Mayor Says 'My Party Is New Milford'

Subrizi says without rezoning, all control over the United Water property will rest with the courts when Hekemian appeals, leaving New Milford entirely out of the decision making process.

Responding to concerns posed by the audience during Monday's Mayor and Council meeting, Mayor Ann Subrizi assurred residents that regarding the issue of the development of the United Water property, "My party (affiliation) is New Milford."

Subrizi's statement came on the heels of SOD's protest march organized to air their opposition to the Mayor and Council's proposal to rezone the United Water property. SOD is requesting that the Mayor and Council wait until the application has run its course through the Zoning Board before any consideration is given to rezoning the property.

Hekemian's proposed development calls for a 70,500 sq. ft. supermarket, a 4300 sq. ft bank, a 221 unit multi-housing complex and a four-story parking garage.  

Although the United Water property is currently zoned residential, page 56 of the Borough's 2004 Master Plan explicitly deems the property "currently underutilized" and recommends mixed-use development. Hekemian is hinging much of their argument before the Zoning Board on the language of "mixed-use development" as designated in the master plan. Also, the United Water property has been designated by the 2004 master plan as the location where New Milford will satisfy it's affordable housing obligations.

During the Sept. 10 work session of the Mayor and Council, Mayor Ann 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 that Hekemian made to the Mayor and Council and presented to the residents of New Milford in April 2011 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.

Subrizi contends that rezoning is a pre-emptive strike in anticipation of an appeal that she believes will be filed by Hekemian with Superior Court. Once in the hands of Superior Court, any and all decision-making power over what happens to that property is removed from New Milford.

Several land use attorneys agreed that rezoning prior to the Zoning Board's decision can be an effective preemptive strike if the Mayor and Council of a particular town feel that an appeal is imminent.

"The chance a municipality may take in waiting for the application to run through the (zoning) board is that the appeal may go through the courts faster than the rezoning can be effected, especially if another town or entity challenges the municipality's rezoning of that particular property," said an attorney following the hearings who asked that his name be withheld in case he does become involved in this particular matter. "If a third party comes in and challenges it, that can delay the (rezoning) process by months."

Should Hekemian appeal the decision of the Zoning Board, the appeal process requires that the court consider only the record of the hearing which includes the testimony as it appears in the transcript, New Jersey land use laws, and COAH obligations as proscribed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.  

Regular attendees of the Hekemian hearings are familiar with the fact that the hearings are being conducted as a court proceeding, replete with objections barring certain lines of questioning from the public and exhibits being filed.

The Hekemian Group has also hired their own court reporter whose transcripts, along with NJ land use laws and New Milford's COAH requirements, are what the courts will take under consideration in rendering their decision on whether to grant Hekemian the variances they are seeking.

As Zoning Board attorney Scott Sproviero has made clear during the hearings, any argument presented to the court is limited to the testimony and evidence given at the Zoning Board hearings.

During an appeals process, the “Time of Application” bill is favored among developers. This addition to New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law states that development regulations (statute or ordinance) in effect at the time that a site plan is submitted is the one that will govern the decision of the courts.

Any provisions of an ordinance, adopted after an application is submitted, is not applicable to that site plan application. The "Time of Application Rule" took effect May 2011.

However, municipalities favor the "Time of Decision Rule" that allows them to amend a master plan with regard to zoning even if an application was already under consideration.

In Mahwah, the developer of the Crossroads project--a proposed 600,000 square feet of retail space--filed their site plan application one day before the mayor and council voted to repeal the ordinance that changed the site use from office space to retail. The developer is arguing that the "Time of Application Rule" should apply here while the council says that the "Time of Decision Rule" should hold.  The case is still being heard in superior court.

Subrizi added, "There's also no guarentee that if we decide to let the application run its course through the Zoning Board, and then rezone, that Hekemian's offer will still be standing."

