In January 18, 2012, Judge Hurley issued an order which effectively resolved the lawsuit brought by Lawrence Berger (and affiliated companies), the apparent owner of the Ford Avenue property, against the Borough of Milltown (and affiliated agencies). The order provides a structure of how the property will be developed and the time frames under which that must be accomplished. A complete copy of the order is attached to this web page, but by way of summary, Judge Hurley ruled:
Within 120 days from the date of the order, the Borough of Milltown shall adopt a revised redevelopment plan to permit the construction of at least 350 residential units, of which at least 70 will be designated as low and moderate income units; of those low and moderate income units no more than 25 percent may be age-restricted. This step has been completed and a synopsis of the revised plan is attached to this web page.
Within 60 days of the date on which the revised redevelopment plan is adopted, the Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency and Boraie shall enter into a revised redevelopment agreement providing for development of the Ford Avenue Redevelopment Area consistent with the revised redevelopment plan. This step has been completed.
Within 1 year from the date of the order, the redeveloper is to secure preliminary site plan approval for the redevelopment project and within two years after obtaining preliminary site plan approval the redeveloper is to secure final site plan approval. This step has not been completed and appropriate extensions have been received from the court. As of this writing, the redeveloper is in the process of applying for preliminary site plan approval from the Planning Board.
If within two years after the entry of the Order, Boraie notifies the Milltown Ford Redevelopment Agency that it is no longer economically feasible to complete the project in accordance with the terms of the Order, the redevelopment agreement may be terminated without liability. If by a date six months after Boraie’s receipt of preliminary site plan approval, but not later than three years from the entry of the Order, Boraie has not acquired the entire Ford Avenue Redevelopment Area by consent of the property owners, the Milltown Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency shall, with funds provided by Boraie, institute eminent domain proceedings to acquire the entire Ford Avenue Redevelopment Area.
There has been significant progress in the past 12 months, but much remains to be done. A complete history of documents can be found at the Milltown Library including documents referred to on this website but not attached.
Meetings of the Agency are generally held the 2nd Tuesday of every month. From time to time, they are cancelled due to conflict with other meetings. The public is welcome to attend and voice their support or concerns; you should contact Borough Hall to confirm the meeting is to be held. Updates will be provided to this site as warranted.
The conceptual plan is a balance of residential apartments, townhouses and condominiums, commercial and retail space with “green areas,” walkways and open space, to enhance the charming, small-town feel found throughout the Borough.
The residential units will be age restricted, offering senior citizens attractive home options in the heart of Milltown and putting no burden on the Borough’s schools. An upscale restaurant, a neighborhood pub and other quality retail will help fill out the design.
The site, once a thriving employment hub, is underutilized and in need of environmental cleanup before any building can start. The Developer’s Agreement reached with Boraie clearly addresses the need for complete cleanup, in full compliance with federal and cialis online state environmental law.
Boraie also agreed to complete a traffic study, delineate wetlands and study the impact on Milltown’s infrastructure, including the electric, sewer and water systems to ensure that all Borough services are not adversely affected by the project.
The site plan includes a stand-alone senior citizens apartment complex. It will be Milltown’s first affordable senior citizen housing complex. It is very unlikely that the Borough could ever build such a complex on its own without the Ford Avenue redevelopment project.
This will represent a rare opportunity for Milltown’s seniors to remain in Milltown and enjoy a continued quality of life.
“The Milltown-Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency is dedicated to the area in a manner that is beneficial to all Milltown residents. Because Milltown residents, the Borough Council, the Planning Board, the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, local, county and state environmental agencies and other concerned agencies are working together, I am confident that the Ford Avenue site will become an asset to the people of Milltown for generations to come.”
“The Ford Avenue Redevelopment Project will eliminate a potentially dangerous eyesore and beautify the center of Milltown. It will provide homes for our senior citizens, improve public safety and help to keep residential property taxes down for Milltown residents. I fully support this project and commend the creative efforts of the Agency.”
I am pleased to enclose Memorandum & Order of Federal Judge Anne E. Thompson of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey relative to the above-referenced matter. As you recall, SB Building Associates, LP filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the Borough of Milltown and the Milltown Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency. As you also may recall, the essence of the plaintiffs’ complaint contends that the redevelopment process undertaken by the Borough and the Agency deprives plaintiffs of the exclusive right to enjoy and use their property without just compensation, allegedly in violation of their rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution and also violated their substantive due process rights. The plaintiffs filed the current federal lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, plaintiffs contend that the Agency’s and Borough’s actions were unlawful under state law, namely, the New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.
On October 23, 2008, the Borough, along with the Agency, filed a motion for summary judgment on the pleadings, essentially arguing before the court that the plaintiffs’ case should be dismissed, arguing that the plaintiffs’ case was not ripe, as it failed to exhaust all the state remedies available to it.
After careful consideration of the briefs supplied by both parties, the court agreed with the Borough and Agency and granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the pleadings and remanded the matter to the State Superior Court for adjudication on plaintiffs’ remaining state law claims.
The federal court decision is very significant in that the court now has determined that all the federal law questions are dismissed as to the plaintiffs’ complaint and that the court declined to exercise jurisdiction over any of plaintiffs’ remaining state law claims. Certainly, the plaintiffs could appeal Judge Thompson’s decision. Such appeal would have to be taken to the United States Court of Appeals, but it is unlikely that any appeal would be decided before the state court ultimately rules on the plaintiffs’ pending litigation.
After careful consideration and with deep regret I formally announce my resignation from the Milltown Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency to take effect at the conclusion of tonight’s meeting. I will at the earliest possible moment submit a letter to the Mayor and Council confirming my resignation. I am making this announcement at this time to allow for the agency’s smooth transition come January 2009 at which time the agency will reorganize and have the opportunity to designate a new Chair.
I consider myself a very private person and will not discuss further the reasons for my resignation. Suffice it to say that my decision was based on my need to attend to family and business matters.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor and the Borough Council for their trust by appointing me to the agency. I want to especially acknowledge Mayor Gloria Bradford for her hard work on the agency in addition to her duties as Mayor of the Borough. Over these past seven years I have come to respect Mayor Bradford for her commitment of public service to the Borough and this agency. Her unyielding commitment to find a responsible solution to the redevelopment of Ford Avenue has always had my full support.
Even in the face of a highly spirited and controversial bid for reelection as Mayor she steadfastly stood the course supporting the agency’s plan of redevelopment.
