Tag Archives: Chatham

What’s next for Post Office Plaza?

With the Kushner partnership’s exclusive contract for Post Office Plaza set to expire on Jan 26, will our Mayor and Council decide to:

  • give the Kushner partnership yet another extension of time (their sixth!) to come up with a decent design for Post Office Plaza; or
  • let the Kushners’ exclusive contract expire – and give someone else a chance to design something that might suit us – instead of swamping our roads, schools, police and fire departments, and destroying our quality of life in Chatham Borough?

Which way will the Mayor and Council decide to go? To find out, tune in this Monday, Jan 24, at 7:30 pm using this link:

https://chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2384

Should be some clues in the agenda for Monday’s Council meeting. They usually post them on the Friday before each meeting. But the new agenda wasn’t yet posted on the Borough website as of 5:00 pm EST on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. https://chathamborough.org/

Mr. Mayor, we’re counting on you to do your best for Chatham. Remember what you wrote in 2016:

… should a multistory garage and transit village (with four-story, multi-unit buildings) be built in this area, an additional downside could certainly materialize… namely a diminution in property values.

Many Chatham homeowners first moved here because of the borough’s arboreal character and wide-open spaces…

… the last thing a recent arrival from, say, Queens, New York, Jersey City, or South Orange might want to see are the aforementioned urban or quasi-urban communities following them to quiet and leafy suburban Chatham Borough.

An important factor in the valuation of so many residential properties here is precisely this quiet, leafy character of our charming suburban community. If this were to change in as dramatic a fashion… this pillar of the borough’s high property values might quickly dissolve…

… borough residents will now have to be vigilant on a case-by-case basis that such “visions and goals” do not indeed become fact.

Equally problematic are the potential tax increase implications accompanying all of the newly permitted construction. In particular, multistory parking garages are expensive to build and Chatham Borough taxpayers would ultimately foot the bill, regardless of the manner in which this project is financed…

These potential changes represent the worst sort of overdevelopment, one that would decidedly transform our charming little arboreal hamlet into something more nearly resembling the less suburban places from whence many of us first came to Chatham Borough…

…the new master plan creates the conceptual and legal room for a creeping urbanization in Chatham Borough. It portends the arrival of deep-pocketed developers who care nothing for the investment, financial or otherwise, so many of its residents have made in the purchase and maintenance of their homes, and the living of their lives, in this picturesque small New Jersey town.

…when these developers do arrive, they will be accompanied by their teams of highly-paid lawyers as they seek the Borough Council’s approval for their proposed redevelopment projects.

This will be a fundamentally asymmetric situation in terms of available resources to fight these projects, since individual Chatham homeowners will be hard-pressed to match the developers in terms of required legal fees. It will, in other words, be a David versus Goliath-like proposition for many Borough residents…

… the Planning Board’s vote in favor of the new master plan… has let the proverbial genie out of the bottle… it provides a policy foundation and framework for the borough’s land use laws and building regulations…

https://www.newjerseyhills.com/chatham_courier/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-new-chatham-watchdog-group-will-monitor-respond-to-master/article_d3b97fd9-5075-5180-948d-04cd4ded3836.html

What’s all the controversy about Post Office Plaza?

Chatham’s location and great schools naturally attract real estate developers looking to make a fortune on new apartment projects. At one time, they had to follow zoning rules, intended to keep out huge towers that would clog up our streets and swamp our schools, police, etc.

Those protections began to erode in the 2000s, when Chatham began to relax zoning standards, in hopes of attracting taxable developments. Around 2016, our then Mayor & Council discovered a state “redevelopment” law that seemed to promise a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to any town willing to waive normal zoning rules, allowing developers to build big projects that could be tax “rateables.”

Of course, there was a catch: Such projects usually aren’t ratable at all. They are eligible for fabulous property tax breaks and other goodies that shift most of the costs – and risks – to us taxpayers.  

