More than 1100 names appeared on a petition asking that the Mayor and Council not rezone the United Water property.
member John DeSantis presented the petition during Monday's work session stressing that rezoning the property is a "lousy compromise" and instead encouraged them to stand up to the potential builder's remedy.
"All (Hekemian) got you to do is accept what he's wanted from day one," DeSantis said.
While commending SOD's "passion, efforts, desire and love for New Milford," Councilman Diego Robalino countered that he was elected to represent all the residents of New Milford.
"If we can take out 221 units, we're balancing all the needs of New Milford," Robalino said. "Any other way is a gamble. Too risky."
In light of the new information presented by Mayor Ann Subrizi that , Robalino told the assembled audience, "We're in control."
"(Hekemian's) playing you like a fiddle," DeSantis shot back. "You have no control."
DeSantis proclaimed that it is too early in the process for the Mayor and Council to "cave in," adding that they can give the developer what he wants (rezoning) in six months and he would still take it.
SOD Executive Director Miriam Pickett supported DeSantis' position that Hekemian is "playing the council."
"SOD predicted that exactly what happened would happened," Pickett contended. "(Hekemian) was giving his worse case scenario (in the application before the Zoning Board) so that you would accept his initial offer."
Subrizi answered that doing nothing and letting the application run its course with the Zoning Board is too much of a gamble and feels that rezoning is in New Milford's best interest.
Pickett stated that she "firmly" believes that the developer is employing scare tactics by dangling the cost of a potential lawsuit, reiterating that SOD's position is to let the Zoning Board come to its decision and asked that the Mayor and Council do the same before embarking on drafting a rezoning ordinance.
"This can be fought," Pickett implored the Mayor and Council. "Don't let this developer lead you by the nose.