In November 2007 she was overwhelmingly reelected as Mayor. Her reelection was the direct result of the recognition of the Borough’s residents of her many years of leadership as Mayor. This vote however, not only validated her leadership as Mayor it also reflected the resident’s support of the agency’s redevelopment plan which was a key issue in the campaign. Mayor we may come from different political parties but on this issue we have been in full agreement. I publicly want to thank you for your support over these past 7 years.
In addition, I want to acknowledge and thank my good friend Freeholder Director David B. Crabiel. I greatly appreciate his advice and input that resulted in the revision of the agency’s original plan that provided for a reduction in the number of units on the site and also provided a 100 foot buffer from the water’s edge to the beginning of the redevelopment of the site. Furthermore, I want to recognize the assistance of the Middlesex County Freeholder Board and the Middlesex County Improvement Authority for providing their help and seed money during the infancy of the agency.
My decision to resign did not come easy and for me it was wrenching and time consuming. Through out my public and private career when given an assignment I have always stayed the course until the job or assignment was completed regardless of how complex or difficult the task. As difficult as it was to resign, my personal obligations trump my love for and commitment to public service. As difficult as it may be I must place my personal and business responsibilities above all others.
I want to take this opportunity to reflect back on the past seven years the agency has spent in bringing forth a responsible plan of redevelopment for the site. Working very closely with the Mayor, members of the agency, our professional team, the developer and others we came forth with a vision for the redevelopment of Ford Avenue site. It was not only a viable solution to a very complex problem but was supported by the vast majority of residents. Unfortunately the fruits of that effort are now mired down in protracted litigation. It is quite apparent that the current litigation, filed by the owner of the property alleging that the Borough has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide adequate affordable housing, will ultimately be determined by the courts. In that event the current redevelopment plan for the site will have to be amended to comply with the court ruling. Many of the provisions in the plan and more importantly the goals of the plan that I and others believed in and supported and thought so critical to the plan may now have to be abandoned. I am deeply troubled by that potential eventuality.
I have stated publicly on a number of occasions my concern for a court mandated decision regarding the redevelopment of Ford Avenue and the potential impact such a plan could have on the Borough. With a court mandated plan one of my concerns is that the heart and soul of the plan that I and others fought so hard for may never see the light of day. In my opinion that would be most unfortunate. I will discuss this further later on in my statement.
All through this long and sometimes arduous process the dedication and commitment of the agency’s members and our professionals to a responsible plan of redevelopment was commendable. The current Redeveloper’s Agreement was driven by a number of goals, principles and objectives that were set very early on in the process. We stated from the beginning that the plan had to be first of all in the best interest of the Borough and its residents and had to address the myriad of environmental issues confronting the site. The original plan consisting of 324 mixed use residential units and commercial and retail space and the revised 276 mixed use plan clearly met those objectives. It was the dedication and commitment of the agency that motivated me to aggressively move the project forward even in the face of numerous frivolous personal attacks, vilification of the agency and its members and the constant barrage of distorted facts and misinformation all of which over time have been documented.
It is worth noting that the ability of the agency to bring forward its plan of redevelopment was derailed not by the token opposition the agency faced over the past seven years but rather by an owner’s bottom line and a lack of concern for the potential negative impact his plan would have on the Borough and its residents. The owner has used the court system of the Borough’s alleged failure to meet its constitutional obligation of providing for affordable housing in an effort to compel the Borough to approve his plan to build approximately 500 residential units on the site. It is clear that the owner has a total disregard for the potential disastrous impact his plan would have on the Borough and its residents.
What role, responsibility or authority did this agency play in deciding the Borough’s affordable housing obligation? The answer is clear and unequivocal the agency has no role. The Council on Affordable Housing was created by the legislature to promulgate rules, regulations and standards under which they charge the local governing body with implementation of the law. The enabling legislation does not grant any jurisdiction, authority or responsibility over the issue of affordable housing to a redevelopment agency. It is interesting to note that the agency is not a party defendant to that part of the complaint filed by the owner contending that the Borough has failed to meet its affordable housing obligation. The public needs to once again understand the facts vs. fiction when charges are levied that the litigation and this whole affordable housing issue was the agency’s fault.
I stated my primary reason for my resignation. However, I would be less than candid and honest if I did not indicate that the current litigation has caused me to seriously rethink the future role of the agency through a court mandated redevelopment plan. I have come to the conclusion that the goals and objectives originally set by the agency in the early stages of developing the plan of redevelopment of Ford Avenue and detailed in the current Redeveloper’s Agreement could not be met. Should the Master’s Report be adopted by the court it is the court that will ultimately decide how the Borough will meet its affordable housing obligation. As a result it is the court that will set the parameters of the plan for the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. Based on the Master’s Report to the court, the Borough will be faced with an affordable housing obligation that will have to be met primarily at the Ford Avenue site. The report recommends a plan of 350 mixed use residential units that is in excess of the 276 units in the current Redeveloper’s Agreement. Moreover, as I read the Report it does not provide for a stand alone Senior Housing project that I and the agency committed to and thought to be essential to any plan of redevelopment of the site. The report also recommends that all residential units be market based. Furthermore, it is unclear what happens to the one million dollar contribution toward the consolidation of the fire houses in the Borough that is set forth in the current Redeveloper’s Agreement. It is also unclear how the 350 proposed units will affect the 100 foot buffer. The additional units could have an adverse affect on the amount of impervious cover at the site. The additional units will require a larger footprint on the site and therefore affect the amount of impervious cover on the site. I was always committed to a “user friendly” site that had as much “green space” as possible providing for walkways, vegetation, landscaping and the like. The additional 74 units in my opinion can only have a negative impact on that aspect of the plan that I found to be essential.
In both the agency’s 324 mixed use redevelopment plan modified by the 276 mixed use redevelopment plan all residential units would have been age restricted. This would have insured that the additional 276 units in and of itself would not directly generate any additional school aged children. If the 350 market based units in the Master’s recommendation are affirmed by the court this will generate additional school children. The potential influx of school aged children from the full 350 unit project being market based could be devastating to our K through 8 school system. Furthermore, the reality that full time kindergarten will be required by the state would only further compound the space problem for the district. I would strongly recommend that the Borough Council in conjunction with our Board of Education take aggressive action to inform the Judge of the potential adverse impact the additional 350 market based units would have on the Borough. Such an order by the court could have a devastating affect on both the Borough’s property taxpayer and the quality of education in the Borough. I strongly suggest that this matter be revisited by both Borough Council and Board of Education at the earliest possible moment with the objective of seeking relief form the court should the court adopt the Master’s Report. Our elected officials need also to fight to restore the stand alone senior citizens complex and insure that the one million dollar contribution toward the consolidation of the fire facilities is not lost.
