This Village Voices segment focuses on a group discussion that took place in April, with a follow-up discussion held in May. The discussion was initiated by a resident who has lived in Ridgewood for many years. We provided a toolkit that contains guidance on organizing and facilitating the discussion and instructions for reporting back the results. The resident convened a group of four other long-time residents, all of whom have been active at one time or another in various civic organizations and/or Village matters.
The summary of the discussion provided by the group was synthesized and organized—much like the other Village Voices segments—into “emerging principles” that should be considered as Ridgewood plans for its future and embarks on creating its next Master Plan.
- Promote a greater variety of retail types in Downtown
The group discussed concerns about the present and future of Downtown, recognizing the trends that have been impacting the economy and character of Downtown Ridgewood and many other downtowns small and large. With a significant percentage of shopping happening online, the likes of Amazon have made it easy for people to shop through the convenience of their devices rather than to visit physical stores. Furthermore, banks, which used to have a strong presence in many small town downtowns, have been consolidating and customers have been taking advantage of online banking instead of visiting a physical bank. Community-serving types of retailers such as hardware stores, butchers, and delis used to thrive in Ridgewood, but no longer. These smaller types of stores are characteristic of Ridgewood and tend to contribute to a “village feel.”
One retail type that has managed to survive and thrive, especially in Ridgewood, are restaurants. However, the group is concerned about Downtown becoming dominated by a single type of use. Restaurants tend to have high parking demands. The group hopes Downtown Ridgewood can offer a greater variety of retail types, but it is not certain of the means to make this happen.
- Examine regional and local trends in utilizing ride-hailing services and explore the potential of such services to reduce parking demand in Downtown.
Related to Downtown, but also applicable to the greater Village, the group recommends looking closely at regional and local trends in using ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and how they are utilized for trips commencing and ending in Ridgewood. It also suggests studying examples of towns that have worked with these and other types of app-based services to reduce car trips and parking demand in downtown areas.
- Plan ahead for the future uses of houses of worship and other sites that might become available.
There are a number of houses of worship located throughout Ridgewood’s neighborhoods. While their futures generally seem secure, there are many examples in comparable communities where religious institutions have consolidated functions or closed due to a dwindling base of members, which can leave behind a vacant building. The Village should consider the possibility of such buildings becoming available, keep an eye out for any potential changes, and contemplate new uses while also recognizing the potential pressures certain uses could have in the neighborhood in which they are located. This applies to Valley Hospital as well.
- Accommodate changing demographics, particularly an aging population, by introducing new, more affordable housing types.
Ridgewood is largely a community of single-family houses; many of the houses are large and priced in the millions, which tends to make them affordable to certain demographic segments such as married couples. The group recommends looking closely at the current and projected demographics of the Village and ensuring that there are affordable and appropriate types of homes available for groups that might face difficulties. They are especially concerned about seniors and the next generation of seniors a decade from now. They also note that young people should have affordable opportunities to live in the Village too.
- Consider broadening historic protections beyond downtown to preserve character; consider instituting design review.
Downtown currently has a historic district with zoning controls to protect the historic integrity of structures. The residential areas have several historic districts where the Historic Preservation Commission can advise the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The group suggests creating stronger historic protections beyond downtown and into appropriate residential areas of the Village. Furthermore, the group suggests instituting a design review process to the ensure that the design details of new buildings complement rather than detract from their surroundings.
- Protect and enhance the tree canopy.
Trees are an important element that makes Ridgewood look and feel the way it does, not to mention their environmental benefits. The group would like trees to be maintained and more protections considered for trees on private property. Furthermore, the Village should add more trees to appropriate locations on public properties.
- Strive to be proactive in community planning matters.
The group encourages proactive planning and making decisions on a comprehensive basis. The core principle should be to preserve, protect, and enhance the Village’s physical environment: historic houses, downtown, public buildings, and the Village’s landscape. While not entirely under Ridgewood’s purview, air quality and water quality should also be protected.
Thanks to Art Wrubel for leading the discussion and to Bill Carbone, Joe Suplicki, Ed Houlihan, and Neil Sullivan for taking part.
Do you have any comments on what you’ve just read or any additional “emerging principles” or ideas related to the topics raised in this Village Voices segment that you’d like to share? Write to us through the Contact page of this website or in the comment form below.
photo: “Gardening Neighbors” by Susy Morris; licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0