Tag Archives: local redevelopment

Can we stop reckless overdevelopment?

Can we stop the overdevelopment that is beginning to choke the roads of Chatham Borough, pollute our air, inflate our taxes, and even threaten to swamp our schools?

All we need to do is to hold our new Mayor & Council accountable for not selling us down the river again, as they did with the monstrosity at the corner of Watchung Avenue and River Road.

We can do that. You can help.

Tell the Mayor & Council not to make any more concessions to the would-be overdevelopers. Make them promise not to sign any more PILOT agreements, waiving the developer’s property taxes at the expense of the rest of us. Make them promise to do their due diligence and hold out for terms favorable to the Borough.

Even if you cannot go to the next Council meeting https://www.chathamborough.org/resident/calendar/mayor-council-meeting-13-1710199800 you can email the Mayor & Council: [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] https://www.chathamborough.org/resident/calendar/mayor-council-meeting-13-1710199800 [email protected]. [email protected]. [email protected] 

What the heck is this all about?

Our new Mayor and Borough Council are working on another big development project on River Road. See for yourself here: https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/election-2023-carolyn-dempsey-chatham-borough-council%20

A third big River Road project will soon follow. https://chathamchoice.org/2024/01/what-are-the-options-for-river-road/

Thanks to blunders by both parties over many years, our leaders have little control over new construction in Chatham, but they can and must exercise what power they still have to protect us from reckless overdevelopmnent. https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/1399493/2022-05-27-HEFSP_amendment.finaladopted.pdf

We need to start asking questions, demanding answers and promises, and holding our Mayor & Council accountable now, before they make any irreversible decisions.

Strong, sustained, public scrutiny and pressure can inspire and empower our elected representatives to stand firm in negotiations with tough real estate sharks, backed by teams of experts wielding state laws that give developers the upper hand.

Are you wondering why the Council would even consider another project at River Road, given the massive, 245-unit Ivy apartment project that just went up at the corner of River and Watchung?

Simple: Knowing that both political parties have so weakened our zoning laws that they cannot prevent construction of two more giant apartment projects at River Road, the Mayor & Council aspire only to gain some influence over the new projects by adopting some new redevelopment plans. https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/chatham-marks-some-river-road-lots-need-redevelopment

They’d have you believe it’s the only way to make sure the new developments will provide housing options for retirees, millennials, and low income families, as well as some free public “amenities” – like maybe a trail along the Passaic River. See for yourself here: https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/election-2023-carolyn-dempsey-chatham-borough-council%20

Of course, that’s mostly wishful thinking.

As at the Ivy, the new developments will be out of the reach of most retirees, millennials, and young families, because almost all of the apartments will be offered at market rates, with monthly rents between $3,000 for one bedroom apartments, and $7,000 for three bedroom units. How many downsizers or young families can afford that?

Only 15% of the new apartments will be set aside for low and moderate income families. That means Chatham would have to accept 1,000 new units (a more than 30% increase in density) to get even 150 units toward our ever increasing affordable housing quota.

Chathamites won’t get first dibs on the affordable apartments, either. But Chatham taxpayers will suffer higher density, pollution, and lower quality of life. And that’s a best-case scenario, which the Mayor & Council could achieve only with deft negotiation.

If the Council doesn’t stand strong, but rather succumbs to the developer’s standard demand for a 30-year PILOT property tax exemption, that will mean higher taxes for everyone else and it will leave the Borough on the hook to meet increasing demands for municipal services.

Negotiated PILOT payments-in-lieu of taxes should help with those expenses, but it’s the Borough that will bear 100% of the risk that the revenue projections won’t pan out, as is happening at similar projects that have been reduced to offering discounts: https://www.woodmontstation.com/

If the statewide luxury apartment construction frenzy leads to a glut, causing the bubble to burst and rent rolls to plummet, it will be a disaster for Chatham Borough.

Of course, by then the developer will be long gone, and Borough taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

What about the nice public “amenities,” like the riverside trail our Mayor wants to see along the Passaic? It could happen.

