LAMBERTVILLE: Task force will help assess plan for music facility

Tanya Cooper: ‘We really want the city to embrace what we’re doing’

By John Tredrea, Special Writer
   LAMBERTVILLE — City officials have decided to form a task force to work with the Lambertville Hall Foundation on its proposal to open a music hall in the vacant Old Baptist Church on Bridge Street.
   The controversial proposal drew over 100 people to a June 27 meeting of the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. The board met that night to address the Foundation’s application for use variances needed to start the music hall, but the meeting was postponed at the Foundation’s request.
   The reason was that three members of the Zoning Board recused themselves because they live near the site of the proposed music hall or the parking lot from which patrons would be bused to and from the hall.
   Because five board votes were needed to obtain a use variance, the applicant wanted all seven seats on the board filled.
   On July 9, the Foundation announced that it was withdrawing its application to the Zoning Board..
   On July 17, Mayor David Del Vecchio announced the appointment of a new working group — consisting of members of the City Council, Planning Board and community members — to work with the leadership of the Lambertville Hall Foundation, which is a nonprofit.
   The music hall proposal elicited numerous concerns from local residents and business owners over various issues, including parking and noise.
   Mayor Del Vecchio said the creation of the working group would enable officials from the Foundation to work proactively and cooperatively with city and community leaders to enhance the proposal and create a project that would benefit all parties.
   ”I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t want to see the live arts allowed to flourish in Lambertville, but I have met many, many people who have concerns over the scope and tenor of this particular project,” the mayor said.
   ”Many times before, we have found that when we allow applicants and community members to sit down outside of the often adversarial tone of an official hearing, we can make real progress and create better plans,” he said.
   Mayor Del Vecchio said the working group would consist of: City Council President Steve Stegman and Councilwoman Beth Asaro; Planning Board Chairman Tim Korzun and Planning Board member Derek Roseman; Ferry Street resident John Woods; local business leaders, Jim Hamilton and Dan Whitaker; and representatives from the Lambertville Hall Foundation.
   ”Every member of this group shares the same goal — to see the First Baptist Church converted into something special for our city,” said Mayor Del Vecchio.
   ”I trust that through its work we will not only see a project that best reflects the values of our city, but one that also represents the ability of our community to work together for everyone’s benefit,” he concluded.
   Tanya Cooper, president of The Bridge Street Foundation, said: “My heart is really in this project. It would do so much good. It would enhance the arts here, provide jobs and revitalize that part of the city.
   ”We really want the city to embrace what we’re doing. That’s why this music hall would be called The Lambertville Music Hall. We want to be part of the community. We don’t want to upset anyone.”