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SOD Urges Mayor and Council: Say No To Rezoning

SOD urges Mayor and Council not to rezone the United Water property and let the application run its course through the Zoning Board.

SOD delivered this message to the Mayor and Council at Monday's meeting: "Say no to rezoning; keep New Milford green."

Prior to the start of Monday's Mayor and Council meeting, more than 100 people, many of whom brought their children, lined the sidewalk in front of Borough Hall holding signs saying "No Rezoning," and "Keep New Milford Green," in support of SOD (Stop Over Development) whose mission is to keep the United Water property from being developed.

"Rezoning the property is giving the developer what he wanted from the beginning," SOD Executive Director, Miriam Pickett said. "We need to let the Zoning Board do their job and let the application run its course."

"Look around you at all these people," Pickett continued. "This is proof to the mayor and council that SOD is growing and we're not going away."

SOD member John DeSantis said that SOD is doing what the Mayor and Council should have been doing all along. "We've reached out to assembly people, environmental groups," he said. "We're scrambling to get money from someone, somewhere so that piece of property won't be a supermarket, a 221 unit housing complex, a bank and a four-story parking garage."

Hekemian currently has a site plan application pending before the Zoning Board seeking variance approval to construct a 70,500 sq.ft. supermarket, a 4300 sq. ft. bank, and a 221 unit multi-housing complex with a four-story parking garage. The 221 units include 40 low-income units the developer says will satisfy New Milford's COAH obligation, despite the fact that COAH's status is currently undetermined.

According to DeSantis, the COAH argument has been "twisted and used by developers to bully towns into accepting their applications out of fear of a builder's rememdy suit."

SOD carried their signs inside the council chambers of Borough Hall where they were visible to the Mayor and Council throughout the duration of the meeting.

Regarding the application that is currently being heard by the Zoning Board and the potential for it to come before the Mayor and Council should it be appealed, Councilwoman Hedy Grant said, "I kept silent until today." 

Citing the fact that Councilmen Howard Berner and Austin Ashley have recused themselves from discussion of the United Water property, and the fact that Councilmen Diego Robalino and Dominic Colucci have expressed their opinion, Grant said that it is "impossible for the appeal to be heard by this council."

Grant reiterated what she, Ashley and Councilwoman Randi Duffie included in their letter to the Freeholders--if the development goes through, it will destroy neighborhoods, neighboring towns and the quality of life in New Milford.

Echoing Grant's statement, Duffie added that as a first-term councilwoman in 2009, her understanding was that once the DEP cleaned the United Water property, New Milford would be given the right of first refusal to purchase it.

Duffie told the audience that the contract between Hekemian and United Water in 2011"was a shock." 

Responding to Duffie's statement, Councilman Dominic Colucci questioned her on how a former mayor and council can say they were "for buying the property" and then park the town's COAH obligation there.

Berner questioned Duffie's statement by charging that she was a member of the Planning Board in 2004 when the master plan identified the United Water property for development.

"The former mayor and council parked our entire COAH obligation onto that property," Berner said.

According to Berner, "The plans for this property were put into place by prior administrations."

In response to the letter that Grant, Duffie and Ashley sent to the Freeholders requesting that they purchase the property for open space, Mayor Ann Subrizi said that although she "applauded the intent" she asked them to consider including the entire council on a letter such as that.

"You cc'd the River Edge and Oradell mayors, but you did not include me," Subrizi said.

Subrizi then read into the record a letter she received from Freeholder John Felice saying that before the Board of Chosen Freeholders can consider taking the necessary steps to undertake the purchase of the United Water property, they had to research the issue of the current status of the private sale contract between United Water and Hekemian.

Subrizi informed the council that she is meeting with Save the Watershed Action Network (SWAN) and agreed to include at least two members of the council.  

During the public comment portion of the meeting, SOD member Anna Leone was disturbed by the fact that there is "no paper trail" indicating to United Water that New Milford was declining the offer to purchase the property.

Subrizi said that in order for there to have been a vote on a purchase, and, therefore, a paper trail, someone on the council would have had to first make a motion to bond for the money to purchase it.

"No one on the council did that," Subrizi said.

Berner said that his position on the United Water property is to purchase it, perform flood mitigation work, add fields, a dog run and other passive space.

"Now that the minutes of the closed session portion of the January 2011 have been released, the public can see that I am on record coming out against the development of this property," he said.

"I was begging for us to purchase this property--that was my position all the way back to 2011."