One very positive result that has come out of efforts of the agency has been our commitment to aggressively address the environmental issues and challenges surrounding the site. The decision to create the agency and it’s subsequent efforts to aggressively address the environmental issues are part of the agency’s long record in this matter. Those efforts are clear and incontrovertible. Prior to the creation of the agency in 2001 there was no public out cry or concern regarding the impact of the environmental contamination at Ford Avenue. There is nothing in the public record that I could find where any of those concerns were expressed and/or conveyed to the governing body of the Borough prior to the creation of the agency in 2001. It was the agency’s efforts to get the site designated as a Brownfield site and our joining with the DEP and the Federal EPA in the TRIAD group that has led to one of the most complete site investigations in the state of any Brownfield site. Moreover, all of the cost to date of the extensive environmental work at the site be it the site investigation and /or the plans for remediation have been done at no direct cost to the Milltown taxpayer. The DEP and the State Department of Community Affairs have on a number of occasions cited the Milltown model as a true environmental success story. For the first time ever the owner of the property, at his expense has been directed by the Federal EPA to clean up the powerhouse area. This was the direct result of the agency’s proactive intervention with the Federal EPA. Furthermore, the NJDEP has recently approved the agency’s work plan and grant funding for the investigation of the Mill Pond at no cost to the Borough. It is safe to say that none, and let me emphasize none of the environmental work at the site would have occurred without the creation and action of the agency.
We are finally on the brink of resolving the serious environmental issues at the site after years of benign neglect. I am also confident that ultimately remediation of the site will occur in full compliance with all state and federal requirements once the litigation is resolved. The agency and the Mayor/Council should be proud of the agency’s environmental record that is now part of the legacy of the redevelopment of Ford Avenue.
Finally, I want to wish the Mayor, the Council and the members of the agency good health and success in all your future efforts to resolve the issues surrounding the redevelopment of Ford Avenue.
I ask that these comments be made part of the minutes of this meeting and I thank all for your kind attention and the opportunity to serve.
In tonight’s resignation statement I have attempted to set forth my concerns over a potentially court mandated redevelopment plan for the Ford Avenue site should the Master’s Report be adopted by the court. I want to take this opportunity to outline what I believe to be reasonable alternatives to the Master’s Report. These suggestions are intended to mitigate the potentially harmful affects of certain aspects of the Master’s Report and at the same time offer a responsible alternative to the Master’s Report on the issue of affordable housing.
I want to emphasize that my suggested alternatives to the Master’s Report in no way challenges the courts responsibility to decide the Borough’s affordable housing obligation. My alternatives are not intended to frustrate the court in its deliberation and determination of this very important charge by the owner of the property. Rather it is intended to suggest to the Borough a vehicle where the Borough can advise the court of it’s concerns over the potential adverse impact certain elements of the Master’s Report may have on the Borough and its residents. I recognize the seriousness of this issue and that the court’s decision must be based on the testimony and evidence in this matter. Should the Borough Council ultimately agree with this alternative plan the court can than evaluate this alternative plan against the other evidence and testimony in the case.
The current action by the state legislature and the recent court pronouncements on the issue of affordable housing in the state leads me to conclude that a redevelopment plan for the Ford Avenue site will have to contain an affordable housing component. In fact the agency recognized that need when it included an affordable housing element in its redevelopment plan as contained in the current Redevelopment Agreement. The Master’s Report also supports my opinion regarding an affordable housing component at Ford Avenue by recommending a 20% set aside of the 350 units or 70 affordable housing units.
With that as a backdrop I have been asking myself the questions what real options or responsible alternatives are there to the Borough that could help mitigate the adverse impact of certain aspects of the Master’s Report before the court?? Is there a way for the Borough to provide some guidance and direction to the court to support its concern?? The facts are abundantly clear. The potential for the court to find for the owner and impose a Builder’s Remedy is a huge risk and is totally unacceptable. I have stated this publicly for some time that the potential of over 500 mixed use residential units on the site with over 100 affordable housing units would have a devastating impact on the borough. The Master’s Report recommends 350 units and contains in my opinion elements that I have attempted to set forth in my earlier statement that concern me. More importantly the Master’s Report eliminates or puts at risk many of the elements contained in the approved Redevelopment Agreement that were essential to the Borough’s redevelopment plan.
Make no mistake the Borough currently finds itself in a very difficult if not precarious predicament regarding the resolution of the affordable housing issue and its impact on the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. There are no silver bullets and all the rhetoric to solve the problems at Ford Avenue regardless of how well intentioned will not carry the day. We must accept as a given that Ford Avenue will contain an element of affordable housing by the court ordering either the Builder’s Remedy or the Master’s Report. In my opinion that is unavoidable and inevitable. There are only hard and difficult choices available and they have to be made in a responsible and bipartisan manner.
With that in mind I would like to offer or suggest an alternative redevelopment plan. The Borough’s current redevelopment plan based on the Borough’s Ordinance adopted by the Borough Council established 324 units. The 324 units are consistent with the Borough’s own expert who includes a 20% set aside for affordable housing or 64 units. This in my opinion establishes the foundation for my suggested plan. The balance of 260 mixed use residential units would be constructed and sold at their full market value. Of the 64 affordable housing units, 16 units would be designated for seniors only and the remaining 48 units would be designated as affordable housing. It is my recommendation that the Borough provide no rental units on the Ford Avenue site. All units should be owner occupied.
Another concern I had with the Master’s Report was that all 350 units are recommended to be market based. I have a serious concern with this approach. My concern is the impact such a recommendation would have on our school system and the already overburdened taxpayer. I realize that compromise may be necessary to reach a responsible solution to a difficult problem. Therefore, in an effort to reach such a compromise among the parties I would suggest that there be a reasonable allocation of the remaining 260 units between age restricted for the townhouses and age targeted for the condominiums. This should minimize the school aged children generated directly from the project. In addition, I would recommend that retail space be included in the plan to provide for a maybe a restaurant and retail shops. I was told some time back that there was an interest to locate a health care facility at the Ford Avenue site. This should also be investigated. There should also be a continuation of the 100 foot buffer and the county’s commitment to purchase along the Ponds edge approximately 4 acres and preserve it as open space. Finally, any amendment to the Borough’s current Redevelopment Agreement must contain continuation of the contribution of 1 million dollars toward the cost of consolidating the Borough’s fires stations.
