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SOD Wages Grass-Roots Campaign Against Development of United Water Property

New Milford residents band together to fight the size and scope of the development of the United Water Property.

The inaugural meeting of New Milford's grass-roots group, Stop Over Development (SOD), was held Monday night at the .

SOD is the grass roots brainchild of one woman determined to stop the proposed development of the United Water property by New Milford Development Associates whose managing director is Peter Hekemian, Principal and V.P. of Development for the S. Hekemian Group.

That woman is Miriam Pickett. While attending the last hearing of the Zoning Board on April 19, Pickett noticed a number of people in the audience shaking their heads in disapproval of the development, but no one was talking to each other. She decided that night to get everyone's email in an effort to try and organize residents to band together against the development of the property. 

"This development will change the character of New Milford forever," Pickett said. "It will not only affect our quality of life, but it will affect the environment, traffic, and with traffic comes both air and noise pollution."

The application for the  includes: 

  • 70,500 sq ft supermarket 
  • 221 residential units with 428-spaced parking garage 
  • 88 one bedroom apartments; 117 two bedroom apartments; 16 three bedroom apartments
  • 4300 sq ft bank 

According to Pickett, the inaugural meeting of SOD brought out approximately 30 concerned residents. Pickett said that her main interest was that the meeting be constructive and productive.  

The group got to work right away forming committees designed to address every aspect of the developmental process:

  • Public Relations Committee will not only be the voice of the group, but it will build the relationship between SOD and the greater community (including surrounding towns) through the dissemination of information.
  • Research Committee will gather information on the areas of concern regarding the proposed development in an effort to better inform residents.
  • Environmental Committee will study the environmental impact on developing that property since it is located on or near wetlands. 
  • Finance committee will raise funds should money be needed to fight the proposed development.
  • Pounding Pavement Committee will be those people placing flyers in mailboxes to keep residents informed about the proposed development and upcoming meetings.
  • Questions Committee will formulate intelligent, cogent questions to be asked of each New Milford Development Associates expert after they give their testimony at Zoning Board meetings. 

SOD will also be reaching out to the residents of Oradell because they feel that this proposed development will directly impact their community as well. 

"The Oradell community will be profoundly affected by increased traffic, noise and air pollution," Pickett said. 

If you are interested in becoming a member of SOD, email Miriam Pickett at nounitedwaterdev@yahoo.com.

