United Water Property Hearing Postponed to April
New planner not yet appointed; special Zoning Board meeting scheduled for April 19th.
Citing that the absence of "professional planning representation" gave him a "lack of comfort" in proceeding with the hearing, Zoning Board attorney Scott Sproviero recommended to the board that they not proceed with the hearing of the application by New Milford Redevelopment Associates for preliminary and final site plan approval for the 13-acre United Water property.
Sproviero advised the board to wait until the April 10th meeting to resume the hearings when "there will be a planner present to represent the interests of the board."
Denying the request of applicant's attorney, Andy DelVechhio, to proceed with the hearing and let the planner "read the transcript" once they are appointed, Sproviero said, "I believe if this board was to hear and consider testimony of your expert and planner without the benefit of their professional planner by their side to answer questions generated by the testimony, we will be doing the board and the entire process a disservice."
During the Feb. 14 meeting, the borough's planner, Burgis Associates, was recused from the proceedings at the request of the applicant because the applicant's attorney performed work on behalf of the planner's wife.
Also recusing themselves at the Feb. 14 meeting were Chairman Karl Schaffenberger and Aziz Hadodo. Schaffenberger cited public comments he made regarding the environmental impact of the development of that property at the Nov. 28 meeting of the Mayor and Council where representatives from United Water were in attendance. Board member Hadodo recused himself for also making public statements regarding the development of the United Water property.
The Mayor and Council have narrowed the appointment of a new planner to two firms: Birdsall Services and Phillips Preiss and Grygiel. Sproviero indicated that conflict checks were currently being undertaken to avoid any further recusals. He said that the expectation is that the mayor and council will appoint a new planner by the April 10 meeting.
Additionally, Al Alonso, an attorney representing himself as a New Milford resident, requested in a letter dated Feb. 27 to the Zoning Board that the borough's engineer, Boswell Engineering, be recused due to a conflict of interest because United Water is listed as a client on its website.
Dr. Stephen Boswell, a principal in Boswell Engineering, responded to Alonso's request by letter that although they have provided services for United Water from "time to time," there is no "standing relationship" and, therefore, there is no cause for recusal.
Sproviera suggested that this issue be raised with Margita Batistic, a borough engineer employed by Boswell Engineering, at the April 10th meeting. Batistic was absent on a pre-scheduled vacation.
In order to avoid any further delays to the hearing, DelVecchio requested that prepared questions be submitted to Batistic so that she will be be able to answer all of the questions at the next meeting and avoid any further delays.
In addition to its regularly scheduled April 10 meeting, the board has scheduled a special meeting to continue the hearing on Apr. 19.