed buyer is trying to change it too. It's great to ask the people of the town what they would like to see there but if a buyer is interested do we really matter in our opinions?
KJS December 02, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Why not a corporate park? Like they have in Cranford up on Walnut.
Sharon Pane December 02, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I would like to see a bowling alley back in Clark. Also, add other sports arena's such as roller skating or ice skating, then ancillary stores to support such sports could be the other tenants.
James Smyth December 06, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I would like to see a Drive-In Movie complex back in Clark. There is enough space. They are making a comeback.
Gerard Ziobro Sr. December 07, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Combining a special mix of national, regional, and local establishments in a beautiful open-air setting, The Promenade Shops at Clifton promises to be a truly exciting environment located in the heart of northern, New Jersey's most densely populated areas. Inspired by New York City's metropolitan flavor, the lifestyle center will showcase a collection of stunning architectural structures surrounding a central plaza. This focal point, with a uniquely designed clock tower, distinctive lighting and special amenities, is designed to encourage shoppers to linger and enjoy the atmosphere. The Promenade Shops at Clifton is expected to be enjoyed during all seasons, both day and night. Have you ever been here? We could do a scaled down version of this. With office space on top of the stores. Add a small park like next to the Municipal building. and possibly a Bowling alley.
Gerard Ziobro Sr. December 07, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I agree that Clark has always needed pedestrian crossing on central ave. I always thought an overhead walkway would be best. When we were kids we lost a friend in town that was killed by a car crossing Central. We didnt have as much traffic as we do now.
Gerard Ziobro Sr. December 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM


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