I am therefore recommending that the agency tonight authorize our legal counsel to send a letter to the Mayor and Council outlining this proposal and suggesting the following procedure. Soon after the new Council is sworn in January the Mayor and the President of the Council reconvene the former citizens group to discuss and deliberate on an alternative plan as I have outlined tonight. Once a plan is agreed to and approve by the Council the Borough’s special counsel should than be authorized to provide notice to the court of the Borough’s action.
The proposed action I have outlined tonight is not chiseled in granite and I take no pride in authorship. I am not attorney and I would defer to the advice of the Borough’s Special Counsel. My objective tonight is to open up a dialogue among the various stakeholders in the Borough that would result in the Borough Council offering to the court an acceptable alternative plan to the Master’s Report. The court will than be fully appraised of the concerns of the Mayor and Council regarding the potential adverse affect the Master’s Report could have on the Borough prior to the Judge rendering his decision.
Provided herein is a status report on the Environmental Investigations being conducted at the Milltown-Ford Ave., Redevelopment Project.
All fieldwork (Stage-3) required to investigate the MIA towards developing a RAW has been completed by the project team. A Stage-3 Report was submitted to NJDEP in June 2007. Upon approval of the Stage 3 Report, and resolution on the existing litigation, a Remedial Action Workplan (RAW) will be prepared. Upon NJDEP approval of the RAW, site development in the MIA can commence.
NJDEP approved the Workplan for the Impacted Area on November 19, 2007. The investigation in this area will continue, once funds are released from NJDEP.
At the request of the Redevelopment Agency, NJDEP has allocated Funds for developing a Workplan for investigating Mill Pond. Prior to commencing this work, it is important to identify the contaminant interaction between the IA and the Pond. Accordingly, this work will commence upon completion of the IA investigation.
To date, funds have been provided by numerous entities including USEPA (through the MCIA), NJIT, NJDEP and the developer for investigative work (i.e. SI/RI) on the site totaling approximately $3 Million Dollars. Additional funds will be released to the Agency as the project progresses and workplans are approved.
A total of $3,973,519.00 was allocated in 2006 for Remedial Action of the MIA, which has been estimated at $11,571,694.00. The NJDEP has approved an additional $5 Million under the Agency’s 2007 allocation for this work. This was approved by the EDA on 12/11/07. In addition, the Agency is eligible for an additional $5 Million for 2008 for the RA work in the MIA. Receipt of this funding would fulfill the Agency’s share (75%) of the RA costs for the MIA.
In addition, further investigations in the Impacted Area and Mill Pond will continue towards developing a similar RAW for that area. Implementation of the RAW for the Impacted Area will be the final phase of Remediation for the Redevelopment Project.
To date, approximately $3 Million has been received on behalf of the Agency for environmental investigations. The investigation work continues to be funded by NJDEP under their Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation (HDSRF) program. The pending Remedial Action Work has been funded to date in the amount of $3,973,519, with an additional $5 Million recommended by the DEP and approved by the EDA at their meeting of December 11, 2007. The minutes of the meeting require the Governor’s approval which we are advised should occur by the end of the week. The Agency is also eligible for an additional $5 Million in 2008. Should this request be approved this should be sufficient to meet the Agency’s share (75%) of the Remedial Action Costs for the Minimally Impacted Area. This will bring the total HDSRF funding available to the Borough to address and resolve the environmental issues at the site to almost $14 million at no direct cost to the Milltown property taxpayer.
Vajira K. Gunawardana, P.E., P.P., CFM, F.ASCE
The letter to the Home News Tribune that was published on October 17 that your posted to your web site was edited by Mr. Hartman to, as he explains, meet the space constraints of the paper. If you want to do your readers justice I suggest you post the whole “Op Ed” piece to your web site which is attached. The HNT article was acceptable since 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
The constant deluge of misinformation regarding the Ford Avenue Redevelopment project requires an Agency response. This misinformation attempts to play on the fears of the public and create hysteria by misrepresenting the facts surrounding the project. The overall object is an attempt to kill the project at all costs. The project’s objectives, from the very beginning, were to fully and thoroughly remediate the environmental contamination at the site, demolish and remove the unsafe and unsightly blemish on Milltown’s image and to provide property tax relief to the already overburdened Milltown property taxpayer. None of those objectives are compromised by the proposed redevelopment plan.
CLAIM # 1 – The current litigation currently in New Jersey’s Superior Court, filed by the owner of the property, Mr. Berger is a charade.
RESPONSE – The suit is real, it is active and could be very costly to the Borough. Judge James Hurley has appointed a Special Master to oversee the issues in this matter and has set a deadline of November 9, 2007 for the Borough to respond to the allegations by the owner that the Borough has failed to meet its constitutional obligation of providing for affordable housing. Should the Borough fail to respond the Court and the Special Master would be left with only the Berger plan. The likelihood that the Special Master would recommend to the Court the imposition of what is referred to as the Builder’s Remedy and the Court affirm that recommendation regarding the imposition of the Berger Plan is real not a charade. This would effectively take the decision making out of the hands of the Borough. The potential imposition of 562 non-age restricted units of which 450 would be owner occupied and 112 affordable units should not be taken lightly by Borough officials. It would be a very dangerous and a cataclysmic risk on the part of Borough officials to “roll the dice” and assume the litigation is a charade.
CLAIM # 2 – The voice of the majority of Milltowners is ignored.
RESPONSE – The original proposals from all the developer’s responding to the Agency’s RFP proposed a mix use of residential, commercial and retail. There were no proposals for all open space or a mix of open space and retail and commercial. The proposals contained housing units that started at about 440 residential units and no developer proposed age restricted housing. The current proposed plan calls for 276 units a reduction of 174 units or a downsizing of the residential units at the site by 39%. In addition 114 townhouses of the 276 will be age restricted and 66 units will be constructed to meet the Borough’s affordable housing state mandated requirement. The site will also have a 100 ft. buffer from the Mill Pond’s edge in direct response to the request of the Milltown group. The proposed plan is a balanced and responsible alternative to a very serious court challenge.
