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Bergenfield Weighs In On Hekemian Development

Bergenfield speaks out to negative impact of United Water Property Development

With carefully formulated questions in hand, Bergenfield resident Betty Verdejo, came before the Zoning Board Tuesday to support New Milford residents opposed to the . 

Verdejo, whose son lives on Columbia Street in New Milford, questioned the , on several points regarding his inspections of comparable properties. The project's proposed developer is New Milford Redevelopment Associates, whose president is Peter Hekemian of the S. Hekemian Group. 

When asked who made the decisions on what properties to use as comparables, Sussman replied that he made the decision. 

When questioned by Verdejo about the other commercial developments used in his comparison, Sussman said that he could not find a shopping center with a residential component that matched the size and scope of the 221 unit apartment complex proposed by Hekemian for the United Water property. The closest he came to was Boulder Run in Wyckoff that has a 16 unit apartment complex attached to a commercial development. 

Sussman did not know the acreage of the sites he used as comparisons when asked by Verdejo. 

Verdejo concluded her questioning of Sussman by asking, "Do you think the zoning board would be stupid enough to go against the will of New Milford?"

When asked by Communications Chair Lori Barton if he was aware that Blue Acre funds were being used to purchase homes that have experienced repetitive flooding in New Milford, Sussman replied that he did not know what Blue Acres funding was. 

Michael Dipple, Hekemian's engineering expert and principal of L2A Land Design in Englewood, who had previously as part of the proposed development of the United Water property, was recalled to answer questions from the public during the last five minutes of the hearing. 

Michael Gadaleta of New Milford had just begun to question Dipple about whether the subdivision of the United Water property created the irregularly shaped lot, and about the flooding of that property during Hurricane Irene, when the meeting was adjourned.

At the conclusion of the June 21 special meeting of the Zoning Board, attorney for Hekemian, Antimo "Andy" DelVecchio, had asked Zoning Board attorney, Scott Sproviero, to rule on whether board member Joseph Binetti should be recused from the remainder of the hearings due to a conflict of interest. 

The issue came as a result of Binetti's questioning of the , 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."

Due to prior obligations, Binetti was not present at Tuesday's meeting and DelVeccho agreed that since he was not there, determination could be postponed. 

The next meeting of the Zoning Board is on Monday, July 30 at 7pm in the council chambers of . This meeting is a special meeting devoted entirely to the hearing of the proposed development of the United Water property.