In their naive quest for easy money, our then Mayor & Council led us into a Plan to build a big apartment project in Post Office Plaza – behind the Main Street Post Office. That POP Plan will clog our streets with hundreds more cars and trucks – without any real benefit to Chatham.  

It all started with a few small steps. We’re simply investigating possibilities, the Mayor & Council told themselves. We can stop at any time.

But as usual, each small step makes it harder to stop. At some point, there is no way out. It happens so gradually that people don’t wake up until it’s too late.

Almost nobody in Chatham woke up until November 14, 2019, when the Council’s handpicked developer unveiled a big, horrible design for Post Office Plaza. It triggered public outrage.

When our current Mayor took office in January 2020, he tossed that ridiculous design off the table. But he did not scrap the POP Redevelopment Plan itself. He vowed only to consider a range of options and to hold several Town Hall meetings before doing anything.

The Mayor did not keep that promise. At the June 28, 2021 Council meeting, he suddenly announced a new design proposal for POP.

The Mayor was vague about that new proposal. He led residents to believe that other options were still possible and would be discussed at future Town Hall meetings.  

In reality, the Mayor had already signed a June 14 contract in an affordable housing lawsuit. He had signed that contract without having held a single Town Hall – or even having resumed in-person Council meetings after Covid.

What’s more, in that contract the Mayor had agreed, in effect, to make the POP project at least 100 rental apartments, without having considered how that project would affect Chatham. To help get that result, he’d promised to change the Plan by January 1, 2022 and to try to get the final agreement signed by June 1, 2022, which would permanently lock Chatham into a deal nobody had seen yet.

The only reason that deal came to light is one smart Chatham lady spotted a mysterious notice on the Borough website, and began asking questions. Residents flocked to the next Council meeting with questions the Mayor couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer.

The POP project will displace some 18 Chatham families of modest means who live there now, to make room for 15-17 lucky North Jersey housing lottery winners of modest means. It will make a rich developer even richer. But for Chatham there’s no reason to expect anything but more traffic, higher costs, and a lower quality of life.

Chatham residents are in the dark. And the clock is ticking.

It’s time to wake up.

Urge our Mayor to find a better way to satisfy our obligations under the June 14 agreement – such as subsidizing apartments on Main Street or converting a vacant office building for residential use – before it’s too late.

Heard about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

It doesn’t exist. Not even in Post Office Plaza. The sooner we realize that the better off we’ll be.

Check out this piece by a neighbor who knows what he’s talking about:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/misdirection-and-opacity-from-council-member-mathiasen-about-fiscal-responsibility

What you can do

Q: Is there any way to dissuade our Mayor & Council from building a big, 100+ commercial, rental apartment block behind our Main Street Post Office, clogging up our streets with hundreds more cars?

Come to the Council Meeting Tonight

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 7:30 pm,

Borough Hall, upper level, 54 Fairmount Avenue.

To attend virtually: see www.chathamborough.org. Scroll “News and Events” down to “Notice of Mayor & Council Meeting.”  Click “more.” 

Q: Discouraged by the Mayor’s 25-person limit on in-person attendance? Fed up with the technical difficulties that plague virtual participation?

Tell the Mayor

to hold Council meetings in a place

that can accommodate everyone.

Email:mayor@chathamborough.org  cc cdempsey@chathamborough.org, swilliams@chathamborough.org and brigidmcmenamin@msn.com

Here we go again!

Myth:  Our Mayor and Borough Council wouldn’t plop a giant apartment block in the middle of town without first airing some options.

Reality: Behind the scenes, they’ve already sacrificed our options. Now they’re all but bound to :

  • build a 100+ rental unit, high density apartment block that will
  • put hundreds more cars on Main Street and
  • replace our free, open Post Office Parking Lot with a dangerous, multilevel parking garage.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Get the facts.

Come to the next Borough Council meeting: 

Monday, 13 September 2021 

7:30 pm 

Chatham Borough Hall, 3d floor 

54 Fairmount Avenue 

Sharks Circling Chatham!

