Tag Archives: Mayor Kobylarz

Our Little Town

Can we count on Chatham Borough Mayor Thad Kobylarz to protect us from over development that would destroy our little town?

Find out at the Monday Feb 28 Borough Council meeting, where the Mayor says he hopes to have news on Post Office Plaza. https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/post-office-plaza-redevelopment-update-expected-chatham.

(The meeting is 7:30 pm at Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level, or you can attend virtually here: https://www.chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2386)

Given the settlement our Mayor and Council approved on June 14, 2021, http://chathamchoice.org/2021/09/, it appears that we have only two real options:

  1. Cave-in, and build a big commercial housing project – smaller perhaps, but similar to the Kushners’ 4-story, 118-rental-unit block that would increase density, choke our streets, rob us of our public parking lot, burden our schools, diminish our quality of life – and probably cost Chatham a bundle, while providing a mere 15 affordable units. http://chathamchoice.org/2022/01/is-this-what-you-want-for-chatham/ OR
  2. Stand firm, and persuade Fair Share Housing to let us preserve our public parking lot and small town quality of life, while satisfying our POP affordable housing quota by subsidizing 15 existing apartments scattered around town. http://chathamchoice.org/2021/10/

Of course, the second option is far better for Chatham and for the newcomers. If we make this choice, they won’t be set aside, crammed between the Post Office and the railroad tracks. They’ll be our next-door-neighbors and an integral part of our community.

In return, we’ll be able satisfy our affordable housing obligations for POP, and gain a bit of diversity, without increasing our population, density, traffic congestion, or air pollution.

As such, if we choose the second option, we won’t need to worry about higher costs for police, schooling, fire fighting, public works, etc. We’ll pay only the difference between the market rent and the affordable rent set by law for those few units – a knowable amount – instead of gambling our future on a big housing complex, whose effect on our net revenues Chatham has never even tried to estimate! 

Best of all, by choosing the second option, we’ll preserve our free public parking lot, and our chance to landscape it and add a park, a popular proposal suggested by community leader Fran Drew http://chathamchoice.org/2021/07/dont-sacrifice-chatham-to-the-big-developer/, instead of getting stuck with a White Elephant complex we won’t need as affordable housing law evolves. 

How can you help insure that Chatham makes the right choice?

Before the Feb 28 Council meeting, email the Mayor and Borough Council https://chathamborough.org/government/mayor.

Tell them that:

  • Before we take even one more step with Post Office Plaza, we need to know the costs and implications of each option, as our Mayor first promised in January 2020. (Minute 13)  https://vimeo.com/387823706
  • We’d rather trim the Borough budget a bit – or even increase taxes a little – to subsidize existing apartments, than play Russian roulette with Chatham’s future.   
  • We’re 100% behind the Mayor negotiating to subsidize existing apartments rather than building a new apartment project that will destroy our quality of life, and we are counting on the Council to support that, too.
  • When they come up for re-election, we will vote accordingly.

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

Meanwhile, should be some clues in the agenda for Monday’s Council meeting, which you can find here: https://granicus_production_attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/chathamborough/b7ca7e731a8f47808f7aa8cb8d3cf63d0.pdf

or by going to the Borough’s homepage and scrolling all the way down to Granicus: 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, they said.

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. (See for yourself, starting at minute 13: https://vimeo.com/387823706)

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.

http://chathamchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/06-14-2021-Settlement-Agreement-Chatham-Borough-MRS-L-1906-15-Fully-Executed.pdf

What’s more, in that contract the Mayor had all but promised to make the POP project at least 100 rental apartments – unless he could persuade Fair Share Housing Center to accept something else. To help get that result, he’d promised to change the Plan by January 1, 2022 and to try to get a final agreement signed by June 1, 2022, permanently locking Chatham into a deal nobody had seen yet.

The only reason that deal ever came to light is in August 2021 one smart Chatham lady spotted a mysterious notice on the Borough website, and began asking questions. Residents flocked to the next Council meeting with even more questions the Mayor couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer.

Sad reality is that we’re getting sucked into a POP project that 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

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 

Don’t sacrifice Chatham to the big developer!

Now we have a great alternative for the 5 acres behind the Main Street Post Office!

It includes more surface parking and a pretty public green space.

Longtime Chatham businesswoman and civic leader Fran Drew conceived this idea as an alternative to the proposals offered by the big Kushner developers, who stand to profit by using corporate welfare PILOT tax breaks to build a project that will destroy our little Chatham Borough, with big expenses and even more traffic on Main Street.

Chatham residents are excited about this fresh idea, which is aimed at preserving and enhancing our community.

Are you tired of ever-worsening traffic on Main Street?

Make sure this idea gets a fair hearing before our Mayor and Borough Council.

Let our Mayor and Borough Council know what you think: mayor@​chathamborough.org

For more information, contact Fran Drew: algarts@aol.com