Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bad News

The rich Kushner developers are still trying to force Chatham Borough to let them build a 100-unit rental apartment project at Post Office Plaza – instead of our own 15-affordable apartment house, which the Borough Council voted to approve last May 2.

Will the Kushners get away with that?

Find out this Thursday, August 25, when the Honorable Stephen Hansbury will consider if it’s better for Post Office Plaza to house 15 families or 100 families with no place for children to play.

Interested? Come to the Morris County courthouse, Court & Anne Streets, CR 151, at 1:30 pm on Thursday August 25, 2022.

Misinformation

You read in the local paper about an August 9 hearing on the Kushners’ sore looser lawsuit against Chatham Borough over the fate of Post Office Plaza? Not so!

The judge has postponed that hearing to August 25, when he’ll also consider Final Compliance and related actions by Fair Share Housing Center.

What Now?

Nearly three years ago, Chatham’s Mayor & Borough Council granted a Kushner family-led partnership the exclusive right to submit proposals for a Borough-sponsored real estate development at Post Office Plaza.

Kushner and partners failed to come up with a proposal acceptable to the Borough.

Best they could offer was a hulking, 100-rental unit, commercial apartment/retail project. It would have provided 15 affordable apartments, but wiped out existing public parking, clogged up traffic on Main Street, cost taxpayers heaven-only-knows-what, and destroyed the small town charm of our Borough. Residents didn’t like it.

On January 26, 2022, our Mayor & Council let the exclusive period lapse, and began to entertain other proposals. On May 2, they voted to build a modest, 15-family, all-affordable apartment house at Post Office Plaza.

Instead of accepting that decision, on Wednesday, June 8 the Kushner partnership asked an affordable housing judge to force our Mayor & Council to accept the commercial real estate project they had just voted down.

The judge chose July 8 as the date for a hearing on the Kushner motion, making it unlikely that the judge will decide as expected on June 24 whether Chatham has fulfilled its affordable housing obligations. http://chathamchoice.org/2022/05/whats-next-for-post-office-plaza-2/

Last Friday, June 10, the Borough Council cancelled its regular Monday, June 13 meeting, only to turn around and schedule a special meeting for 5:00 pm this coming Wednesday, June 22.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes, our paid experts have been revising a key Borough document called the Housing Element & Fair Share Plan to satisfy the Borough’s obligations under the Secret Agreement dated June 14, 2021 as amended (paragraphs 8(b)(iii) and 12.) http://chathamchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/06-14-2021-Settlement-Agreement-Chatham-Borough-MRS-L-1906-15-Fully-Executed.pdf

The revised Housing Element will be up for approval at two special meetings set for the coming week, both at 7:30 pm, Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level, and virtually as indicated in the links below.

May 26 – Planning Board

https://www.chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/3895

May 31 – Mayor & Borough Council

http://chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/3896

Here’s a link to the proposed Housing Element, which the Planning Board and Council are expected to approve in the next few days:

https://www.chathamborough.org/government/documents/meeting-documents/planning-board-meetings/2022-planning-board-meeting-documents/2022-planning-board-agendas/2108-2022-05-16-hefsp-amendment-final4/file

Here’s the document the Planning Board adopted:

https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/1399493/2022-05-27-HEFSP_amendment.finaladopted.pdf

#KEEPCHATHAMSMALL

What’s Next for Post Office Plaza?

1 June 2022 – New Deadline for Amending the Housing Element and Spending Plan as required by the 14 June 2021 Agreement

Here is the document the Borough Council must amend by June 1:

https://chathamborough.org/government/documents/redevelopment-projects-documents/general-documents/1514-2016-housing-element-and-fair-share-plan-adopted-09-21-2016-2/file

Please note that the amendment will require a special meeting of the Planning Board, because it has cancelled both May meetings.

Below is the document Jonathan Drill used to create that June 1 deadline only after he had misled Borough residents on an April 6 Zoom, falsely claiming that the Council must name and sign a developer by June 1:

24 June 2022 – 1:30 pm – Virtual Hearing on Compliance with the 14 June 2021 Agreement:

At that 24 June hearing, the Judge is expected to decide whether or not the Borough has fulfilled its obligations under the agreement of 14 June 2021 and should be allowed to retain its immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits until 1 July 2025.

