Mattingly: The Abuse of Residential Redevelopment

 

BELLEVILLE, NJ — Redevelopment should only be used as a last resort.

State guidelines warn that it should not be used for residential applications, or for use on property that can be developed under normal market forces.
And certainly not on property that is already clean.

So, we are back to Groundhog Day?

Obviously, the town council is on approach to declaring the Walter Kidde property on Main Street “an area in need of redevelopment”. The Consent Agenda of the last council meeting suggests that they are poised to introduce a formal request of the Planning Board to assess if the Kidde property should be declared “an area in need of redevelopment”.

In recent history the Second River Station Project — which was voted down by the town council in the 12th hour — narrowly saved us from “residential redevelopment”.

However the Planning Board’s key involvement in that process was to vote 7-0 to authorize the fundamental transformation from Belleville being a town, to having 50-story residential towers constructed on that same property.

This request is but a formality, a requirement of the dreaded redevelopment process.

By the council formally requesting that the planning board even consider that request, you, the citizens of Belleville, are being set up to having that 23.7 acre parcel in a flood zone turned into yet more high-density housing, on a scale never before known to Belleville.

WE, the Belleville taxpayers, will be made responsible for paying for it. WE will suffer the costs of greater government expense by their doing so. Population totals drive all of the high costs of municipal taxes.

This is nothing more, in my opinion, than an ill-advised land grab that will be detrimental to OUR town’s future, and blatant misuse of “redevelopment” to do so.

The property is now ready for market-forced commercial development. For a long time now, the Finkelsteins as owners, and the town as copied, have had a “no further action required” letter from the state DEP for soil contaminates on that property. THAT’S HUGE — the biggest hurdle!

The underground water contamination was the only other issue. All of the permanent monitoring infrastructure is in place, and the “contaminant eating” microbe treatments are almost finished.

Due to DEP standards at the time of clean-up, this property is cleaner than any former industrial property along that river, without a doubt. That’s why housing developers want it so bad, and know that they have to move fast. Big money for them, and lots of political donations for friends of bad development. And the big secret is that you, the taxpayers, are responsible for paying for it, and you have no say in it!

How can this council rationalize this to the public?

The property was recently re-zoned (and correctly I might add) for “planned retail”. That type of development would reduce our current high residential taxes by realizing a new commercial revenue source. This declaration of “redevelopment” has no other purpose than to enable them to change the existing “planned retail” zoning to now include residential.

Redevelopment might have had an applicable use 10 years ago, before it was cleaned — certainly not now that it is clean. The state advises that redevelopment should never be used for residential purposes. This effort represents serious trouble for us and them.

Some council members are fond of using the argument for redevelopment that, “no one has bought it yet”. There had been plenty of interest though, with several contracts that contained hard but conditional offers.

All past contracts required that the pollution be remediated before they would buy it. It never happened during those time spans. Time ran out on one contract after another, until finally the bottom dropped out of the economy and all interest evaporated, as one would expect. Much has changed since that time.

They argue that it has no sales future other than for residential or “mixed use”. They suggest that, but they know that soon it will sell for the intended appropriate zoning application. If they don’t hurry us into a contract, they will lose it as they should to market recovery, and they know it! The Finklesteins have to know that the best land sales value will come from an application that includes residential. They have wanted out for years, but couldn’t sell it while polluted.

So now there is a big rush to take it for residential, where the BIG development profit is for them and the politicians because soon, as the economy recovers, commercial developers will come looking to invest in that massive 23.7 acre clean piece of property. A property that sits just 10 miles from New York City, on the corner of three counties and two major highways — a perfect location for retail.

They are seeking to misuse heavy-handed state and federal funding vehicles that were designed to bring formerly-polluted industrial properties back from the dead that towns and cities are stuck with. This is a total misapplication for the use of redevelopment.

It is a very bad idea to saddle us now with more high taxation housing that there is an ever-increasing regional glut of, and that would precipitate the need for yet more hiring of township personnel that WE are already drowning in the costs of! What do they think that we are, stupid?

They simply have an unquenchable need to meet the expense of ever expanding government, rather than be responsible by controlling expenses and maintaining the quality of the township.

They obviously were not listening to the public at the last council meeting where a whole block of long time residents came out to complain about what has happened and is happening to their neighborhood from bad planning and zoning approvals, and declining maintenance services.

Another bad indicator of their true intent was seen first thing at the 6 o’clock pre-meeting this last Tuesday evening. Councilman Kennedy, who isn’t fooling anyone, asserted that Belleville has a need to create a “Parking Authority” to handle all of the illegal parking that is out of control.

What?

It is a total fabrication and insulting to disguise his suggested need to create a “Parking Authority” at a time when the municipal budget is under intense pressure, and they are being scrutinized for any administrative increases, having just introduced a back-breaking increase on the taxpayer of more than 6%.

How convenient that the parking authority just happens to be a requirement of “residential redevelopment”!!!

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…..

 

Jeff Mattingly

 

 

 

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About Griff 313 Articles
Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. They've got strings, But you can see, There are no strings on me.

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