Rick September 26, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Good Morning, New Milford. Our videos have almost 200 viewers in less than one day, proof that we have your support. Hear Miriam Pickett speak as protesters march down River Road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ppS0N6-WK8&feature=plcp and hear Lori Barton as she addresses the crowd at Borough Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHK_7aPrdLI&feature=plcp Please share these links on all social network and get the word out to other concerned citizens.
Rick September 26, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Good Morning, New Milford. Our videos have almost 200 viewers in less than one day, proof that we have your support. Hear Miriam Pickett speak as protesters march down River Road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ppS0N6-WK8&feature=plcp and hear Lori Barton as she addresses the crowd at Borough Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHK_7aPrdLI&feature=plcp Please share these links on all social network and get the word out to other concerned citizens.
newmilford1967 September 26, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Team Subrizi is a bunch of Liars!!!!!!!!!!!!
miriam pickett September 26, 2012 at 01:34 PM
It is interesting that Mayor Subrizi has been the constant naysayer in New Milford being able to purchase this property and save it in perpetuity. Whenever she's been challenged on this point, she backtracks and says she doesn't want the development either and then always adds a "but." Councilmen Colucci and Robalino also insist they are against development, but not all development. They can see nothing wrong with building a supersized ShopRite and strip mall directly next to New Milford High School, smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Somehow, I can't help but think that there is more here than meets the eye. Elected officials do not always agree with their constituents. I understand that. However, in this case there is an obvious disconnect between reality and fantasy. SOD only asks Subrizi, Collucci and Robalino not to rezone the property until after the Board of Adjustment has voted on Hekemian's application. Nothing monumental will happen if they delay this action until the new year. Absolutely nothing. And yet, they inisist that the sky will fall and that only bad things will happen to good people. Once again I ask them to vote to rezone this property. Their responsibility is to represent us and not to walk right into a well layed trap set by Hekemian.
mildred pierce September 26, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Steve Meyers, YES! costs should, could, be absorb by Hekemian and Inserra. Inserra.
Lori Barton September 26, 2012 at 05:00 PM
How do Inserra and Hekemian absorb the costs of future illnesses due to increased pollution? How do they absorb the costs when a senior citizen gets hurt or killed trying to cross River Rd to get to the ShopRite from the Senior Center? How about when a student from NMHS gets hurt or killed crossing Madison Ave to get to the athletic field? And who absorbs the cost when even more of our residents are flooded out in the next storm after they build on this property? I'm not willing to gamble with lives. Are you?
miriam pickett September 26, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Oops. I obviosly meant to type "do not vote". I
David Bednarcik September 27, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Thank u miriam for organizing the protest
newmilford1967 September 27, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Hey Jimmy that is Darren protesting looks like he dont trust Team Subrizi either.
Ulises September 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Jimmy, Queen Ann deserves everything the Democrats have done. She hoards information and is on record claiming she has no recollectIon of things when asked questions, from her own partY members. She insults a group of concerned citizens on the boro website and is ruining this town. She's the big obstacles in town and I commend the Democrats for what they've done, even Howed Berner is standing up to her. Subrizi is not the leader this town deserves and I regret ever voting for her.
miriam pickett September 27, 2012 at 02:37 PM
It's time to stop worrying about our mayor. She obviously doesn't worry about us.
Darren Drake September 27, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Hi all, I was there protesting the 221 unit apartment complex that will overcrowd our schools and demand we teach our children out of trailers. I was proud to stand side by side with all of the people there! Also, never forget that this development goes farther back than the current mayor, there are many dirty hands in this mess from current and previous mayors/council members.
Gordon September 27, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Ulises - Respect is something that should be offered to everyone. That includes people that may have a different view point or opinion then your own. When you start calling people names or become disrespectful towards elected officials , you cheapen the cause you stand for.
John DeSantis September 27, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I agree with you Jimmy, hate never accomplishes anything, but that has to work both ways. At one of the council meetings that I attended Frank Debari was speaking at the podium, people began to heckle him. I didn't like that, I thought it was rude and unkind. At the very same meeting I was standing in line waiting for my turn to address the council when a friend of mine who was speaking ahead of me acused Ann Subrizi of being a liar. I was watching her face. I saw the hurt in her eyes. I did not like that either. The decisions we are facing now will effect New Milford for the rest of her existance. People get excited. They feel desperate and angry. We should all keep in mind that we can believe in a cause or take a position on an issue without hating those who oppose us. Fight for what you believe in with all vim and vigor you can muster, but never forget to believe in the value and goodness of kindness. It would serve us all well if we remember that our elected officials are not governing with malice in their hearts. They are doing what they think is best for this town. They are sometimes wrong or make mistakes. I guess that makes them human. We can disagree with them and should when we feel they are wrong or making poor decisions. We can vote them out of office, that is our right, but we should always treat them and our neighbors who hold a different point of view with respect, kindness, and generosity.
Ulises September 27, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Gordon, that's a good point.  So, my apologies for calling the mayor queen Ann. Jimmy, the disrespect that goes on the M&C during public sessions is shameful by both parties.  Attending M&C meeting at other towns, such as River edge's, made me realize the three ring circus that's so evident in our town.  Sorry, for venting but I'm tired an frustrated with our M&C, especially our Mayor.
Barbara September 30, 2012 at 02:50 PM
do not gamble with our lives
Barbara September 30, 2012 at 02:51 PM
miriam means DO NOT VOTE to rezone! Typo
Barbara September 30, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I regret it too.
Barbara September 30, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Yes, the bottom line is we are all human beings doing the best we know at this time. I am wondering how we can help the M&C turn this around so they come out as heroes for this town? Can we somehow rally and do this?
George February 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Latest News!! A Variance hearing for a 14 unit apartment building on Madison Avenue is scheduled tomorrow, Feb 12, 2013 PM at the New Milford borough Hall. What is happening to our town? Please join us to protest this addition next to a handicapped school and a residential zone that is already traffic jammed during school hours. Thanks, George

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