For the Zoom link, contact Jonathan Drill, jdrill@sksdlaw.com, by 22 June.

For copies of the implementing documents, contact Acting Clerk Steve Williams at 973-635-0674 or swilliams@chathamborough.org.

https://www.chathamborough.org/component/fileman/file/Notice%20of%20Compliance%20Hearing%20%20-%20Affordable%20Housing%20Settlement%20Agreement.pdf?routed=1&container=fileman-attachments

1 July 2025 – End of Borough’s Immunity from Builder’s Remedy Lawsuits – Fourth Round Begins

Close call

Chatham Borough dodged a bullet last week.

Our Mayor cast the tie-breaking vote in the choice between the two leading proposals for the redevelopment of Post Office Plaza. He sided with the three Council members who had voted to build a modest, 15-family, all affordable apartment house, rather than the 100-family, mixed-use project favored by the other three. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/sections/real-estate/articles/chatham-borough-mayor-kobylarz-casts-tie-breaking-vote-for-post-office-plaza-chooses-15-100-affordable-housing-over-kre-100

The Mayor made the right choice, as it was the smallest and best of the options presented. But those options were too limited. All five involved new construction and the sacrifice of at least some public parking. We’d be far better off using existing apartments to meet our affordable housing quotas. http://chathamchoice.org/2022/04/whats-the-rush/

Our Mayor & Council will soon have another chance to pursue that so called ”market-to-affordable” option when they enter negotiations for the fourth round of affordable housing quotas due in July 2025. We must urge and encourage them to seize that opportunity. 

For a different take on the history of POP check out this LTE by Republican CBC candidates: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/the-post-office-plaza-process-too-little-too-late?fbclid=IwAR1l65e6sGNI27dSSVopUA7QC67OytVcrjMq-pcQkoBE8vR3HN3Ly_t_6TQ

Our future

This Monday, May 2, our Council will vote on the future of Chatham Borough.

Will they vote for the good of our hometown? Or chase the hope of big revenues?

No amount of revenue can ever justify jeopardizing the lives of our volunteer firefighters.

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/categories/letters-to-the-editor/articles/a-firefighter-s-response-to-mathiasen-s-letter-on-post-office-plaza?fbclid=IwAR06anY8PPD3Pli6oJXpnLEYWw1-mO6iRlh0E0AeRSNOO7jSO41NiW5xG9s

Call 973 701 6811. Leave a message. Tell the Mayor & Council that if we MUST build at POP, you prefer the smallest and safest option, which is #3.

Come to the Council meeting this Monday, May 2, 7:30 pm, Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level.

Bad options, scarce information

Please come to the Middle School at 7:30 tonight, April 25, to learn about the five proposals for the future of Post Office Plaza, which our Council will decide by vote next Monday, May 2nd.

It’s nice to have five options, thanks to our Mayor, but (for reasons our Borough experts can’t seem to explain) those options aren’t broad – or even adequate – and the Council lacks the basic information necessary to make a good choice for Chatham.

(Demand better options! http://chathamchoice.org/2022/04/great-meeting/)

Costs, for instance: How much would it cost the Borough to support each proposal under consideration?

Good question. But you’ll find no answer in the table provided by the experts we taxpayers pay to help us:

Sure, that table estimates our ”financial obligation” as guarantor of certain projects and mentions the sacrifice of our irreplaceable public parking lot. But what’s the value of that public land we’re about to sacrifice? Based on comps, it’s worth at least $10.5 million – more than ten times the $1 million sale price shown in proposal #2.

And what about the additional, ongoing costs for schools, police, firefighting, public works, library services, parking, etc? How much would all that cost residents and taxpayers under each of the scenarios under consideration?

Far as we can discover, the Mayor & Council have never even tried to estimate those costs. (Far as we can tell, they never did so for their 259-unit apartment project under construction at River Road, either.)