CLAIM # 3 – The Agency is not serious about the environmental issues at the site. Their only objective is the redevelopment of the site.
RESPONSE – The Agency reached out to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to work together in addressing the serious environmental challenges at the site. The Agency together with those agencies entered into a first of its kind agreement called (TRIAD) where all the interested parties in the environmental community would work together very closely in a cooperative manner, with the Agency’s environmental experts. This objective was to insure a complete and thorough site investigation and ultimate clean up of the contamination in accordance with all federal and state requirements. Again the Agency in order to insure the widest possible input on this important issue, authorized the participation in all the TRIAD activity of Mr. Richard Chapin, the environmental expert of the Milltown’s group.
CLAIM # 4 – The infrastructure costs including the upgrade to the electric, water or sewer facilities that can be attributed to the project will be borne by the Milltown property taxpayer.
RESPONSE – The cost of any infrastructure improvements that are attributable to any project are normally subject to the Borough’s “Fair Share” policy which has been consistently applied in all development projects. The “Fair Share” concept is where the developer and the Borough share in the cost of the infrastructure improvements. It is important to note that the Borough’s share of the infrastructure improvements are recovered by the Borough through the rates charged for the electric, water and sewer service. Those rates would be applicable to the residents of the Ford Avenue development.
CLAIM # 5 – A flier distributed by the Milltown group at Pride in Milltown Day attempts to project the yearly increase in property taxes to the Borough resident at $2,870,000 a year from the increase of 275 grade school aged children from the project and $3,282,500 a year from the increase in high school aged children from the project.
RESPONSE – The flier unfortunately does not contain any back up analysis nor is it sourced as to how and who developed the data. There is no supporting documentation for any of the claims set forth in the flier. Even if one could argue that the flier has credibility there is no proof to date to substantiate those assumptions. The assumptions in the flier involve very complex and difficult analysis usually involving specialized education and experience. Normally a high level of expertise or experience is necessary to develop this analysis. There no evidence submitted to support any of the forgoing. For example some of the fliers short comings relate to the assumption that the rescue squad will have to out source its services in order to serve the Ford Avenue project. This is pure speculation not based on any experience with the squad’s scope of operation or financial condition. At the recent Council meeting a senior member of the squad stated that while the squad may have to outsource some of its services in the future that decision would be totally unrelated to the additional residents coming from the Ford Avenue project. Another area that is pure speculation is the assumption of the increased sanitation costs. The residents of Ford Avenue will become members of an association. It is anticipated that included in the association fees, similar to many associations, the cost of garbage collection and snow removal is handled by private collectors. Therefore there would be no impact on the Borough’s municipal services. The most serious bogus assumption is that the project will produce 275 school children. That assumption has as much validity as an assumption that the project will produce Zero or no school aged children. Both assumptions are preposterous. The Borough’s experts who have outstanding credentials in this area relying on studies from the Rutgers University Urban Policy Research Group and the Development Impact Assessment Handbook entitled The Urban Land Initiative stated that approximately 37 students will result from the proposed redevelopment plan. The best that can be said is that the Milltown group’s analysis cannot be supported by any reliable or credible data and must be accepted for what it is a mathematical exercise without any reliable substantiation. Furthermore a leader of the Milltown group stated at the Council meeting of October 9, 2007 that the Mill on Washington Avenue sends 14 school aged children to the Milltown school system. A check with Milltown’s School Superintendent, Dr. Linda Madison, who checked the records of the district indicates that only Two (2) children from the Mill are currently attending Pre K through 12 grade in the Milltown School system. The Mill is approximately 45 condos of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms.
COMMENT – The most egregious statement used in support of the Milltown’s group’s opposition to the proposed redevelopment plan is an attempt to compare the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, where over 3,000 innocent lives were lost with the actions taken to address the Ford Avenue redevelopment plan. In a letter to the editor, from a senior member of the group, that appeared in the Home News Tribune dated October 9, 2007 it stated and I quote, “Let September 11, 2001, always be remembered not solely (Emphasis added) for the tragedies that occurred on that day but also for the travesty of justice that happened in Middlesex County where a wonderful little town in Middlesex County was compromised by inept professionals and politicians both elected and selected to protect the public.”
That statement is so far over the top that I refuse to make any comment. It is best left up to the residents of Milltown to be the judge regarding the forgoing statement.
Over the past few months I have been reluctant to discuss in any detail the implications of the current litigation brought by the property owner’s of Ford Avenue, involving the Borough as it relates to the affordable housing issue and the agency’s redevelopment plan for the Ford Avenue site that is incorporated in the Developer’s Agreement approved by the agency. However, in talking to many residents over the past few months it has become quite clear to me that there is confusion and misunderstanding over the subject of the litigation and more importantly what its impact would be on the Borough should the owner’s of Ford Avenue prevail in their suit.
After careful thought and consideration I have concluded that it is important for the residents to be fully informed about the potential impact on the Borough should the litigation be successful. More importantly the residents need to understand how success of the litigation could impact them and what is at stake for them and the Borough should the owner’s suit prevail. As Chairman of the agency, I believe it is the agency’s obligation to open a dialogue with the residents to discuss the facts surrounding the litigation. What I intend to discuss in my statement is already in the public domain. It is the Borough and its residents that will be most affected by the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. In the matter of the pending litigation there is the potential for a court ordered plan.
I have stated in the past and I continue to believe that the vast majority of residents support the agency’s plan for redevelopment which is dramatically different than the plan before the court. Should the court uphold the owner’s suit I believe that the will of the majority of the Borough’s residents would be frustrated. Discussing with the borough residents the facts in the litigation and its potential impact, should the owner succeed in the litigation, on the Borough and its residents is a responsibility we must not shirk. Clearly the resident’s best interests are at stake in the current litigation. In order for the residents to make an informed judgment over the issues involving redevelopment of Ford Avenue they need to know the relevant facts in litigation. As I have stated I believe as an agency we have that responsibility.
This agency in developing our redevelopment plan has been both responsive and responsible to the residents. Our decision to redevelop Ford Avenue has been guided by what we believe the public wants. We have listened to the majority of residents for over the last five + years and where possible we have modified the plan accordingly. The owner’s suit, if nothing else does brings the redevelopment issue of Ford Avenue clearly to the fore. I will discuss what I mean by that statement and why it is so important for the residents of Milltown to fully understand what is at stake and at risk in the current litigation.
