Since the filing of the application for , several New Milford residents have been closely following a similar development in a flood-prone area in Union County.
The United Water property in New Milford is owned by New Milford Development Associates, LLC, whose managing director is Peter Hekemian of the Paramus-based S. Hekemian Group.
About 30 miles south, in Cranford, another Hekemian development has angered residents, who are fighting a proposal to build 360 low and moderate-income housing units, along with 800 parking spaces, in a flood-prone area on Birchwood Avenue. S. Hekemian Group purchased the Cranford property in October 2008.
The township of Cranford also opposes the development, according to Cranford Patch. Instead of housing, the township committee has proposed to turn the area into a storm water detention basin that will slow the flow of water to the Rahway River and will also reduce water flow to the Birchwood Brook. It would also reduce flooding and stop development from increasing drainage issues.
But Superior Court Judge Lisa F. Chrystal has denied the township's motion for reconsideration in the Birchwood redevelopment lawsuit, despite evidence provided by attorneys showing that the property is in a flood-prone area. According to Cranford Police Chief, and Interim Township Administrator, Eric Mason, Judge Chrystal ruled that the environmental issues were more appropriately addressed as part of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s permitting process.
reported that in her decision, Chrystal also indicated that if the issuance of any future permits requested by the developer is delayed by the town "beyond any statutory or local ordinance deadline," the developer may apply to Special Hearing Master Douglas Wolfson for his consideration as to the reason for the delay.
Cranford Mayor David Robinson said he was unhappy with the judge's decision. Officials had hoped that the evidence presented to the court regarding the effects of Hurricane Irene would lead her to reconsider her decision in the case.