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Mayor Subrizi Weighs In On Development of United Water Property

Mayor Subrizi lends her voice to the conversation provoked by the Riverkeeper's position on the development of the United Water Property.

Regarding the development of the United Water property, the question that no one seems to be asking is "What's best for New Milford and its residents?" As Mayor, that is the question I am charged to consider in this situation, and all matters, that affect our town. 

The Riverkeeper has offered an opinion on the fate of the United Water property that SOD disagrees with. No issue is without opposing opinions and SOD's response demonstrates that there is no room in the conversation for any voice other than their own. Since the property entered into a private sale contract with Hekemian, I have fielded many opinions from residents, many of whom tell me they want a Shop Rite and a field on that property, as long as there are no apartments that would burden the services and infrastructure of this town. Unfortunately, these people have not banded their voices together, and remain virtually silent as a group. Still, as Mayor, I hear them and I have to take their opinions into consideration. 

From the moment the United Water property became available to the town, there was never enough support to buy the property. It is well and good to say grants may be available, but that is no guarantee, especially with so many vying for the same grant money. Prior to Hekemian entering into a sale contract with United Water for purchase of the property, even New Milford's grants writer told us the purchase would require a “leap of faith.” 

The United Water property is not the first open space to come before the Mayor and Council and prior experience shows that being in the business of buying land is a gamble. A good example is to look at the Carlton Place lot. New Milford purchased that lot for $1.285 million (+interest) to keep it from being developed. We paid triple what the owner paid for it. We eventually got back $600,000 from grants. Was it worth it?  Look at it today. You decide. 

Using that property as a yardstick, had we purchased the United Water property for $8 million we would only be on the hook for $4 million. It’s no wonder there was no support to buy it….we simply can’t afford it.

The plan to re-zone was voted down 4 – 2. That idea is now off the table, as well.  There will be no property deeded back to the town, which could have been used as a field. Instead, the developer’s plan calls for 221 apartments to occupy that space.

Now the only avenue is to hope that the application, whether approved or denied by the Zoning Board of Adjustment, will ultimately be appealed to the courts. We will have to hope that the final decision will be more favorable to New Milford than it will be to the developer. It’s a roll of the dice.

What is best for New Milford and its’ residents? This is the question we should all be asking ourselves. I have no interest in helping or hurting Hekemian or the United Water Company. I thank the Riverkeeper for offering his opinion of the issue. 