The suit before the Superior Court of New Jersey was brought by SB Builders Associates, L.P., SB Milltown Industrial Realty Holdings, LLC., and Alsol Corp., the owners of the property in Milltown which is the area that is the subject of the redevelopment plan included in the agency’s Developer’s Agreement. Defendant’s in the suit are the Borough of Milltown, the Planning Board of the Borough, the Milltown Ford Avenue Redevelopment Agency, the County of Middlesex and Boraie Development, LLC. The suit against the Borough is pretty specific in what is referred to as exclusionary zoning, Mount Laurel II. The suit alleges, among other things, that the Borough has failed to create sufficient realistic opportunities for the construction of safe, decent housing affordable to low and moderate income households to satisfy its fair share of the unmet regional need for such housing. The suit further alleges that as a result the Borough is in violation of the New Jersey Constitution and the Fair Housing Act of 1985 as construed by the New Jersey Supreme Court in a case brought before the Supreme Court in 1983. How the Borough finds itself in this quandary at this time and who may be responsible is really not important nor will it result in resolution of the issue. I have stated before playing the “blame game” serves no useful purpose. The Borough now faces a very serious challenge that requires a responsible response to the allegations in the litigation. It is my hope that we see a bipartisan solution to this serious challenge not political posturing or demagoguery. In my opinion, should the governing body fail in its response to the pending litigation the potential outcome or result could be devastating to the Borough.
Essentially the owner’s suit seeks to have the court declare that Milltown is in fact in violation of its constitutional obligations and asks the court to require the Borough to rezone the property so as to remove the restrictions placed on the property limiting residential development to age-restricted housing and to increase the permissible density on said property. The owner also asks the court to appoint a special master to in effect oversee the implementation of his plan and award a site-specific builder’s remedy and effectively halt all redevelopment activity pending further action by the court. The parties all agreed to a 90 day suspension of all activity, except for the SI environmental work currently underway at the site.
What does all of this portend for the redevelopment of Ford Avenue?
The agency’s plan at this time remains unchanged. Namely the complete clean up and remediation of all environmental degradation at the site in full compliance with state and federal requirements, the 100 foot buffer between the Mill Pond and the development, $1,000,000 contribution to the Borough for the consolidation of the fire stations, facilities for our senior citizens and sizable a contribution toward property tax relief, estimated to be somewhere in the magnitude of 1.4 million annually to the borough. The Plan would result in the construction of 276 age restricted residential units and approximately 28,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. This would equate to approximately 15 residential units per acre at the 22.4 acre site.
On the other hand the owner’s suit, commonly referred to as a “builder’s remedy” would place 550 residential units on the site, or approximately 25 residential units per acre on the 22.4 acre site. This would result in an additional 274 market based residential units being built on the site over and above the 276 age restricted units proposed in the Developer’s Agreement. This represents an almost 100% increase in the total number of units currently planned for the site. In addition, none of the 550 residential units would be age restricted and all would be market based units. There has been no commercial and retail space identified in the court papers. We assume that the 100 foot buffer around the Mill Pond would have to be eliminated to accommodate the 550 residential units on the 22.4 acres. There is no discussion of the $1,000,000 contribution to the Borough in the moving papers. As a point of interest the suit asks the court to set aside this part of the developer’s agreement.
In my opinion the options now facing the Borough, relative to the affordable housing issue, for the redevelopment of Ford Avenue have been clearly crystallized as a result of this litigation. The final plan for the redevelopment of Ford Avenue could be decided by the Court. Or in the alternative The Borough could fashion a response to the “builder’s remedy” before the court in the form of an alternative or modification to the current Agency’s Plan. This could be in response to the claim that the Borough has failed to provide for affordable housing and respond to the constitutional violation argued in the litigation before the court. It is critical for every resident to fully understand what is at stake should the owner succeed in the litigation.
The agency is not a named defendant relative to the affordable housing issue before the court. More importantly, the agency does not have any jurisdiction nor does it have any authority over the ultimate disposition of the alleged affordable housing claim in the complaint. However, the agency was created by the Mayor and Council to carry out the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. We both have the best interests of the residents as our objective in carrying out this mandate. Therefore we must work together in seeking a responsible resolution of this matter. While the agency may not have any authority over the final disposition of the affordable housing issue before the court I want the Mayor and Council to know that we strand ready and willing to work with the governing body to help resolve this matter. I will state again the agency wants a plan of redevelopment for Ford Avenue that is in the best interests of the residents and the Borough of Milltown. I believe that the owner’s suit if affirmed by the court is an unacceptable solution to the redevelopment of Ford Avenue for a host of reasons. A responsible and economically viable solution to the future redevelopment of Ford Avenue has been the agency’s only objective. In my opinion the risk of having the “builder’s remedy”, as sought by the current owner’s of Ford Avenue and the subject of the litigation, decided by the court could have a deleterious effect on the Borough. I want to thank the agency and to the residents for their attention.
I have been advised by our attorney neither to make any public statements regarding the current litigation nor to entertain any public discussion while the litigation is pending. Obviously I have no intention of jeopardizing the Borough of Milltown’s successful defense of the litigation brought by the owner of the Ford Avenue site. However, I feel compelled, as Chairman of the agency to respond for the record to recent statements in the press from a leader and co-founder of the group called “Milltowners for a $sensible Ford Avenue Redevelopment”.
The comments of this individual supporting a plan that has a 45% increase in density, no age restriction on the units, no senior citizens project and loss of the $1,000,000 contribution toward the consolidation of the Borough’s fire stations highlights his agenda. This is quite apparent by the inconsistent nature of his recent statements. Let me explain. The following is Mr. Jegou’s quote from the Newark Star Ledger dated Friday, January 26, 2007: “Milltown can’t build anymore. I don’t believe in condemnation and I’d like to see Berger win this suit.” Ironically he has had an “original plan” in the Borough lobby for over two years. It calls for either open space, commercial and no residential units. Let me quote Mr. Jegou again “I’d like to see Berger win this suit.” For the record, Mr. Berger’s suit as outlined in the court papers, calls for 550 residential units, none of which are age restricted and contains no open space or commercial. Mr. Berger’s proposal does not contemplate any commercial space. Mr. Jegou’s “original plan” is all open space and commercial. Seems to me the two plans are in serious conflict. In addition, Mr. Jegou stated that he is opposed to condemnation. If title to the property for Mr. Jegou’s “ original plan” can’t successfully be negotiated with the current property owner I don’t know how in God’s name he expects to get title to the property to develop his plan if he doesn’t believe in condemnation? If he is opposed to the concept of condemnation, because it represents giving title to the property to developer Boraie, he would have to be opposed to condemnation giving title to the property to any developer including his, assuming a developer exists for his “ original plan”. This just doesn’t seem to make any sense at all.
