SOD Seeks River Edge Support against Hekemian Project
SOD appears before River Edge Mayor and Council seeking support against Hekemian Project.
Residents in New Milford and Oradell have banded together against a proposed development along the Madison Avenue, Main Street, River Road and John D. Cecchino Drive intersections and are now seeking support from their neighbors to the north in River Edge as well.
At the same time, the New Milford Council is still considering to rezone the property. Stop Over Development (SOD) members John Desantis and John Rutledge recently discussed how the Hekemian/United Water project would affect the people of River Edge.
"The effects of this project will be felt in River Edge from Kinderkamack Road to River Road as it is the only north and south access to the development," Desantis said. "
The proposed development calls for a 70,500 sq. ft. Shoprite supermarket, 4300 sq. ft. bank, and a four-story 221 unit multi-family housing complex with a 428-space multi-level parking garage on a 13-acre lot that is currently owned by United Water.
While zoned as a single-family residence, the developer Peter Hekemian has offered to remove the housing complex from the plans and revert to his original proposal for a 145-space parking lot for use by the borough and school district, and a graded field that could be developed into a soccer field, as well as a new Shoprite, a family restaurant, bank and 10,000 square feet of commercial space for local merchants. His proposal is contingent upon the New Milford Mayor and Council agreeing to rezone the property for commercial use.
"One of our suggestions has been for the town to purchase the lot," Desantis said. "It's adjacent to the high school and it could be used as a school project for science classes to restore it to its natural state and then study its restoration for years to come."
The property, which was once used as a sludge pit for United Water's water treatment plants at the site, had undergone extensive DEP required remediation efforts since 2003. The state agency signed off on United Water's efforts in February 2011 as complete.
"The remediation of the land took 90,000 cubic yards of soil removal to result in the DEP to sign off that it is no longer contaminated," SOD member John Rutledge said. "The DEP deemed the property was ok for single family residential."
New Milford has heard testimony that the development would have no significant impact on housing values, that based on the 1980 flood maps there would not be any additional flooding to the area due to the installation of two detention system basins on the south end of the property, infiltration systems and the use of berms around the property to reduce the rate of surface runoff and would not tax emergency services.
"We feel the ratables are illusionary as it would cause a dramatic increase of necessity on our emergency services," Rutledge said. "Our fire department is struggling right now as a volunteer department and if it needs to be upgraded, it would have to become a paid department. We share an ambulance service with Oradell, there are concerns that when an immediate response is needed, it would be curtailed by continuous traffic."
As the proposed development would have a large impact on Oradell, the governing body and Mayor Joseph Murray have vowed to pursue legal action if necessary.
Oradell Council President James Koth estimated that to have the borogh attorney analyze the data and create a team of experts to represent Oradell at the New Milford Zoning Board could cost Oradell approximately $10,000-15,000.
“I think we have an obligation to the residents of this town, even if it [legal costs] screws up the budget,” said Mayor Joseph Murray. “As a resident of Oradell, it’s more important - we want to make sure this town is protected.”
The New Milford Zoning Board of Adjustment is holding a Special Meeting Wednesday, 7pm at Borough Hall, 930 River Road, New Milford for additional testimony by traffic expert Elizabeth Dolan. At a previos meeting, Dolan testified that if approved, the development would not cause any change in service.