Mayor Ann Subrizi

AML November 30, 2012 at 03:07 AM
"SOD's response demonstrates that there is no room in the conversation for any voice other than their own".....what a hypocritical statement to have made! Madam Mayor, please remove the word "SOD" and replace it with "Madam Mayor"....it appears that you are the narrow-minded, blind, "my way, or, the highway" entity in this discussion, and not SOD contrary to what you spew out. On the subject of highway, just look at what happened this past election regarding council members.....and if you think that the United Water property had nothing to do with it, just wait until you and the others are up for re-election....same scenario will apply...you will certainly ride down that same highway to defeat! To Lolita, Please do not categorize every SOD member into one group, and refer to them as "the Sod People." Is that fair? Should I categorize all of the Lolita's and state the obvious. Please check your dictionary and use the proper words to make a point. "I'm sure the SOD people will try to disembowel every word you spoke." The word "disembowl" is not used in the correct context. Don't try to impress if you cannot use the word properly.
Michelle November 30, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I have to say that many of us on here, use our own names, and take a lot of heat having been confronted by many, some less sophisticated than others, and have been accused of much including lying and conniving and whining and so on. Many times by people who wish to remain unidentified, and many of whom are as or more guilty of the behavior they’re calling out. If one’s intentions are true, they should be able to hold up to the scrutiny. I believe the reason SOD’s voice is so loud, is there are so many of us, which speaks its own message. I’ve let to see all these people who are for the development come forward to have it put on record that they are for this development, with the exception of Hekemian himself. If they want it so badly, let them fight for it. To try to paint a picture that they can’t for fear of hearing sour words from SOD is lame. Each of us are hearing our share of sour words, this message included, yet we remain in the open and endure the heat because we believe what we believe. As for the Riverkeeper, it's not the fact that he has an opinion, it's the fact that his opinion is contrary to his role, that he has no apparent reason for coming forth for the development, that his sponsors are the very people who will benefit from this development. Add to that that he doesn’t know what he’s speaking about, and it makes him suspect.
Michelle November 30, 2012 at 03:20 AM
There is nothing evil about a ShopRite, or a bank, or an apartment complex. There is something evil about a developer proceeding to force a development on a community when there are members of that community who will be hurt by it. People are responding to that. As for the Carlton Place purchase, without knowing why the litigation occurred and the details of the purchase, no one can judge the wisdom of that decision. However, out of all the tax money taken from the residents, I would consider any investment in open or green space to be a sound one since it supports our health on so many levels. Do you want this development Mayor Subrizi? Or are you going for the compromise because you feel powerless over the overdevelopment that has descended upon us?
Jose A. Camacho, Esq. November 30, 2012 at 03:23 AM
The opinion of the river keeper means nothing, it is the opinion of the residents of New Milford that counts, and for all who keep saying SOD is only represents 120 or so members I say what I have always said, which is when you see a group of people mobilized as SOD has been you must figure the support for their position is probably 10 times stronger than its registered membership. It is just that there are many who are too busy with their own lives to show up for meetings and to engage in protest. Recent elections were decided by approximately 25 votes yet this last election those elected had approximately a 600 vote spread. The opinion of the residents is clear!
AML November 30, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Are you aware of the fact that Inserra was fighting Hekemian in Wyckoff? Munico Associates is Hekemian. Partners in New Milford, and now, enemies in Wyckoff. If Hekemian takes Inserra/Planning Board to court on appeal in Wyckoff, that may annoy Inserra as to pull out of the New Milford deal. One never knows how things will eventually turn out.
Michelle November 30, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Pat, if you take the apartments off the table, this will go to court either way. There are advocacy groups waiting to sue, and a change in rezoning to strictly commercial will trigger a lawsuit because of the inconsistency with the Masterplan. No matter which way we turn, it's going to be a battle. You said you've attended many ZB meetings. Have you attended the ones where Dipple testified? I'm wondering how you can say that this won't contribute to flooding? The Sheffield in Englewood is a new Hekemian development. It floods to the front door. If that building wasn't there it would flood beyond where the building is. Where does that water that would have flooded onto that vacant land, go now that the building is there?
Michelle November 30, 2012 at 03:39 AM
"yet to see" ... sorry for the typo!
AML November 30, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Yes, but that property in Wyckoff is not open space as it is in New Milford. There is an existing abandoned supermarket (A&P) on that property (along with other stores), that Inserra wants to raze and rebuild.
NM Resident November 30, 2012 at 04:09 AM