STRESSED July 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM
This whole development should not move forward the mayor and council of New Milford know exactly what is going to happen to their residents if this goes through. You were voted in from your resident so show them that you really do care about what they went through last year and vote no to this whole project cause things are going to get alot worst for them and others. United Water blames flooding on overdevelopment but they want to sell land for development you money hungry sob only care amount the almighty dollars while we middle class citizens suffer at your hands and for years nobody has done anything but do study after study.. forget about the studies we need action NOW BEFORE THE NEXT FLOOD. Everyone pushes it under the carpet then they make it seem like their doing something when it happens again. Enough already are you all waiting for a tragedy to happen before you actually do something it is bound to happen cause things are getting worst.
Ulises July 12, 2012 at 10:56 AM
It's so said to know that the Subrizi team that campaigned on not developing this land are now rezoning this property to develop it. The mayor recently revealed her plan to a friend of mine and she told her she wants the development of a new Shop Rite at this site and wants to build a new fire department in the existing Shop Rite location, real smart Mayor. Let's build in a flood zone, create massive amount of traffic by our high school and spend millions on a new fire station. Oh, let's not forget our Council President Howard Berner, who recently told the Bergen Record that rezoning this land is a compromise in the developer's interest, yet to get our votes when he was a candidate in 2009 he campaigned on "...their plan is to give away the last significant open space in town and burden the taxpayer with building new additions to our schools...". Read the rest of the bull he ran on for yourself (click on the link below) and don't vote for this liar anymore - I was fooled once my this joker, never again. http://www.northjersey.com/news/67122042.html?scpromo=1
Lori Barton July 12, 2012 at 11:18 AM
The mayor and council of Oradell are horrified at the thought of this project while the mayor and council of New Milford seem dead set on doing whatever possible to make it a reality. Instead of waiting for the Zoning Board to make an informed, educated decision, they are seriously considering changing the zoning to make it easier for the developers. The Council meeting minutes from 7/25/11 clearly show that Berner said he will recuse himself from any rezoning discussions. Yet when confronted with this proof, he has not recused himself. The entire procedure is thus tainted. New Milford will remember this in November.
miriam pickett July 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Kudos to Betty Verdejo for her thoughtful and prescient questioning of Sussman. I was so impressed with her abillity to fluster and confuse this so called "expert." She demonstrated that it is possible for residents to effectively challenge this development. Please, please, please if you haven't been to a meeting or if you haven't questioned Hekemian's witnessess, prepare ahead of time and challenge these bozos. New Milford is your town!!! We've got to stop this! We've got to convince the mayor and council that we hold the keys to their reelection. SOD was created so that New Mikford residents can have a unified voice. Email us at sodnow@yahoo.com for more information.
Rick July 12, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Clearly our local elected officials are not endearing themselves to the voters in our community, precipitated by events out of their hands. IF United Water managed the reservoir responsibly, IF flooding were not the primary issue, IF real estate were not suffering the worst recession in history, IF the town had the resourses to make these projects feasible, few would care. The reality is there is nothing that focuses primarily on FLOOD MITIGATION in any of these proposals and if our elected officials don't mimmick the will of the people, they can and will be easily replaced.
Lori Barton July 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
I don't believe this is about one party or another. But I do agree that all of the M&C should be on record with where they stand on this development and on the possible rezoning of this property. Why wasn't the offer from the Hackensack Riverkeeper seriously considered? Why did Council President Berner dismiss this effort? What does Mayor Subrizi have to say regarding the claim that she discussed this with a town resident and indicated her support for the ShopRite relocation so the fire department could have the other location? Nw Milford has always been a community that votes for the individual, not the party. Let's keep it that way. Let's hear where the sitting members are and why. Let's hear what ALL the candidates think. That is the only way the electorate can make an informed decision.
miriam pickett July 12, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Lori you are absolutely right. It's time to stop skirting this issue. Our elected officials must go on record and publicly take a stand one way or another. As for attacking one party that is absolutely counterproductive. This is a nonpartisan issue. SOD is made up of a wide variety of residents. Some vote straight party line, others mix it up. We ALL hate this development and are working together to stop it.
Ulises July 12, 2012 at 04:30 PM
For the record, I'm still a big fan of Peter Rebsch. I'm just disappointed in Subrizi and Berner.
TommyIce July 12, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Back in the 1770's, a group of men sat in a tavern and spoke and dreamt of self-determination. That spurned a revolution against a government that oppressed their freedom, their choices, their right to set their own course. Ironic that in a town that was the birthplace of the county, a town that is in the crossroads of that very revolution, we have a mayor and council that feels they alone have the power to determine what is in the best interest of the residents. That they alone have the foresight to see a better way. Should not the residents determine what is in their best interest? If the M&C feel that this is a splendid idea, that the taxpayers are behind, why not put it up for a referendum vote by those very taxpayers? If it is as they feel, the people will vote for it and live with it. If not, then the town will have determined our future and not only 7 people who won't even publicly voice where they stand and why on this issue.
miriam pickett July 12, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I would just like to add that if I were the mayor or a member of the council I wouldn't want this development included in my legacy.
Sam B. July 13, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Are Subrizi, Berner and the rest of the Council aware that all the SOD signs that are popping up around town signifies at least one vote against them when they come up for election. In my house it represents 6 votes against anyone who favors this development. Pete Rebsch is a stand up guy who will let you know where he stands instead of hiding in the shadows like the rest of them. I view all those who remain silent as being proponents of this hideous development. Why not break their silence and at least tell us how this development will benefit New Milford. I'm guessing they're still trying to figure that out.
TommyIce July 14, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Jimmy if we can't meet at a tavern, then by God find a liberty tree to meet under. I feel a vote BY THE PEOPLE is the best way, the only way to keep the town from being divided, to keep things neighborly. Another thing that needs to be accomplished is to stop voting in parties and start voting in Independents. Once an individual becomes a member of either the Republican or Democratic parties, they are no longer individuals with a vote but a stakeholder in a party line.
miriam pickett July 14, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Tommy: I have never understood why a small town like New Milford elects its governing board by party affiliation. It seems to me that the issues that are being dealt with in our town should be voted on based on what's best for New Milford and not what's best for a particular party. Oh, and by the way, all of you who read the Patch, as far as SOD knows, at the Mayor and Council meeting of July 23, the boro planner will be presenting at the request of Mayor Subrizzi, et. al, a proposed change in the zoning for the water company property. I urge everyone who reads this to come to that meeting and voice your opposition to any change in the zoning at this time.
Lori Barton July 14, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Any changes that the Mayor & Council make to the zoning of the Suez/United Water property at this time would be unconscionable. Why are the Zoning Board Members committing so much of their time to the Hekemian application if the M&C are going to bypass them? The Zoning Board is meeting an EXTRA 4 hour meeting each month to deal with this. Let them see it through. They have the expertise in this area. Additionally, Councilman Ashley has already had to recuse himself from this decision since he is on record as being against this development (Bravo Councilman Ashley!). Council President Berner should also recuse himself as he indicated he would in the council minutes of 7/25/11 (though now he seems to have forgotten his own words). That leaves a total of 5 people to make a decision of this magnitude. What a slap in the face to this community if they go ahead and rezone this property. Let the zoning board make this decision. Or, as Tommy stated, let the townspeople decide this via referendum.
Ulises July 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I asked, over a year ago, at two M&C if they can put a referendum on what to do with this property. I thought it would be a good idea to let the tax payers decide, not the developers and keep politics out of this property. The Mayor stated this is a private sale and there's nothing we can do about it. Yet, she's helping this private sale and it's developers by rezoning this property from residential to commercial. Our politicians are a bunch of liars and I hope people vote anyone for this development out. I also hope we can get an Independent party to run next year to put the people's interest first, unlike what always goes on in boro hall (the people's interest are always ignored).
Paige July 15, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Didn't the issue of the sale of this property start with a M&C rezoning and writing a master plan without the people of New Milford really knowing what was being done? the current Mayor and Council President were both council members at the time. I remener being at more than one meeting about that issue and they were both very vocal about how it never should have been rezoned and how they wanted to be on record that they did not agree. Now that they are in a position to right the wrong they are doing exactly what they said was so very wrong before. I agree they should go on record with what they want to see happen with the property, why they did not pursue funding from the Hackensack Riverkeeper, why they argued against purchasing the land but seem to have visions of constructing a new firehouse at the current Shoprite property. and I agree with Lori and Miriam - enough talk about political party affiliation. This is local government with local issues, vote in honest people with integrity who don't make decisions that impact a community without actually hearing the community.
Carol Hoernlein July 16, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Sussman never heard of Blue Acres? I find that fact alone chilling. Flooding is not on these folks' minds. It should be.

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