  • Would you like to see hundreds more cars and trucks clogging up our streets, making it harder to get to work, school, MDs?
  • Would you like to park in a dangerous, windowless garage, where a police officer right outside couldn’t hear your screams?
  • Would you like to pay higher taxes – and lower the value of your house – to give a big developer a 30-year tax break?

Big real estate interests have ensnared Chatham Borough in an extreme, risky corporate welfare scheme. They plan to build a massive, multi-story, 200-unit rental apartment/retail complex behind our Post Office. It will transform our town into a bleak, high-tax, transit hub and, ultimately, a failed city.

Only your new Mayor and Borough Council can prevent that!

Come help your neighbors encourage them:

This Monday, January 6, 2020

at 7:30 PM

Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, Chatham, NJ

Assure the new Mayor and Council that you will support them in doing what’s best for Chatham:

  • Let the Redeveloper’s designation expire;
  • Rescind the Redevelopment Plan for Post Office Plaza;
  • Consider moderate options that don’t involve:
    • worsening traffic;
    • sacrificing our open-air, public parking;
    • giving away corporate welfare tax breaks; or
    • shifting business risks to Chatham taxpayers; and
  • Conduct due diligence, and a valid survey of all households and businesses by U.S. Mail, with pros and cons of at least three such options.                                  

Has the ship sailed?

  • “The plan is in its early stages,” claim some proponents of the scheme to give a “Redeveloper” a big tax break to turn our little Chatham Borough into a transit hub city.
  • “We can always walk away,” they insist, out of one side of their mouths.
  • “We can’t back out now,” they say out of the other side. “We’ll get stuck with huge expenses.” *

Not one of those statements is true.

That corporate welfare scheme for Post Office Plaza has been brewing for years. We simply didn’t get certain horrible details until last month’s post-election meeting of the old Mayor Harris and his Borough Council. That’s when the old Mayor’s tin-eared, designated Redeveloper revealed his nightmarish designs for Chatham. CBC Meeting 11 14 19

The process of imposing those designs on Chatham is actually in its late stages. The old Mayor set a tight schedule to get Chatham hog-tied to his tin-eared Redeveloper’s vision by April 2020 – with Developer and Financial Agreements that will legally lock us into the scheme.

Source: 2019 Borough Council

How could the old Mayor do that when he isn’t even allowed to vote on the Post Office Plaza project because of a potential conflict of interest?

Easy. As mayor, he controls the Council’s agenda.

That’s also how the old Mayor was able to suddenly decide – just two days before his final Council meeting – to have the Council vote to saddle his successor with the same tainted scheme by extending the same tin-eared Redeveloper for another six months. They did just that at the December 19 meeting, over the objections of a packed house, making it much harder for Chatham to escape this nightmare.

Harder, but not impossible.

Our newly-elected 2020 Mayor Thad Kobylarz and his new Council can still correct all that. They have the power to abandon the tainted Redevelopment Plan scheme and make Chatham better for all of us – not only one rich developer.

Will they use that power for the public good?

* Not true, according to the Post Office Redevelopment Plan posted on the Council’s web site and an insider who has been intimately involved in this process for years.

Would you like to see hundreds more cars on Main Street?

Did you know that a big developer plans to plop a massive, 5.4-acre, multi-story complex in the middle of our little town, turning it overnight into a little city, with city nightlife and city problems?

Incredible but true: with traffic already backed up most of the day, and empty storefronts on Main Street, the developer plans to build even more shops, restaurants, bars, and some 230 new rental apartments, which will mean hundreds more cars day and night.

You assume they’ve considered the effect on Chatham’s residents, traffic, policing, schools, etc? Nope. They say they’ll get to that “eventually.”

Do you think our Borough Council should proceed blindly, assuming that this is what you want – and hoping for the best – or would it be wiser to stop and consider the risks, consequences and alternatives before it’s too late?

Come to the neighborhood meeting, this Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019 from 2:45 PM to 4:30 PM in the big Lundt Meeting Room in the basement of the Chatham Library at 214 Main Street.

All Chatham residents, property owners and business owners are welcome.