His plan has not proven to be the “silver bullet” he professes it to be. I know of no serious offers or for that matter any offers to develop the site according to their “original plan”. If they had any “real” offers they would have been trumpeting them a long time ago.
So it is clear to all Milltown residents the Berger proposal before the court does not include any commercial or retail space, would have 550 residential units, or approximately 25 units per acre and all the residential units would be market based. There are no and I emphasize no age restricted units, 55 years or older in his plan that is before the court. If you do the math the Berger plan of 25 units per acre represents an approximately 45% increase in the density at the site over the agency’s plan of 15 units per acre. Furthermore, all and I state again all of the 550 residential units would be market based. Assuming that only half of those units, and I am told by experts that this is a conservative figure, have only one child, we are talking about a potential influx of school age children of approximately 225 children to be added to the Milltown School system.
The leadership of the Milltown group now supports a plan that increases the density at the site by 45% over the agency’s plan, totally removes the age restricted requirement and makes the 550 units market based. This acknowledged support of the Berger proposal is in direct conflict with their “original plan”. Is the leadership now talking on behalf of all its alleged members? They have been attacking and vilifying the members of the agency and opposing the agency’s plan because the agency’s plan proposes what they call high density residential housing. However, they now embrace and support an alternative plan that includes an even higher density of residential housing than the agency’s plan. It does not include any commercial or retail space the cornerstone of the Jegou plan. Mr. Jegou’s statement is a clear an unequivocal endorsement of the Berger plan that is 180 degrees opposed to their “original plan”. He went on to say… “If we only had commercial space there to bring in the ratable too the borough.” I want to state again for the record that there is no commercial or retail space in the Berger filing with the court that Mr. Jegou now endorses.
Having now been exposed Mr. Jegou tries to explain away or justify his recent position to the press by saying in a Sentinel press article dated February 8, 2007, almost two weeks after his quote of support for the Berger proposal in the Star Ledger article, the following. “If Mr. Berger wins, now we have a chance to say ‘No this is no good’. Mr. Jegou is not a lawyer nor does he have any legal training to allow him to speculate or draw any legal conclusions regarding the potential outcome of a very complex case involving a serious constitutional issue before the court. More importantly I for one would not want to rely on his “legal” opinion as to the potential outcome of the case and the options available to the Borough.
The misstatements, inconsistencies and distortions expressed recently by Mr. Jegou about the redevelopment of Ford Avenue are troubling. When you examine many of his statements it becomes exceeding clear that his position has vacillated all over the lot and are clearly contradictory. He appears to lack an understanding and grasp of the complex process, issues and the legal implications facing the Borough and the agency.
I pledge as Chairman to continue to be honest and forthright with the residents of Milltown in discussing the myriad of complex issues facing the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. I am still hopeful that resolution of the court proceeding will ultimately be in line with the agency’s objectives and ultimately in the best interest of the Borough of Milltown and its residents. As Chairman I offer the services of the agency to assist the Mayor and Council in helping find a reasonable and responsible solution that will allow the Ford Avenue redevelopment project to go forward as planned. I am willing to discuss and bring before the agency consideration of any and all responsible alternative solutions that ultimately are in the best interests of the Borough and its residents. At the end of the day it is the best interests of the Borough and its residents that we have been entrusted to serve.
I have stated on a number of occasions that this is a very serious matter. The wrong decision could have dire consequences on the Borough. Let us not get caught up in either the “blame game” or politics in trying to solve this critical problem. I firmly believe that all options should be explored and left on the table. Mr. Jegou there is an old saying, “Be careful over what you wish for you may be surprised and get it.”
I want to again thank the Mayor for nominating me to another term on the agency, the Council’s confirmation of my appointment and my colleagues for electing me Chairman. My pledge to the governing body of Milltown and to its residents is to do everything humanly possible to complete the job the agency has undertaken that is the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. The goals of the agency in redeveloping Ford Avenue have not changed. Ford Avenue will be redeveloped in an environmentally sound manner in full accordance with state and federal standards. The agency’s plan maintains the traditional values and culture of the Borough. The plan is economically viable in other words it will be marketable and provide for a stand alone senior citizens facility, maintain the $1,000,000 commitment toward the consolidation of the Borough’s fire facilities and finally ensure that the project, when fully built out provides the maximum amount of property tax relief for the Borough’s already overburdened property taxpayer. From my perspective as Chairman these goals are non-negotiable.
I still believed with full conviction that the Plan approved by the agency is the right plan and direction for the Borough and want to see it through to completion. Yet, as I have expressed in the past, I am suffering from the same sense of frustration over the lack of progress of the project. I did envision the project being further down the path of redevelopment. However, for reasons beyond my control or that of the agency we are where we are. However, I’d be less than candid if I didn’t state that the over all progress of the project to date continues to frustrate me. I began questioning or wondering whether new leadership could move the project to the next phase. As Chairman I have been a very strong and outspoken advocate of the agency’s plan. It therefore placed me in the crosshairs of those opposed to the plan. That aspect has never really bothered me. As they say it comes with the territory. However, was the ancient Egyptian custom of “If you don’t like the message kill the messenger” unknowingly influencing the agency’s plan??
What motivated me to accept reappointment to the agency was the need to move the redevelopment of the site which has been the vehicle for facilitating the clean up and environmental remediation of Ford Avenue. It is without any doubt a critical issue facing Milltown. It was one reason that motivated me to go before the Mayor and Council some five years ago to suggest that they consider the formation of the agency to address the Ford Avenue challenge. Unfortunately, the attacks on the merits of the agency’s plan where being clouded by allegations that as Chairman I was acting in an arrogant manner that precluded the public from a fair chance to be heard on the issues. These allegations were and are troublesome. I know in my heart of hearts that they are without foundation.
