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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.

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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