If the re-zoning of the property was truly the right way to go, and honestly, its hard to decipher at this point, then the M&C did a piss poor job of explaining that to the people of NM in a timely way that let us know they were really on "our side- the will of the majority of the people"- and that we should have supported them in the re-zoning effort. But they did not. They could not. Ask yourself, Why is that? Now we are left to believe we are victims of our own apathy, our ignorance, we missed our chance when it was there for the taking, we just didn't pay attention when we had the chance to and now we will just have to deal with the consequences... Subrizi could have made a dozen extra statements explaining it, screamed out loud to get our attention- but she did not. The answer is obvious. It's common sense- and whether we want to say it out loud or not, we all know why things are they way they are. We take responsibility for our own actions- or inactions- but then again, we are not all our elected officials who's job it is to make sure we don't miss these opportunities, are we? Subrizi needs to fight for the overwhelming will of the people of NM or step aside and get out of the way so that the next politician doesn't have the chance to tell us how it's our fault... Thats what a real mayor, one who really cares about this town, above her political career and personal agenda, should be doing..
scooby doo November 30, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Who says open space is not a option? Berner, Rebsch, Ashley, Putrino, Grant and Duffie all think it's an option. In January 4 of them will be on the council.Let's see what our options are then. No way the rezoning was needed or would be helpful. That's just handing them the land without a fight. Like NM Resident said, we are proud, hardworking loyal folks and we will fight for our quality of life and for ope space to the bitter end.
Hedy Grant November 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I organized New Milford RAID (Residents Against Indiscriminate Development) in opposition to the Carlton Place development that Mayor Subrizi mentions. The developer planned to construct a 28-unit apartment building with a large parking lot on a 1.1 acre piece of property that was at the end of a one-block long dead end residential street. The property was bordered on its west side by the Hirshfeld Brook and on its north side by a Hirshfeld Brook tributary. If I remember correctly, 4 of the apartments were to be considered COAH units. RAID members attended Zoning Board hearings on the matter, questioned witnesses and voiced their opinions. All the borough services (DPW, Fire, etc.) opposed the development. When it appeared that the developer was about to file a builder's remedy lawsuit (which it would have won as a builder has never lost one of these suits), the M&C acted. By a 5-1 vote, the Council voted to purchase the property at a final cost of about $600,000. Then-Councilwoman Ann Subrizi cast the lone dissenting vote which, for some reason, she is still proud of. The property remains in its natural state where deer, opossum, skunks, muskrats (I think that's what they are), birds and all manner of wildlife live and trees and other flora and fauna grow pretty much undisturbed. No trees were destroyed. There is no traffic congestion, additional pollution or noise. A neighborhood was saved. Yes, Mayor, it was worth it.
Rick November 30, 2012 at 12:52 PM
OK, I'll humor you Mayor Subrizi since you partonize us. What's best for NM & it's residents is if the Riverkeeper who does not live here, has not political ties to our community, does not attend meetings, does not work or pay taxes here &, has no children in our school system, stay out of our business. Frankly, his ignorance is a burden to us & your willingness to acknowledge him or his opinion reflects poorly on you. Now I thank you for offering your opinion on the issue, however having respect for your opinion is another thing. Bill Sheehan is not worthy of respect & endorsing his right to an opinion only makes you appear as ignorant as him.
marlene casey November 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM
As New Milford's Grant Consultant I have never weighed in on this issue publicly, before. As a borough resident, and taxpayer I do have an opinion, but that is no relative to this discussion. What is relavent is that I was asked what grant monies could be tapped to acquire this property, and at that time I never responded that it would be "a leap of faith". I contacted Green Acres, Blue Acres, FEMA and Bergen County Open Space along with State and Federal legislators and was assured we would received the help necessary. The only caveat was that the Borough would have to bond the purchase and the money could be refunded to the Borough over a two year period. This is standard practice for all grant! I am providing this information as fact, and because I believe the public has the right to know. Also I am tired of seeing words in print attributed to me, but not so.
NM Resident November 30, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Thank you Hedy- we were looking for that information. It needs to be finally said- Our Mayor is an embarrassment to our town every time she opens her mouth these days. To be honest, I voted for her. I would never cast that vote again. We all know she is in way above her paygrade, but now is the time she should be asking the citizens for help- not let her inability to navigate the position she holds continue to spin out of control. Pretending to know what you are doing only gets you so far- and when a responsible person knows their actions are hurting others, they STOP, LISTEN and CHANGE COURSE. And yet, she does not ask for help. She does not look to her constituants for guidance. She pretends to, but she doesn't. The idea that "many" people want to see the land developed proves that she just lies about who she talks to. She is actually in a very potentially damaging position right now because she knows she is not going to be re-elected and will likely do some very detrimental things to our town on the way out as a parting gift. Worse than that, the financially vested parties in the development already know she is way over her head, and are playing her, and subsequently all of us like a fiddle. Even a discussion like this, will create another distraction which will only serve to help them. Keep the townspeople fighting amongst themselves while they do their bidding right under our noses...