Then again, once the Council adopts a redevelopment plan, the would-be developer will begin to chip away at the requirements, until there’s nothing left for the public, as happened with the monstrous 245-apartment Ivy project.

The lesson is clear: Our Mayor & Council should negotiate the best possible deal, and refuse to finance it with a PILOT tax break no matter how many sweet promises the developers make.

In short, while our Mayor & Council cannot prevent more development at River Road, they need not and must not sacrifice the long-term well-being of the Borough by waiving any more requirements or granting any PILOT agreements.

If a developer won’t build without a PILOT, that means it’s a bad deal and the Borough shouldn’t get involved.

Why should Chatham Borough pay more than its fair share?

Our Peeping Goat had the good sense to run from harm.

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2023/05/12/peeping-goat/7941683898359/

Let’s hope our Borough Council will do the same!

The Council is under pressure to burden Borough taxpayers with more than their fair share of school taxes, jeopardizing its ability to provide urgent necessities like new fire trucks.

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/attention-chatham-borough-residents-would-you-like-to-pay-more-than-your-fair-share-of-our-school-taxes

https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/posts

https://www.newjerseyhills.com/chatham_courier/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-should-chatham-borough-pay-more-than-its-fair-share/article_a42feec2-09ef-11ee-8827-6b766a82977e.html

Why would our Borough Council even consider jeopardizing its ability to meet pressing needs?

Why should Chatham Borough pay more than its fair share of school taxes?

Shouldn’t Borough residents have a say in such a decision?

Tell your Council to stay in its own lane and follow the normal procedure.

[email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected]

Winds of change?

Can your town suddenly decide to zone one lot differently from its neighbors? No. That’s “spot-zoning.” It’s illegal in New Jersey.

But there is an exception if the lot is arguably “blighted” or “in need of redevelopment,” according to a state law designed to help poor towns attract new construction. It allows what amounts to legalized spot-zoning.

For years, real estate developers have abused that exception.

They’ve used it to get around normal zoning laws in towns that have no trouble attracting investors.

They’ve used it to sweep away normal zoning rules for properties that aren’t blighted or needy at all.

They’ve used it to qualify for whopping property tax breaks that enrich the developers at the expense of residents.

Sometimes they’ve used it to get title to public land without the normal checks and balances.

The courts usually turn a blind eye to that kind of abuse.

Now it seems the state Supreme Court is beginning to tighten up the criteria for designating a property “in need of redevelopment.”

In a case published this month, the Court rejected the designation of the West Orange library as an “area in need of redevelopment” within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(d) simply because it was old, out of style, and needed repair. The Court also put to rest the idea that the mere assertion that a place is dilapidated, obsolescent, etc. will suffice, or that courts should defer to the township’s judgment on that score.

https://www.njcourts.gov/sites/default/files/court-opinions/2023/a_45_21.pdf

To satisfy N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(d), the township must show both:

1) evidence of “dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use or obsolete layout”; and

2) that, as a result, the premises “are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community.”

Great news for anyone concerned about reckless overdevelopment,

What would you like to see in the center of Chatham Borough?

Come see what the developer has in mind for Post Office Plaza, and share your views with the Historic Preservation Commission:

Tuesday March 21, 7:30 pm, Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level.

Here’s what they’re considering:

https://chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/historic-preservation-3-1679441400?Itemid=809

Do the right thing

What will Chatham Borough Council do with the Borough’s PILOT revenues from the River Road project?

Will the Council do the right thing?

Find out here: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/it-s-our-money-use-borough-pilot-revenues-to-reduce-property-taxes-and-cover-necessities


Learn more here: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/chatham-borough-council-do-the-right-thing-concerning-pilot-not-merely-what-s-legally-permissible-or-expedient

Attend the 3/13 Council meeting in person or on Zoom here: https://www.chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/mayor-council-meeting-13-1678750200?Itemid=809

Valentine’s Day hookup!

