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Oradell Plans To Fight New Milford Redevelopment

While members of Stop Over Development build opposition to the New Milford Redevelopment Associates project, the Borough of Oradell is strategizing their own plan of attack.

The better part of Oradell's mayor and council meeting Tuesday was spent discussing a potential development in New Milford by S. Hekemian Group under New Milford Redevelopment Associates LLC, which could potentially have adverse affects on Oradell residents.

Oradell resident Mary Lang, a member of the Oradell Planning Board, addressed the plans for a 70,500 sq. ft. Shoprite supermarket, 4300 sq. ft. bank, and a four-story 221 unit multi-family housing complex with a 428-space multi-level parking garage at the intersections of Madison Avenue, Main Street, River Road and John D. Cecchino Drive.

The 13-acre property is owned by United Water.

 “A development of this size, a 221-residential unit here in Oradell that might be about an 8-10 block radius of our town, equates to almost 600 residents,” said Lang. “I believe that could put a strain on our environmental management system and [emergency] response.”

Based on her review of the plans, reports, the adopted and approved meeting minutes, and attendance of a special meeting, Lang concluded the development will significantly increase traffic to the area, and possibly create unsafe conditions if emergency vehicles cannot get in and out of the area especially in the event of flooding.      

As a member of the Environmental Circulation Committee, Lang said she volunteered to take a closer look at the details regarding the development after an Oradell resident expressed concerns during the last Planning Board meeting in August, and affects the development could have on neighboring municipalities.

“The property in New Milford is zoned as a single-family residence, and most of us have seen the SOD signs up, which is ‘Stop Over Development’ by New Milford, and some residents of Oradell have partaken in that,” Lang said. “When I looked at this review I wanted to look at it from the standpoint of what our rights are as a town. I really think it is our responsibility as a town, and we can certainly have an impact on the decision.”

According to Lang, neighboring municipalities have the right to submit a letter to another town stating its opinion, and can provide experts to fight for or against a development when the bordering development in question can have an impact, negative or positive.

Lang made several recommendations to the mayor and council regarding the application:

  • Have Oradell’s Office of Emergency Management review the project to determine the impact to emergency vehicles especially in a flood scenario.
  • Review the potential affect of traffic on River Road and Elm Street.
  • Voice concerns to the Department of Environmental Protection before the developer applies for a flood hazard permit.      
  • Hire experts to monitor the progress and changes of the application. 

Lang also said time is of the essence because an expert brought in by the Borough of Oradell will only have the public session of the meeting to cross examine experts brought in by the developer. Once the public session is closed, only the New Milford zoning board can ask witnesses further questions, according to Lang.

Councilman Edward Pfleging said while the potential traffic could pose a problem for Oradell residents, he was more concerned with the environmental impact and pollution from idling vehicles, and presenting hard data backing up the concerns of Oradell residents.

“I don’t think they looked at our impact. I don’t think they care about Oradell’s impact. So I think it’s very hard to go and give testimony, I don’t care who you are, on the impact if you don’t know what it is. It’s congested,” said Pfleging. “It’s their feeling about it based on what they read, but what they read is all on New Milford and their impact.”     

Council President James Koth agreed with Pfleging, adding the Borough needs legal representation to determine what experts will be needed based on the application.

“If the Borough wants to protect any rights we have in this case, we need to have our attorney represent us,” said Koth. “If we were to make that decision, we should charge the attorney with analyzing the project and what support documents he made need to look at the impact that may face Oradell.”

Koth estimates the cost of hiring the Borough Attorney to analyze the data and create a team of experts to represent Oradell at the New Milford Zoning Board could cost Oradell approximately $10,000-15,000.

“I think we have an obligation to the residents of this town, even if it [legal costs] screws up the budget,” said Mayor Joseph Murray. “As a resident of Oradell, it’s more important - we want to make sure this town is protected.”  

New Milford Redevelopment Associates first submitted the application for bulk use variances and site plan approval in January 2012.

S. Hekemian Group could not be reached for comment. As of Monday night, had been contacted by Peter Hekemian who revealed that , the original offer he made to the town in April of 2011 is still on the table.