tony g2010 November 30, 2012 at 02:15 PM
You are correct about the Mayor, a good example of what you say, in my opinion, was her speech at the Veterans Day Ceremony. It turned into a rambling statement about the Police and DPW overtime during the storm, not the place or the time. If you listen to the mayors of the surrounding towns speak it is like night and day based on content alone. ( I know how hard public speaking is, so my measure is substance over form). The Mayor and two Councilmen are for this property being developed. To their credit, they have been consistent, however, at least to my knowledge, have never publicly come forth and supported their position with facts. Prior to the election, they remained silent so as not to "sabotage” the Republican ticket. That ship has sailed, if they have some compelling argument as to why this property needs development and negations with the developer are in order, now is the time to come forward with it. The town needs to unite to get the best possible outcome. If you read this thread and the countless others on the Patch, the back and forth between the two sides is exhausting and unproductive. My suggestion would be for SOD to commission a simple survey and mail it to every household in NM, probably could be done for less than $1,000. Three choices, For, Against, or Compromise. Based upon the results, some measure of the temperature of the will of the citizens will be measured.
tony g2010 November 30, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I agree with Hedy on this, saving that property was worth every penny, two storms ago those residents would have been under 10 feet of water. What I am disappointed about is the state of the property now, it appeared that the DPW started something with their heavy equipment, then just left it. (BTW this was before Sandy).
NM Resident November 30, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I wish patch had a "Like" button. Thank you Marlene.
DudleyDoRight November 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Mayor Subrizi says, "From the moment the United Water property became available to the town, there was never enough support to buy the property." The minutes of council meetings during the critical period of January through April 2011 show that the possibility of purchasing the UW property was briefly touched upon but never taken seriously or discussed in depth. And when the option to purchase the property expired, the Mayor never revealed to the public that it had ever been an option. The information only became public in August 2012 when the UW-Hekemian sales contract was discovered online - and by then the option was history. Questions still remain about what really happened during those 4 months. Mayor Subrizi also says that nobody seems to be thinking about "what's best for New Milford and its residents." I believe everyone in town is thinking about that very thing.
Hedy Grant November 30, 2012 at 03:10 PM
tonyg 2010 - The Bergen County Mosquito Commission comes every year or two in the fall to clean out debris from the the Hirshfeld Brook on the east side of the Boulevard bridge. They use the Carlton property to access the brook. The equipment is usually there for several weeks and then removed. If you drive by, you can see the huge pile of dirt they leave behind. Occasionally DPW does some work there as well. By the way, just before the storm, I noticed about 20 good sized dead and dying fish in the Hirshfeld Brook on the north of Main Street. I reported it to the appropriate authorities. I wonder what it might mean.
Ulises November 30, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Ms. Grant and Ms. Casey thank you for setting the record straight for us. Jimmy, please don't drag my name into your comments - thank you (btw, AML is a good friend of mine). The Republicans lost big time nationwide this past election. In town, the NM Republican Club had candidates that shared SOD's view but the Mayor, Colucci and Rabolino were campaigning on a different note. So how do you expect them to win if the party was sending mix messages? Colucci was telling my next door neighbors SOD has it all wrong and the development is a done deal, while Rebesch stood their and disagreed with him, but you're blaming us? I had Republicans in town tell me they are voting for Putrino and these were people that don't even agree with SOD, yet SOD's to blame? The Mayor doesn't know how to stay above the fray and that's key for political leaders. She using the Patch and the Borough's website as her bully pulpit to ridicule SOD, a small group of her constituents in town - yet SOD was the reason why NM Republican Club lost? Come on Jimmy, I know their your friends, and I consider Peter and Howard friends too, but they lost because the Mayor set the stage and has handled this UW property issue, since the beginning, and a lot of other things in town too, poorly. Subrizi is to blame not SOD for the election results in town.
Mary McElroy November 30, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Thank you Ms. Casey. I look forward to hearing from you directly at the council meeting in January, I believe they were going to included you on the agenda so finally we can hear from you personally in a public forum. Both sides have talked a lot about you, but I'd prefer to hear from you directly. Regarding the term "leap of faith" - it was used at the last work session of the M&C which I attended, I believe it was Mr. Ashley (almost 99% sure of that but anyone else who was there can correct me if I'm wrong). In my opinion, he was correct in using it as he was describing the process of buying this land - the borough would have to bond for the full amount in the hopes that it would be returned to us in possible grant monies. To me, that is a 'leap of faith' but with real information, people can finally decide if they are willing to make that investment should the land become available. Your feedback is one part of that process which will assist us in making a truly informed decision. Until January then!!
Celeste Scavetta November 30, 2012 at 03:52 PM