miriam pickett May 01, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I want to stress that I am not alone in realizing that in order to fight this development a united effort is required. There are many people in SOD who have been working much longer than I toward getting the community more engaged in opposing this horrendous plan. I am one among many.
Emily Rostkowski May 01, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Please go to: https://www.facebook.com/SODofNewMilford and "like" our page. The facebook page is up and running! Thanks!
tony mac May 02, 2012 at 01:11 AM
I wonder how the people of SOD feel about the development of the Middle School into a sports complex. if nobody wants to develop the water company property why would you endorse the new field project. The theory of NIMBY should apply to ALL not selectively.
Emily Rostkowski May 02, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Tony, it is my understanding that the Middle School sports field is permeable land, and not all concrete, giving storm water a place to go. In addition, the Field will not have machinery running 24/7/365 on the roof to keep the refrigeration going, or 221 apartments creating overcrowding of an already overly stresed school system, lights running 24 hours a day (just during practices and games), a parking garage with over 400 spaces, tractor trailers to deliver fresh produce daily, trash compactors attracting vermon from the river, added traffic to harm the youth, a pool, over 200 trees removed, a bank with 2 drive thru teller lanes, I can go on. I welcome a place for our youth to play.. away from the river, and on drier land. I agree with your NIMBY sentiments.. but see some people actually attend these meetings more than just once when a problem arrises. Were you at the Meetings? DId you come to the library? Were you around for the Cell phone tower issue? Were you present for the Canterbury apartment land development (the name of the apartments going on that land escapes me momentarily). I live on one end of town, yet know what is going on in all of my town and take offense to your comment. I welcome you to come to the May 8th meeting and become informed of what will be happening in town. I think if you see the Site Plan you will realize the field is welcomed.
Emily Rostkowski May 02, 2012 at 01:51 AM
http://newmilford-nj.patch.com/articles/athletic-field-committee-recommends-possible-location-of-multi-purpose-field-to-mayor-council This article does not state anything other than new fields, lighting, and stands. I don't see this to be somethign that will create more homes in the area to become flooded. Rather, I find it a place that will most likely get some of the youth away from 7-11 and Dunkin Donuts...
tony mac May 02, 2012 at 02:25 AM
excuse my sarcasm. The M and C, BofE volunteer boards have a history of poor decision making. a limo company needed to add ten feet to its garage for new size limos. zoning says no. what now? A school. We don't need three schools.. Sell them due to declining population. Three years later we need 12 million to add on to the remaining schools due to increased enrollment. We will try to reduce taxes but let's promote 12 police men at a cost of 80-90 K in salary. Hekemian proposed building a new field plus shop rite, etc. But no. We don't want anything there. We think more flooding will occur. Let's build a new field at who knows what cost to the taxpayers in this town. a past mayor laid 6 police officers off due to budgetary problems in the early 90's. Now, we promote, raise taxes, break campaign promises, throw our hands in the air and say "what can we do?" what the ?!#? Is going on in this town?
Mary McElroy May 02, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Tony, I have a suggestion for you: Why don't you run for the BOE or Mayor and Council? You've been in town a long time and it's obvious that you have all the answers. My suggestion-get your name on a ballot and do it better. It might be easier having all the answers in hindsight or when you're sitting behind a computer screen. From my own experience in numerous volunteer positions, I find that those who complain the most usually do the least to make any situation better. They often are willing to help out only when it benefits either them or their kids. You've been so concerned about the neighbors around the MS, but yet you don't seem to have any concern for those around the UW property - the site of a proposed MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. You're not so quick to roll up your sleeves and do something here. Emily is right-get out to a meeting, get informed, put some skin in the game. Sit through 4 hours of testimony from Hekemian & truly understand the development before you compare it to the MS. I know you hate the idea of the MS field & you seem to be obsessed with constantly weaving it into every article. So let's get real - you don't give a hoot about neighbors, flooding, education or any other smoke screen issue that you've raised. You care about YOU & you don't want a single penny coming out of your pocket. However, if you can sell the neighbors near the UW property up the river for rateables, you'll do it. So do me a favor and stop hiding behind all the other made up excuses.
Paige May 02, 2012 at 03:46 AM
@Tony Mac - The list you have here, of decisions that have been made without thought to the future, is EXACTLY why you should be AGAINST this development. This is an opportunity for everyone in New Milford to think about the future impact and not just think about the money they THINK we will make in rateables. Do you think that we need ANOTHER bank and a larger Shoprite and MORE housing? There are many existing homes available and for sale in this town already. There are apartments available in all three of the other apartment complexes that already exist and vacancies in multiple retail locations around town as well. As for the field - The Middle school field is ALREADY A FIELD and it is already in use by many of our youth sports. This proposal is ANOTHER opportunity to see the bigger picture and decide to do something that will be a benefit for future generations. Sometimes you have to invest in something in order to keep it thriving.