The  included a 145-space parking lot for use by the borough and school district, and a graded field that could be developed into a soccer field, as well as a new Shoprite, a family restaurant, bank and 10,000 square feet of commercial space for local merchants.

There will be a special meeting of the New Milford Zoning Board dedicated entirely to the hearing of the proposed development of the United Water property on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 7pm in the council chambers of New Milford Borough Hall. 

miriam pickett September 13, 2012 at 02:30 PM
This is vindication for all of SOD's efforts. It is really sad when a community's elected officials do not listen to the will of its own citizens and a neighboring town points the way in the right direction. Where are New Milford's Mayor and Council? Instead of rezoning this property they should be in the forefront of the movement to stop it. We are at a crossriads. I can't believe that we have to fight this battle without the support of all the members of our Council. SOD!
Tomasina Schwarz September 13, 2012 at 02:31 PM
We can never allow made made boundaries such as towns to discourage citizens from analyzing any land development that will negatively effect our quality of life. New MIlford and Oradell and all the other towns along Kinderkamack Road should be always actively engaged in thwarting the continued propensity of greedy developers who always want more, always want variances. When the municipalities unite to take a stand on over development, we are showing the developers that we will always protect our ordinances and will not be bullied into granting D variances. I am so proud of the Oradell town government for taking a proactive stand on the UW property application in New Milford. You are a great example of the power of the municipalities when they unite to maintain the quality of life of our towns. Way to go Mary Lang!!! This is a great example as to why we need to keep the Planning Board as a separate entity; it would be too much to ask for one body to do the necessary work of this board in an efficient manner and administer the applications as well.
Tomasina Schwarz September 13, 2012 at 02:32 PM
should read "man made"!
Sam September 13, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Its amazing... The M&C of Oradell has more backbone than the M&C of New Milford. Instead of a punch in the face and a kick in the groin from the developers we are willing to settle with a punch to the face from a bully? Thanks Oradell for coming to the rescue of this pathetic spineless M&C.
Ulises September 13, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Thank you Oradell for siding with the concerned citizens of New Milford. Thank you for having the vision we so disperstely need in New Milford. Thank you for caring to do what is right. I hope your influence will change the minds of our elected officials and they rezone this land as open space. Since COAH is in limbo, now is the perfect time to change the Master Plan and remove COAH out of this property. Hope is the catalyst that drives SOD members and Oradell, you are making us very hopeful. Thanks again. SOD!
newmilford1967 September 13, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Way to go Oradell.Now what is team Subrizi gonna do???????
Denise September 13, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Sam, Ulises,newmilford1967-all great points. We NEED Oradell on our side. They have the know-how of how to fight the bully that bothered them, namely Walgreens. They fought & they won. We need to hear what they have to say & follow thier lead. The last thing NM needs is the Mayor of Oradell sueing the boro......
Gordon September 13, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Were were all of you when DeBari's and Putrino changed the master plan in the first place? When they spoke of their "visioned" for New Milford? Hmm. Now the Dem's are New Milford's saviors? Mr. Ashley, who hired his own lawyer to humiliate the M&C, ended up having to recuse himself because of his stunt. You think they are the future leaders of this town? This all stinks of a Democratic campaign strategy.
miriam pickett September 13, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Sorry you feel that way Gordon. As a matter of fact we are completely nonpartisan and have members from both political parties. You're right. Where were we when the master plan was changed? Quite frankly, not paying attention. But now we are and it just happens that the party in power is Republican. And they should be ashamed of themselves for selling New Milford to the highest bidder.
Gordon September 14, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I'm sorry that you think your organization is nonpartisan. The "throw the bums out" approach by some the of the contributors here is calculated to try and get Mr. Ashley and DeBari's protégé elected. They could care less about the property. They see it as an opportunity. Don't let a good crisis go to waste - right boys.
Ulises September 14, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Gordon, I'm not a Debari fan, I helped to vote him out. When he ran the last time and the Democrats came down Columbia Street I told them not to bother. My one neighbor Emma asked me in front of Hedy Grant that fall day, "Uli are we voting for them?" and I said "No!" I voted for the Subrizi team. I got my neighbors to put signs supporting her ticket because they campaigned to stop this development by the high school. I was a Howard Berner fan until he flip-flopped and I still think Dominic Colucci is a great guy and so is his lovely wife, but I think they are wrong about this development they favor. And my favorite politician of all time was Keith Bachmann - he's was a great leader and he has wonderful parents that attend every meeting in town to this day. I'm friends with Celeste Scavetta and Peter Rebesch too - these are all Republicans. So SOD is not part of any political group in town, we're just concerned citizens coming together to help save open space by the high school and stop overdevelopment along the river.