As a current member of the Planning Board, and former, one-year Councilwoman, and with all due respect, I will comment briefly. I was a sitting Councilwoman at the March 14, 2011 Work Session and Public Meeting of the New Milford Council where our grant consultant was invited to speak. It was the only time during my one-year tenure on Council that I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Casey in her capacity of Grant Consultant. For 100% clarification purposes, I have uploaded an excerpt-only of the minutes of that Council meeting. On a personal note, I am appalled at the lack of respect on this site toward one another. I would like to see AOL (the owners of Patch.com) require all comments prior to print, provide mandated information: full name, address and phone number. This is precisely what reputable blog sites, and newspapers require. Perhaps this would rectify the obscene anonymity and disrespect so fortuitously occurring here. This blog is slowly mirroring NJ.COM, and that is MOST unfortunate for us all.
Celeste Scavetta November 30, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Since the excerpt would not upload and the full minutes are available via a Google search, here is the link: http://www.newmilfordboro.com/attachments/180_minutes%203.14.11.pdf Thank you.
DudleyDoRight November 30, 2012 at 04:40 PM
To me, the key sentence in the March 14, 2011 minutes that Celeste Scavetto references is this one: Ms. Casey "provided a strategy should the Council wish to attempt a negotiation with United Water." Period. End of paragraph. Was Ms. Casey's strategy discussed or dismissed without further discussion? Of course by then I imagine the mayor had already approved the plan Hekemian would present to New Milford the following month or was having discussions with him.
NM Resident November 30, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I see no quotes around the "Leap of Faith" comment in the minutes. These minutes are not verbatim transcriptions. Ms. Casey is saying she didn't say it. Where is the confusion?
Ann Piccirillo November 30, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Time to reign it in, folks. Let's stick to the issue at hand in this article. I understand passions are high, and I firmly believe in dialogue that involves a good debate, but accusations and personal attacks never accepted here.
miriam pickett December 01, 2012 at 02:44 PM
A lot of noise here. To those of you who can't find anything wrong with this development, take a walk around the neighborhood. If you lived in proximity to this property, would you be so anxious to see it built? Then picture it when this gigantic market is plopped down in the middle of it. Now try to picture the high school letting out. Maybe the weather is bad and visibility is low. Parents are picking their kids up and the kids themselves are walking between cars. Tires screech, cars skid, trucks can't stop. Once you visualize this scenario which is only one of many, go down to Boro Hall and research the project the way many residents have. Then come to a BOA meeting and listen to the testimony. You'll be very surprised by the unfinished plans and unanswered questions coming out of the Hekemian camp. I would recommend Mayor Subrizi do some homework as well. She seems to be very misinformed about the scope of the project and its impact on all the residents of New Milford.
Rosemary Fuhrman December 01, 2012 at 08:18 PM
SOD’s members and supporters made a commitment early on in this process to do the due diligence required to get educated about all the issues swirling around this debate. As a result, we can speak from facts and research when we express concern about traffic volume near a school, the detrimental impact of increased class sizes if the schools get more overcrowded, the potential for increased flooding downstream if we indiscriminately build on one of the last parcels of open space, especially one so close to the watershed. Our intent is to share the results of our studies so the residents of New Milford can make informed decisions. I keep waiting for Mayor Subrizi to do the same kind of study and research and educate us about why she thinks this is a good deal for the citizens of New Milford. I do not agree with her opening premise that... no one seems to be asking is "What's best for New Milford and its residents?". Since SOD’s formation, that is all this group of dedicated residents has been doing. Mayor Subrizi: Please do not insult my intelligence any longer by continuing to state you only want what is best for New Milford. Prove it.
Michael J. Gadaleta December 01, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Carlton Place was a great decision . A very aggressive application was filed at the Planning Board for 30 -35 residential units in the Hirschfield Brook , with a history of flooding , north of Big Jim's in the woods on the east side of the Blvd . Residents objected and feared increased flooding, the Mayor and council, the planning board, .the environmental comm. , the residents, our grant writer , our legal team all worked together to make certain that this one piece of land WOULD NOT BE DEVELOPED . Elected officials were very vocal in their opposition to the proposal and vowed it would not proceed . It was a small , but successful accomplishment to preserve our open space . What a unique idea ! How many residents did not experience continual flooding because this land was preserved , is a better question ...
robin commerford December 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I couldn't agree any more with you Pat, and Madam Mayor. I think there is a lot of us NM taxpayers who don't have the energy and time to fight SOD or are afraid to voice their opinions. Why do SOD members think that a big old lot of weeds is better than having a taxable property in town? The fact of the matter is that the people that live in that neighborhood don't want anything built in their backyards. I get it. However, they have to force their opinions on the rest of us. I am wishing for an end to this and hoping for a happy and peaceful new year!

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