Ulises May 02, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Great meeting last night - we're finally united! SOD!!!
tony mac May 02, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Let me see, Mary. We raised thre children in this town. I coached twelve years of junior football, nine years of little league, seven years of babe Ruth, ten years biddy basketball, ten years girls softball, helped seven years of volunteerism with the high school football dinners. all while working two jobs. I' m on a pension which hasn't increased since I retired. My pockets are getting thin. I'd rather have a few more pennies in my pockets rather than having to sell and move from this town. I've been here over 60 years and would rather leave when I want to, not because I have to! Good luck in your quests!
tony mac May 02, 2012 at 11:27 AM
BTW.. Read today's paper and explain why the graduation rate has dropped 6.5 per cent. Maybe everyone should be more concerned with quality education rather than quality Fields of Dreams!
miriam pickett May 02, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Tony-SOD has been organized to work against the United Water property over development. There is nothing stopping you from organizing people who agree with you regarding the field into a cohesive group. SOD does not take a stand on the field. Our fight will be long and hard. We can't take on any other issue. I can't speak for other members, but I have my priorities and if I balance the United Water horror against the improvement of the existing field at the middle school, it' a no brainer.
JD May 02, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Tony Mac, I agree with you. There are many older residents in town that may be forced to move out because of the constant increase in taxes and spending, promoting police officers (and paying them for unused sick pay), etc. Also it is NOT necessary to spend untold amounts of money trying to make the little league baseball fields like little Yankee Stadiums - kides need a PLACE to play - not a FIELD OF DREAMS that becomes a NIGHTMARE for others in terms of taxes.
JD May 02, 2012 at 12:02 PM
How about it Tony Mac? Organizing might be what we need in order to get a decent supermarket in town plus ratables...and actually HAVE a supermarket - since there is nothing preventing INSERRA from leaving town - what would you do if you were INSERRA a) close the existing supermarket for several months for makeshift rennovations AND stop cash flow....or b) wait for a new Super Shop Rite to be built in a nearby town (like the property at the old Huffman-Koos site) and seamless move there. I for one WANT a decent supermarket in town.
Emily Rostkowski May 02, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Tony- SOD is concerned about the quality of education, hence being against the residences which will overcrowd our school system further. Before you make these blind comments, please come to a SOD meeting, come to a planning/zoning meeting. You are concerned about money- you should be concerned about your property value as well. Athletics actually tend to bring money to school systems.. and eventually more of the youth receive sports scholarships to universities (look at Paramus and Ridgewood's athletics scholarship data.. their athletic departments and fields are very very amped). So in fact, the field at the MS will eventually help our graduation rate.
Concerned Parent 1 May 02, 2012 at 12:44 PM
I would vote for you Tony Mac! You tell it like it is! Mary and select others...the truth hurts!
Anthony May 02, 2012 at 01:12 PM
How about it New Milford? Are we ready to call for a full blown organized boycott of the existing Shop-Rite? 30 families, 50 families, 100 families, 500 families? At some point Inserra is going to see the reduction in cash flow and get the message that New Milford is not happy with his plans. JD, excellent point about the site in River Edge, it is perfect for a brand new Super Shop Rite, nothing but commercial buildings and a highway right next door. Much better than a high school, single family homes and a river that floods, wouldn't you think? If anyone thinks the development of this property is going to result in tax savings for the town, I believe they are in for a rude awakening. When we will need to spend astronomical amounts of money on more police, fire, infrastructure and most importantly Schools, people are going to be forced out any way. Ratables will be offset by expenses guaranteed.
miriam pickett May 02, 2012 at 02:59 PM
JD - any additional ratables from the overdevelopment plan will be offset by added school taxes to accomodate the additional children who will be enrolled in the schools, added police and fire protection that will need to be in place (how long will it take before an all volunteer fire department is inadequate to cover the additional residences and huge supermarket?). Wear and tear on all the borough roads leading to the development is a given. Remember these are not county roads and New Milford will have to foot the bill for continuous for repaving. There are so many alternatives to Shop Rite. I haven't walked into that filthy store in years. Stop and Shop is nearby. Fairway is a short a drive away. Trader Joes is cheaper than all of them and offers a terrfic selection. Inserra will not move out. They make plenty of money from their current location which is much better located to attract not only New Milford residents but those from Teaneck, Bergenfield, River Edge and Dumont. 70,000 square feet is bigger than the existing supermarkets in our area. I can't believe you welcome the traffic, noise, pollution and threat of increased flooding so that you have an oversized supermarket.
