Campaign Ad Forces Rebsch's Recusal From United Water Property Hearing
Rebsch's recusal leaves Zoning Board with minimum quorum and no alternates; Planning Board will appoint one of their members so hearing can proceed.
In what many audience members called "an upset," Zoning Board member, and former councilman, Peter Rebsch was forced to recuse himself from the remainder of the United Water Property hearings due to a conflict raised by a recent campaign ad that he and Council President Howard Berner placed in the Twin Boro News while they were running on the Republican ticket for town council.
According to Zoning Board attorney Scott Sproviero, the ad depicts the proposed development of the United Water property along with a depiction of Berner and Rebsch's vision which shows open fields.
Echoing the concerns of the applicant's attorney, Antimo "Andy" DelVechhio, Sproviero said that this ad gives the appearance of a conflict; the appearance that Rebsch may have already formed a position or developed an opinion prior to the completion of the hearing and prior to a vote being taken.
"My concern is whether or not Peter Rebsch has or hasn't formed an opinion with regard to the application or development-slash-overdevelopment and it puts the board in jeopardy," Sproviero said.
Sproviero directly asked Rebsch if he has formed an opinion and asked if he feels he can "fairly and without prejudice" sit on the board and hear the application.
"My concern is for the integrity of the process," Sproviero said.
Rebsch said that he recognized the potential jeopardy that his continued participation puts the application in and agreed to recuse himself from the remainder of the hearing of the application.
"The more prudent course is to recognize your recusal," Sproviero told Rebsch as he stepped down from the dais.
Rebsch's recusal follows the recusals of Zoning Board Chair Karl Schaffenberger and Father Aziz Hododo. That leaves the board with the minimum quorum and no alternatives as required by law.
Land use law requires that a member of the Planning Board be appointed to be an alternate. According to Sproviero, it falls to the Planning Board to choose who that person will be, but they will have to listen to all of the tapes and get up to speed before they can take their place on the board.
"It is a daunting undertaking," Sproviero said.
Upon his recusal, Rebsch told Patch that he was certain that his recusing himself from the remainder of the hearings was the appropriate thing to do.
"I am a person who speaks what they feel," Rebsch said. "Anyone who knows me knows that I have only the well-being of the people of this town at heart."
Rebsch also said that his position on the Zoning Board precluded him from openly speaking about the United Water property during Candidate's Night which he feels hindered him during his campaign for council.
"I couldn't speak about the one topic in town that people wanted a sense of direction from their candidates," Rebsch said. "I couldn't talk to it, and that quite possibly cost me the election."