While I have always been known as a worthy adversary I likewise have a reputation of respecting contrary views albeit at times very aggressively but yet very respectfully. The allegation that is especially troublesome is where a citizen has alleged that I said to him quote “shut up and sit down.” This has been stated on the floor of this chamber and in the press on numerous occasions without substantiation. I can honestly state publicly and have done so before that I have no recollection of ever making such a statement. But maybe it was said and I honestly don’t remember. So to clear the air once and for all I have asked my accusers to do what is only reasonable. Since they made the accusation provide proof that I said what they claim I said. I ask them again to present either a quote from the newspaper account they are relying on or the video tape of the meeting where I made such a statement. I made this request literally some time back in an effort back than to put this issue to bed once and for all. To date my request has gone unanswered. Just in case the request has been overlooked or forgotten I will reiterate my request again tonight. If presented with either documentation I will publicly apologize to my accusers and the residents of Milltown for such a disrespectful comment.
I want to put this charge of alleged “arrogance” behind us and fine tune the more important aspects of the agency’s plan. This current request is made with the same objective of the past. My commitment is to do what is right by the citizens of Milltown. There has been enough personal vilification and acrimony of the agency and its members. I have made a decision and commitment to myself and the residents that acceptance of reappointment to the agency would not contribute, invite or be the cause for the public’s concern in attending the agency’s meeting. The agency’s deliberations and actions are too important to allow this type of attempted distraction to occur.
My over all decision to accept reappointment was driven by a very strong conviction that the public policy initiative and the agency’s plan has the support of a majority of the citizens of the Borough. I have seen no tangible or reliable evidence over the past five years, bearing in mind the countless meetings and outreach of the agency to prove otherwise. The agency acknowledges and I have stated that there are challenges presented by the agency’s redevelopment of the site. We were accused of being indifferent toward the cleanup of the site. Opponents argued that we would compromise the environmental cleanup to the benefit of the developer. Those critics have been proven wrong. For the record Ford Avenue has had the most extensive site investigation and remediation of a Brownfield site its size in DEP history. My fellow residents that just didn’t happen it was planned and occurred because of the agency’s actions working in cooperation with the State DEP and the EPA. The agency’s concern in assuring that all voices are heard on the environmental issues and insure input into the remediation of the site, resulted in the agency’s authorization of Mr. Chapin, the opposition group’s environmental engineer to be part of the TRIAD group. This resulted in his active participation in all of the work of TRIAD involving the extended site investigation and remediation deliberations of the site.
Let me for a moment due a little revisionist history. Some of our residents who were not around may not be aware of and other residents who were around may have forgotten about Milltown’s challenges of the past. Milltown faced the same pubic policy challenges in it’s recent past regarding the proper management of its future growth and expansion that it now faces with the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. I recall the same doom and gloom being expressed when the Borough addressed the much needed expansion of Joyce Kilmer School in the mid 70’s, the privatization of the library, the Borough’s redevelopment plan of the Mill, the Washington Avenue residential development, together with the Lindstrom tract on Clay and Brook Drive. Remember the limited but vocal opposition to the construction of the Borough Hall and the Home Depot. These projects all presented challenges no different than those presented by Ford Avenue. All those perceived challenges were resolved in the best interest of Milltown and its residents. At the end of the day the life style, culture and tradition of the Borough of Milltown was not changed one iota. Why because Milltown has always been blessed with elected and appointed officials who had the courage, commitment and foresight to guide Milltown through these challenges. In so doing they did not compromise the life style or culture of the Borough or its residents. In making those tough decisions our officials always saw the glass half full not half empty. I’m convinced that today Milltown enjoys that same caliber of public official.
Let us remember that the Ford Avenue agency was created and appointments made on a bipartisan basis. It was taken out of the usual political arena of procrastination that ultimately results in inaccurate, confusing and self serving messages being conveyed to the public. Both political parties in Milltown have put the best interest of solving the problems at Ford Avenue above partisan politics. I would argue further that the diversity, growth and improved municipal services resulting from the above projects have enhanced the culture lifestyle and traditions of the Borough of Milltown. The same will occur when the agency’s plan for Ford Avenue becomes a reality. Make no mistake no major change, especially the magnitude of the changes necessary at Ford Avenue will come easily or without challenges. If you look at the redevelopment plan of Ford Avenue honestly and objectively and weigh the benefits to the Borough and its resident/taxpayers the pluses far outweigh any perceived minuses. What I do believe is that at the end of the day when the project is completed and finally implemented the environmental nightmare and eyesore at Ford Avenue will be finally solved. All of the challenges presented by redevelopment of the site will be more than adequately remedied and long forgotten just like the projects of the past.
So tonight I again publicly commit to the residents of Milltown a continuation of the candid, open, honest and factual dialogue of the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. You have been and are more than welcome to come before this agency at any time to express your views regarding the agency’s plan of redevelopment. If there has been any misunderstanding regarding this matter I take full responsibility. You should not be concerned over your participation and expressing your view points. Put aside any fear or perception that appearance before the agency will be met with intimidation by me or any member of the agency. This has never been the case nor is it my style or objective. The purpose and intention of this statement is not to concede that it exists but to remove any obstacles that may inhibit the public’s participation at our meetings perceived or otherwise. This is not and I repeat not to be considered as a new policy or a change in course of the agency but a reaffirmation of existing policy to publicly allay any concerns that may exist in the minds of the public.
Let me express a note of caution however. In all the years that I have served in either an elected or appointed position, whether it be on Council, as President of the Library Board or the Fourth of July Committee and others I have always found Milltown residents to be respectful of constituted authority and that authority respectful of the rights of the public. I have experienced this first hand. As they say I have “walked the walk and talked the talk” and in doing so I have never been accused of being arrogant. It is critical for all sides to accept and exhibit mutual respect for each other. While we may disagree we don’t have to be disagreeable. I want to make clear that as Chairman it is my responsibility to insure that our meetings are conducted in a civil manner. There should be no mistake or misunderstanding that civil disobedience toward any legally constituted order or ruling by this agency will be dealt with accordingly. Furthermore, all too often in the past misinformation and distorted facts have been brought out at our meetings that as Chairman I could not allow to stand without correction. The public has to understand also that it is my responsibility as Chairman, to insure that accurate data and factual information is brought before the agency and is conveyed to the public. We have an obligation to see that the public is provided with the accurate facts about the agency’s plans for the redevelopment of Ford Avenue. Only than can an informed position on the future of Ford Avenue be made. As Chairman this is my commitment to the residents of Milltown.
Thank you for listening and a Happy and healthy New Year to all.