Gordon September 14, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Ulies - point made. Maybe its me but I fail to see what Oradell has to do with anything. They are going to spend $15k to do what. Pass a resolution saying they don't agree? Is Oradell going to file a suit against New Milford? Pls. Until I see the 9 million check from those environmental orgs I prefer to live in the reality we all face. The Shop-Rite in town is a toilet. I welcome a new store here and job opportunities for our kids and those out of work. Put the Field of Dreams next to the HS where it belongs and agree to the original proposal given at the HS auditorium - the one minus the apartments.
Tomasina Schwarz September 14, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Gordon, we are fighting overdevelopment in Oradell. That means we need to be concerned with the development in any areas that will affect Oradell, namely Kinderkamack Road. Our zoning board sold us out to the Walgreens developer and the only way we beat him was due to the support of our Mayor and council. Our mayor is willing to analyze the application in terms of its impact on Oradell and then decide what expert witnesses can advocate for us, by questioning the developers experts. We need to protect our quality of life, have you noticed how much traffic on Kinderkamack has increased over the past ten years? Development in Rockland county effects us too. Trucks need to get the materials needed for construction up north and they love to use Kinderkamack to go north from route 80. If the citizens of Bergen county do not stop overdevelopment, who will? We live in a very populated area compared to the rest of the state so if we want to have a high standard of living we must understand the impact of over development: pollution, traffic, flooding and the expense of more infrastructure. The reality is that the elected officials and the developer must be challenged at the same time.
Tomasina Schwarz September 14, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Can anyone comment on the details of the change in the application? If the apartments are no longer proposed doesn't the application have to be resubmitted as a new application? It seems very suspect that the council is making zoning changes while an application is pending. The citizens of new Milford still have an opportunity to ask that the master plan be amended and make the property remain residential only. No one would even think of building one family homes in a flood fringe area because no one would buy them.
Ulises September 14, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Gordon, there's a good chance that all might happen and I hope Oradell helps SOD fight this. Please spell my name correctly.
David Bednarcik September 14, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Thank you Oradell
Bonita September 14, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I totally agree with you! We need a balanced mix of commercial and residential. Englewood Cliffs has some of the lowest property tax in Bergen county and some of the highest property values, and their commericial properties are not run down and the town has not had to "take over" the upkeep as Ms. Barton suggests will happen and out taxes will go up because of it Merchants have a vested interest in keeping their properties maintained I don't believe that the partial commercialization of that property will adversely affect New Milford. It is time to drop the notion of no developement and make sure that developer lives up to his promise of the giving NM the land to use for no cost to us.
Ulises September 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Bonita, Englewood Cliffs has two public schools and they don't even have a public high school - that's why their taxes are so low. You are comparing apples and oranges... http://www.englewoodcliffsnj.org/content/313/420/default.aspx
TommyIce September 15, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Bonita Englewood Cliffs has high property values because of it's close proximity to NYC.
Lori Barton September 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Gordon and Bonita: a couple of points to clarify. First, the April 2011 proposal included land for a field. What was proposed was not being enough to be a Field of Dreams. There would not have been space for bleachers or a refreshment stand. And NM would have had to pay to make the land into a usable athletic facility. Second, Inserra has the approvals to rebuild bigger and better right where they are so a nice store and job opportunities still exist. Third, CORPORATE development is far different than commercial/retail development. It is surrounded by lots and lots of OPEN GREEN SPACE. That, combined with the proximity to NYC, is one of the reasons that Englewood Cliffs has lower taxes. (The vast majority of their students also attend private high schools so they do not have to pay to educate them. Another reason for lower taxes.) You can't compare apples to oranges.

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