Bergenfield Weighs In On Hekemian Development
Bergenfield speaks out to negative impact of United Water Property Development
With carefully formulated questions in hand, Bergenfield resident Betty Verdejo, came before the Zoning Board Tuesday to support New Milford residents opposed to the proposed development of the United Water property.
Verdejo, whose son lives on Columbia Street in New Milford, questioned the developer's expert in appraisals and land valuations, Mark Sussman, on several points regarding his inspections of comparable properties. The project's proposed developer is New Milford Redevelopment Associates, whose president is Peter Hekemian of the S. Hekemian Group.
When asked who made the decisions on what properties to use as comparables, Sussman replied that he made the decision.
When questioned by Verdejo about the other commercial developments used in his comparison, Sussman said that he could not find a shopping center with a residential component that matched the size and scope of the 221 unit apartment complex proposed by Hekemian for the United Water property. The closest he came to was Boulder Run in Wyckoff that has a 16 unit apartment complex attached to a commercial development.
Sussman did not know the acreage of the sites he used as comparisons when asked by Verdejo.
Verdejo concluded her questioning of Sussman by asking, "Do you think the zoning board would be stupid enough to go against the will of New Milford?"
When asked by SOD Communications Chair Lori Barton if he was aware that Blue Acre funds were being used to purchase homes that have experienced repetitive flooding in New Milford, Sussman replied that he did not know what Blue Acres funding was.
Michael Dipple, Hekemian's engineering expert and principal of L2A Land Design in Englewood, who had previously testified about the water detention and infiltration systems that will be installed as part of the proposed development of the United Water property, was recalled to answer questions from the public during the last five minutes of the hearing.
Michael Gadaleta of New Milford had just begun to question Dipple about whether the subdivision of the United Water property created the irregularly shaped lot, and about the flooding of that property during Hurricane Irene, when the meeting was adjourned.
At the conclusion of the June 21 special meeting of the Zoning Board, attorney for Hekemian, Antimo "Andy" DelVecchio, had asked Zoning Board attorney, Scott Sproviero, to rule on whether board member Joseph Binetti should be recused from the remainder of the hearings due to a conflict of interest.
The issue came as a result of Binetti's questioning of the developer's expert in appraisals and land valuations, Mark Sussman, about the negative impact that the large scale development will have on residential homes not only located directly across from the proposed development, but also on houses located near the Hackensack River.
Binetti, an area realtor who told Sussman that he knows about property values in New Milford because he has sold many houses in town, said that he has been approached by seven New Milford residents who live in close proximity to the United Water property who feel that their property values will be negatively impacted by the large scale mixed-use development.
Binetti went on to say that he has also been approached by residents who live downstream from the Hackensack River who have indicated to him that they intend to sell because they fear that the development will increase flooding.
"In this town this is a major project," Binetti said. "And their property values will be affected."
Due to prior obligations, Binetti was not present at Tuesday's meeting and DelVeccho agreed that since he was not there, determination could be postponed.
The next meeting of the Zoning Board is on Monday, July 30 at 7pm in the council chambers of Borough Hall. This meeting is a special meeting devoted entirely to the hearing of the proposed development of the United Water property.