Tag Archives: Mayor Harris

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

Time for our Mayor to do the right thing!

Tell our Borough lawyers and experts to come up with ways to allow enough affordable housing – without destroying one of the last few open spaces in town.

Our elected representatives deny having plans to stick a 100+ apartment development behind our Main Street Post Office, clogging up already congested streets, displacing the popular Cottage Deli, and destroying our free, public, parking lot.

They claim that whatever they decide to build in Post Office Plaza will be small scale and low density.

Now we know that isn’t true. So stop wasting time. Tell our lawyers and experts to come up with alternatives.

Our Mayor & Council have already taken steps to facilitate swift construction of a 100+ unit, rental housing project in Post Office Plaza.

The proof is in an agreement the Mayor signed – and the Council approved – on June 14, 2021, agreeing to tight deadlines calculated to lead to a final deal with the developer by June 1, 2022.

(See for yourself in Sec. 8.b.iii, 12. & 13 of that agreement, shown in the Sept. 18 post at www.chathamchoice.org; and discussed at https://chathamborough.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=55, 34:22 through 35:38)

Contrary to what you may have heard, that June 14 agreement does NOT limit the size of the project at Post Office Plaza. Just the opposite!

In effect, that agreement requires construction of at least 100 rental apartments at Post Office Plaza, as our professional planner Kendra Lelie conceded at the Sept. 27 Council meeting.

(See for yourself at https://chathamborough.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=56, 1:44:00 through 1:44:26. In theory, they could substitute 75 for-sale units, but that’s out, as it’s less profitable for the developer.)

Only way we can avoid getting stuck with that eyesore is for the Mayor to step up, invoke the “or” clause in Sec. 8.b.iii, and persuade the powers-that-be to accept another way to get enough affordable housing.

A 100-unit rental development will bring in hundreds of new residents, driving at least 130 additional cars, plus many more carrying employees and patrons of the new retail shops and restaurants.

(See Sec. 4.4.3 of the 2019 Redevelopment Plan, http://www.zumu.com/zumu/chatham/Post%20Office%20Plaza%20Redevelopment%20%20Plan%204%209%2019.pdf).

We’ll be forced to replace our free, convenient, public parking lot with a dangerous garage that’s sure to attract crime – in return for a mere 15 -17 affordable apartments – and with NO significant benefit for residents or taxpayers.

The actual size of the project could exceed 200 units, given the lax 2019 Redevelopment Plan.

Sec. 4.4.2, http://www.zumu.com/zumu/chatham/Post%20Office%20Plaza%20Redevelopment%20%20Plan%204%209%2019.pdf)

The developer will be eligible for taxpayer help financing the project and a 30 year break from paying normal property taxes!

(See Sec. 5.11 of the 2019 Redevelopment Plan, http://www.zumu.com/zumu/chatham/Post%20Office%20Plaza%20Redevelopment%20%20Plan%204%209%2019.pdf).

There’s no need sacrifice Chatham. Our experts know many ways to allow affordable housing. Ms Lelie calls them “mechanisms.”

Some possible mechanisms include:

  • subsidizing existing apartments;
  • converting old office buildings to residential use, as resident Fran Drew has proposed;
  • building assisted living or senior housing, perhaps near the train station; or
  • some combination of the above.

Tell our Mayor & Council to have their experts show us Chatham residents and taxpayers some “mechanisms” that will preserve our free, convenient, public Post Office Plaza parking lot – and without condemning anyone’s property.

E-mail the Mayor & Borough Council:

mayor@chathamborough.org mayorcouncil@chathamborough.org

Link to more contact information:

https://www.chathamborough.org/chatham/Government/Mayor%20%26%20Council/

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 

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.