At the end of tonight’s Borough Council meeting, our Mayor and Council will be going behind closed doors for a far more intimate encounter – one that could determine the fate of Post Office Plaza.

https://chathamborough.org/government/documents/meeting-documents/mayor-council-meeting/2022-mayor-council-agendas/2022-mayor-council-agendas-1/1860-02-14-2022-agenda/file

Let’s just hope they don’t get taken advantage of, and wind up signing another Secret Agreement like the one below, which they approved behind closed doors last June 14 – all but giving away control of Post Office Plaza – and then kept under wraps for months!

Source: https://portal.njcourts.gov/webcivilcj/CIVILCaseJacketWeb/pages/publicAccessDisclaimer.faces

(To see court files, hit link above, prove you’re not a robot, use dropdown to select Civil, Morris, enter 1906, enter 15.)

Would our Mayor and Council really do that again? Ask them at the meeting tonight 7:30 pm, by phone or Zoom:

https://chathamborough.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2385

Would you like to see Chatham Borough turned into another Hoboken?

Check out this video about the big, 4-story, 118-unit, commercial rental complex the Kushner partnership is eager to cram into the plot behind our Main Street businesses:

Hit this link and scroll down to the video: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/chatham/articles/it-s-time-for-smart-downtown-development-to-move-forward-in-chatham-borough-developers-post-office-plaza-design-update

Could a fire truck get close enough to fight a fire on the south side of the building? Photo credit: TapintoChatham

That video doesn’t show exactly what the project would look like, but what it does reveal is troubling to say the least.

The Kushner design sacrifices the free, public, surface parking lot we treasure, substituting fewer public spaces – mostly in a hulking, 4-story parking garage along the railroad tracks.

With no service road along those tracks, it appears the only way to get to that garage by car is via narrow, dead-end Bowers Lane, which is also the future site of a 34-plus-unit assisted living facility. And the only way out of that garage is a right turn from Bowers Lane onto our already clogged-up Main Street.

Worse yet, on foot, the only way shown into – or out of – that garage is in a secluded spot up against the railroad tracks, at the end of a narrow alley. (Would you have your mother use that door?)

The Kushner design also appears to encroach upon the property of some adjacent landowners, who were not even consulted.

Building it would require tearing down one of the most interesting historic sites in Chatham:

https://chathamchoice.org/2021/10/miss-dickinsons-garage/

Once built, this new Kushner project would justify replacing other Chatham properties with 4-story buildings, inevitably robbing Chatham of the low-rise charm that drew many of us here in the first place.

Would this project at least provide plenty of affordable housing? No. It would yield a mere15 of the 320 affordable units envisioned in the settlement the Mayor signed on June 14, 2021.

Let’s face it: This Kushner proposal isn’t good for anyone except the rich developers.

But it’s pretty much what you can expect to see in Post Office Plaza unless our Mayor can persuade Fair Share Housing to accept a better solution – for instance, letting us subsidize 15 or so existing apartments – instead of building a big commercial project nobody wants.

What do you think of this latest Kushner scheme for Chatham? Email: [email protected]

Also, be sure to share your opinions with our Mayor before Jan 24, 2022, when the Borough Council must decide whether to renew the Kushner partnership’s exclusive status as redeveloper, or cut them loose.

Help the Mayor resist the pressure to sacrifice Chatham to the big developers. Remind him of what he said back in 2016:

https://chathamchoice.org/2021/10/

Encourage the Mayor to honor the promises he made to voters, and to approach Fair Share Housing with an alternative solution.

Email: [email protected]

Chatham’s hour of need

This Monday, the Borough Council will vote to change the Plan for Post Office Plaza such that it will probably be forced to wipe out our free, public parking lot and build a 100+ unit rental apartment project with a multilevel garage.

Our Mayor says that project “sucks,” but he cannot stop it without your help.

Show the Mayor you support his efforts to stop the overdevelopment of Post Office Plaza. Come to the meeting of the Mayor & Borough Council, 7:30 PM, Monday, 13 December 2021, Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level.

Check out the agenda: https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/chathamborough/ef5b76d9-4ac1-11eb-920e-0050569183fa-e1abdc78-5a39-4c90-9587-5dd3be7cd0a4-1639086806.pdf

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

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