Now let’s look at what the table above does reveal about the options on offer:

Option #1: Nightmare. A huge, 4-story, 118-unit apartment project to be crammed into the small plot behind the Post Office, west of little Bowers Lane. On the plus side, it would include 18 affordable family units and might generate $563,000 in annual PILOT payments, but we’d get no property taxes. This project would also bring far greater density, put at least 200 more cars on Main Street, and sacrifice our public parking lot – worth at least $10.5 million – for a little paved patio (they call a ”village green”) and a dangerous, hulking, multi-level, parking garage. http://chathamchoice.org/2022/01/is-this-what-you-want-for-chatham/ What about the costs? Would Chatham Borough wind up with any net revenue at all? Nobody’s saying. Absolutely horrible.

Option #2: Nightmare II. A big 3-story, 100-unit project west of Bowers Lane, with a ”village green” that’s paved over. On the plus side, it would provide 15 affordable family units. But this project would sacrifice 100% of our public parking lot – worth at least $10.5 million – for as little as $1 million, leaving us with NO public parking at POP. That lack of parking might offset some of the additional traffic, but would probably kill most of our existing downtown businesses. In effect, we’d suffer greater density in return for nothing but the hope of $415,000 in annual PILOT payments. And what about the Borough costs for 100 additional families? No estimates available. We could end up with no net revenue. Terrible.

Option #3: Best Hope. A much smaller, 3-story, 15-unit project west of Bowers Lane. On the plus side, this one would provide 15 affordable housing units, an est. $45,000 per year in PILOT payments, would cost the Borough far less density, traffic, and municipal services than #1 or #2, would upgrade and preserve almost half of our public parking lot along with some small-town charm. Only issue would be the possibility of up to $1.5 million in construction costs, which could lead to a very small property tax increase. That would be well worth it to preserve our borough. So if we must choose among these five options, this is our best hope.

Option #4: Frankenstein. An even bigger, 3-story, 200-unit project. It would include a large 100-family project on the west side of Bowers and a 115-bed assisted living facility on the east side. This option would provide 22 units of affordable housing, and might bring in $415,000 per year in gross revenue – plus unspecified assisted living taxes – but it would dramatically increase density and traffic, bring Main Street to a halt at shift changes, and sacrifice our public parking lot – worth at least $10.5 million – for a mere $1 million or so. What about the other Borough costs? Again, we have no information about that. Just plain terrible.

Option 5: Frankenstein Jr. A variation on #3, with a small, 10-11 unit family apartment house on the west side of tiny Bowers Lane, and a huge, 100-unit, 115-bed assisted living facility crammed onto a less-than-1-acre plot on the east side of Bowers Lane. The plus is that it could provide up to 18 units of affordable housing and perhaps $30,000 per year in gross revenues – along with unspecified assisted living taxes – and a parking lot upgrade. But that’s only after reducing the lot by more than 50% – without compensation. This option would also dramatically increase traffic, and choke Bowers Lane at shift-changing times. It might cost as much as $1 million to finance construction of the apartment building, but we could easily finance that with no more than a minuscule tax increase, which would be far better than Options #1, #2, and #4. What would the other costs total? No known estimates. Bad, but not the worst possibility.

With top experts on retainer, how did it come to this? How can our Council possibly choose from such bad (and poorly detailed) options on May 2 as planned?

Great Meeting

Terrific showing at last night’s Town Hall on the reckless overdevelopment of Post Office Plaza.

Were you satisfied with the options on offer? Prefer to see a broader range of better options? Hit this link: https://forms.gle/9gmtKu4SE6Yr4YP28

We’ll have another shot at it next Monday night, April 25, 7:30, when Borough lawyer Jonathan Drill returns to the Middle School auditorium to spin us with half-truths, as he did at the April 6 Zoom meeting:

http://chathamchoice.org/2022/04/whats-the-rush/

Just don’t let him badger, interrupt, condescend to and bully you (as he did last night) into picking one of his options. Let’s get all the facts before making any choices.

Whatever the eventual outcome, Chatham will be far better off because of our efforts.

Best thing to do now is write a quick letter to the editor. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/  Give your opinion of last night’s Town Hall. Maybe mention our wonderful moderator. The Council’s failure to participate. The Mayor suddenly ending the meeting when he’d promised to go all night. Their failure to negotiate with Fran Drew as with the other bidders.

Please include this link to our petition, calling for a broad range of options: https://forms.gle/9gmtKu4SE6Yr4YP28