Paige May 02, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Concerned Parent 1 - Exactly what is the "truth"?
Paige May 02, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Tony - Respectfully, I think you should read the entire article - not just the part that justifies your position.
Denise May 02, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Emily,The land in front of the Canterbury apartments facing River Road, has that been approved to build MORE apartments? I hadn't heard about this...where have I been!?
Mary McElroy May 02, 2012 at 06:09 PM
What truth is that concerned parent 1? That those focused on the field at the Middle School are not parents who care about education? Tony Mac listed off a long list of sports programs he's been involved with. I could give you a long list of programs that I've been involved with & other than team mom for Jr. Football - they would all be educational in nature. Education for me begins first & foremost at my own front door - not the doors of the school. If you can say the same for yourself then you and I are on the same page. Taking that a step further, I've been critical, outspoken and supportive about educational endeavours in this district since my oldest started 10 yrs. ago. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that's my truth. If you've been as dedicated to education in NM, then we must know each other from BOE meetings, PTO meetings or other educational committees. Here's my email: mcelroy5@optonline.net. Email me and maybe this could be the start of a grass roots movement for NM parents on the educational front. I can promise you that I will make time for that movement in addition to the MS field & the UW property development. .
TommyIce May 02, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Do you really think there will a reduction in taxes if United Water is developed? Really? We all know that it will require an increase in the number of police we have (which is more than just salary--think about those pensions and health benefits), and I'm sure the two fire departments in town will need new equipment to accommodate the size of these structures. My family has been in town since 1937. Would you like to know how many times the taxes have been reduced in the 75 years that we have lived in New Milford? Remember, in the 30's the town was still a farming community and Boulevard ended at Madison Avenue. Did the building of Brookchester and Dorchester Apartments lower the taxes? Did the building of the Brookchester shopping center lower the taxes? How about the current Shop-Rite, did that lower the taxes?
Ulises May 04, 2012 at 04:08 PM
The elephant in the room in this real estate transaction is Suez/United Water. They preached to us, at last year’s Mayor and Council meeting, that flooding is caused by overdevelopment and in the same breath; they’re selling a huge parcel of land, in a flood zone, to developers. There are a bunch of hypocrites. They ignore all our requests to release water from their reservoir before a major storm, making them a horrible neighbor. This development will make flooding worse in town and they want federal/state tax payer money to buy out our low lying neighborhoods out. Every time a house gets brought up, with federal/state tax payer money, everyone’s property taxes goes up in town to make up the difference. Let’s be realistic, the developers that’s purchasing this land (Hekemian Group) only builds apartment complexes. Therefore, that presentation at the high school last year was all a show. Their intentions all along was to build a mega apartment complex that will overcrowd our schools, strain our police & fire departments, increase traffic by our HS and Senior Center, increase flooding and buyouts, etc.. These obvious factors will raise all our taxes before we ever see a dime in ratables from this mega-eyesore… This is a bad idea for New Milford and we need to Stop-Over-Development for the sake of our wallets and the future of this town (our home values will sink, even lower, once this land gets build up). SOD!
Lori Barton May 04, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Ulises, you are absolutely right. In fact, Hekemian tried to do almost the exact same development on the Waterworks site in 1993-94. Oradell turned them down and now they are trying in New Milford. Hekeimian is in the business of mixed used development: apartments and retail. If there is any increase in ratables (doubtful since you will lose the existing ShopRite) it will definitely be offset by the huge increase in taxes from the residential development and the increase in services necessitated by such a huge supermarket. PLUS, all of us will be paying for the increased costs due to flood damage...not just those who live in flood areas. Our high school track and the first floor of the high school will be damaged again and again. Who do you think pays for that? All of us do.
miriam pickett May 07, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Ulises and Lori - let's get this onto our FB page. Many of us (including me) never knew about Hekemian and the Waterworks.
JD May 08, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Miriam, so Stop and Shop is nearby? Fairway is a short drive away? ...and Inserra will not move out? Really? Well if Mr Inserra had to choose between a) closing the existing supermarket for several months for makeshift rennovations AND STOPPING CASH FLOW....or b) wait for a new Super Shop Rite to be built in a nearby town (like the property at the old Huffman-Koos site) and seamless move there....what do you think he is going to do....REALLY? IT IS OBVIOUS....HE WILL MOVE OUT OF TOWN...and THEN....I wonder who will be heading a new "grassroots campaign" to keep OUR supermarket in town? Let's IMPROVE our town with a DECENT supermarket! I for one WANT a DECENT supermarket IN TOWN.
David Bednarcik May 09, 2012 at 01:29 AM
I didn't make the meeting tonight. What heappened?

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