Hekemian Attorney Demands Zoning Board Member Removed from Hearings
Applicant's attorney says comments made by Joseph Binetti reflect a conflict of interest.
After a long night of testimony, before a full house of spectators at Thursday's special meeting of the Zoning Board, Hekemian attorney, Antimo "Andy" DelVecchio, demanded that board member Joseph Binetti be removed from the remainder of the hearings on the proposed development of the 13-acre United Water property development due to a conflict of interest.
The proposed development by New Milford Redevelopment Associates, whose President is Peter Hekemian of the S. Hekemian Group, includes a 70,500 sq. ft. supermarket, a 4300 sq. ft. bank with two drive-thru lanes and a four-story 221 unit multi-family housing complex that will include an affordable housing component, a 428-space multi-level parking garage and a pool.
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."
DelVecchio objected and demanded that Binetti be recused from the remainder of the hearings because his statements reflect a "direct conflict of interest." DelVecchio requested that board attorney Scott Sproviero consider his request and make a determination on Binetti at the July 10 meeting of the Zoning Board.
After the meeting adjourned, Sproviero told Patch that because home owners simply approached Binetti to express their concerns there was "no validity" to DelVecchio's request.
Sproviero said that Binetti was not representing the concerned homeowners in any professional capacity, he was just relating concerns about the proposed development that they had raised with him.
Sproviero said, "On first blush, no circumstances warranting the recusal are apparent at this point."
The hearing will continue on July 10 at 7:30 pm in the Council Chambers of Borough Hall. The hearing is expected to continue with DelVecchio's redirect examination of Sussman.
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