Based on Zoning Board attorney Scott Sproviero's directive cautioning members of the board from speaking directly to Hekemian regarding his proposed development of the United Water property, Miriam Pickett, Executive Director of SOD (Stop Over Development), asked Borough Attorney Mark Madaio if that directive extended to Mayor Ann Subrizi's phone conversation with the developer, Peter Hekemian, during Monday's Mayor and Council work session.
The proposed development for the 13-acre property includes a 70,500 sq. ft. supermarket, 4300 sq. ft. bank, 221 residential units and a four-story 428 space parking garage.
During the September 10 Mayor and Council work session, Subrizi informed the council that a phone call placed to Peter Hekemian revealed that if the council rezones the United Water property, the original offer he made to the town in April of 2011 is still on the table.
The original offer 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.
During the September 10 meeting, Subrizi argued that a rezoning ordinance would not only allow the borough to exercise tighter control over what is eventually developed on that property, but would also place the borough in a better position to negotiate the reduction in size and scope of the proposed supermarket.
Subrizi said that to not rezone the property, and allow the application to run its course through the Zoning Board, is "too big of a gamble" for the borough. She even posted a message on the Borough's webpage "Do You Want to Gamble Or Look At The Sure Thing?" explaining her position.
During Monday's work session, Subrizi stated that the issue of rezoning has not yet been voted on by the council.
"It's (rezoning) not a done deal," she said. "It's just been voted on to explore."
Still, SOD questioned the legality of the Mayor engaging in a "phonecall with no witnesses."
"Sproviero cautioned all those on the zoning board that it was no longer possible to speak to the applicant because it's before the public and the board," Pickett said.
Acknowledging that he did not know the context in which Sproviero made that statement, Madaio said that it is his opinion that it was legal for Subrizi to speak directly to Hekemian on the matter of rezoning.
Still, Pickett requested a written legal opinion regarding the matter stating, "I think the residents of New Milford deserve an opinion."