Mayor Ann Subrizi informally polled the council for their opinion on whether or not to move forward with the examining the option of less intensive use of the and asked each member their vision of what they would like to see on the property.
Disscussion ensued, but no formal vote was taken.
Subrizi said that she wished that United Water never decided to sell the property, "(United Water) blames overdevelopment for flooding and then they go and sell to a developer."
"I want nothing or I want the least possible something," Subrizi said, adding that she did not want to say anything that might jeopardize the town and preclude her from hearing the application should it come before the mayor and council.
Councilwoman Hedy Grant said that although she is concerned about overdevelopment, she does not have a specific concrete view of what she envisions on that property if rezoned for less intensive use.
"I would like to see something far less intrusive," Grant said.
She added that there are only two reasons why the mayor and council might consider rezoning the property for a less intensive use:
- If an agreement is reached with the developer that everyone can agree on and the current application is withdrawn, or
- To have something in place should the application be denied.
"Other than (those two reasons) I see no reason to rezone," Grant said.
"I would like us to review if there’s a possiblity to purchase the property; if something wasn't done properly when it was sold," she added, suggesting the possibility of discovering a loophole in the sale.
Councilman Diego Robalino agreed with Grant, but said that the purpose of moving forward with the rezoning study would be to "put the brakes" on what can go there because if the zoning board denies the application, and the mayor and council deny it, it will most likely be appealed to Superior Court in Hackensack and a superior court judge will give their recommendation on what should be developed on that property.
Councilman Dominic Colucci said that if the council moves on the rezoning study, then the will have to be relocated.
Councilwoman Randi Duffie said, "I would need to know why I’m doing (rezoning)." She questioned whether they would be doing it to park COAH somewhere else, or to make a "big ugly application smaller."
Duffie asked Borough Attorney Mark Madaio if the borough found money to purchase the property, could they still do so.
Madaio explained that if funding became available, the borough could attempt to purchase the property, but stressed that because the property is currently in the middle of a private sale, they would have to tread carefully in order not to interfere with the current buyer and seller's contractual rights.
During the course of the discussion, Grant asked Subrizi when she was approached by United Water to purchase the property in an effort to establish a timeline of when the town was given the right of first refusal.
"I understand public utilities must give an offer of first refusal to a town before going through with a private sale," Grant said.
Subrizi responded that over six years ago, as United Water was remediating the property, the governing body was approached about a potential purchase. She said that at that time the governing body did not know if the property was going to be fully remediated, and said that off the top of her head she did not have the exact timeline on the order of events. (The Borough Administrator will provide the timeline at the next public meeting of the mayor and council.)
When questioned by the public, Subrizi stressed that the Riverkeeper did not offer the borough any financial assistance towards the purchase of the United Water property.
Subrizi said that the conversation she had with the Riverkeeper was an "off the record phone conversation" and did not feel comfortable publicly sharing it. However, she assured the audience that he offered no financial assistance to the governing body.
SOD member Anna Leone pleaded with the council not to rezone the property. "If you rezone, it sends a message to Hekemian" Leone said. Instead, she suggested leaving the zoning be and letting the application run its course through the zoning board.
Council President Howard Berner and Councilman Austin Ashley have recused themselves from discussions involving the United Water Property. Councilman Ashely was absent from Monday's meeting.
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