Barbara September 28, 2012 at 02:00 PM
How do we get new lawyers? I want to pay for someone who is representing us not selling out the town and our health to the highest bidder.
Barbara September 28, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Miriam, maybe she is locked into her dream/vision of what she wants. How can we help her turn this around so she comes out the hero? Based on a conversation with mayor Subrizzi, she wants; Reduce the impact of the proposed development to a shop rite and field Use the zoning negotiations as a bargaining tool to; Buy the old shop rite property with the funds from the sale of the two firehouse properties Build a central fire and heath building on the shop rite property Possibly use the swim club property for Coah because the swim club is having financial difficulties.
Jose A. Camacho, Esq. September 28, 2012 at 02:33 PM
The Mayor and some of the Council members still don't get it. The people heard and rejected Hekemian's original proposal back in April of 2011. Hekemian in a strategic move after consulting his lawyers and experts thought a way to get what he originally wanted approved would be by scaring New Milfords residents with a worst case senario proposal. He figured once people saw the monstrous proposal which included the Super Shop Rite and 221 residential units with a four story parking lot for over 475 spaces they would blindly cave in fear, and he would waive the original proposal in front of the Mayor and Council like a carrot on a stick. Hekemian didnt expect SOD to emerge. He didnt expect New Milfords residents to do research and cross examine his so called experts on every detail, nor did he expect to be facing cross examination by an attorney and engineer who handle land use issues on a daily basis as part of their daily living. Those who have attended the Zoning Board Hearings and who have consulted experts in land use and zoning laws have no fear of Hekemians possible appeal, because it has no legs to stand on. The Mayor and some of its Council members really need to educate themselves, reject the current proposal, reject the original offer, let this application run its course and stand United with the residents of New Milford even if that means fighting Hekemian on an appeal. United New Milfotrd will be victorious!
Sam B. September 28, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Are there any lawyers affiliated with SOD that can see about how the County or State can conduct an investigation concerning any inappropriate or illegal actions on the part of Subrizi in her dealings with United Water and Hekemian? Knowing she's lasting only one term as Mayor, she's pushing real hard to get this deal done within the time she has left. Something is not right here.
Lori Barton September 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Why does Subrizi thinks she knows better than everyone else? Why won't she let the Zoning Board do its job? Why is she ignoring the recommendations of the Environmental Commission? Why is she ignoring the concerns of the NM Board of Education regarding this property? The BOE clearly stated, in writing, their opposition to commercial/retail development of this property over a year ago. When did this stop being a democracy? This entire community is wondering why Subrizi is so adamant in not fighting for us but continuing to fight against us.
Barbara September 28, 2012 at 02:59 PM
How can we get this message out to all residents? Would you be willing to write a letter to the record and local town papers for those who do not read their news online?
AML September 28, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Wake up Mayor Subrizi! The alarm on the alarm clock sounded long, long, ago, & here we are today, & you are still sleeping! You stated "There's also no guarantee that if we decide to let the application run its course through the Zoning Board, and then rezone, that Hekemian's offer will still be standing. Quite frankly, who cares if Hekemian's offer will still be standing? You care more about Hekemian's offer than the people who elected you to represent them. Why are you so concerned about Hekemian, as if they were your child? You should redirect your attention to the children and residents of New Milford. DO YOU HAVE WRITTEN CORRESPONDENCE FROM PETER HEKEMIAN CONFIRMING THAT A DISCUSSION TOOK PLACE BETWEEN YOURSELF AND MR. HEKEMIAN WHICH OUTLINED THE PROPOSED CHANGES/SCALING BACK THE CURRENT APPLICATION BEFORE THE ZONING BOARD? I have yet to read today's paper, but it has been noted in the press that confirmation could not be obtained from Peter Hekemian. Please do not make the same mistake of not leaving a written paper trail regarding the 4 month option to purchase the property from United Water. In the professional business world that I deal in, ALL discussions are confirmed in writing the very same day, or, the next day the latest.
miriam pickett September 28, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Well said AML. I am beginning to think this whole deal smells really bad. I wonder if thete is a way to find out if any of what she says is true.
Ulises September 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
The mayor posted the same bully pulpit blog she put on the boro's website, on this week's Twin Boro News. Her attempt is to discredit SOD and all our findings are based off facts and the truth. If the Mayor has nothing to hind she should let the Democrat's motion for an investigation stand. But Rabolino and Colucci rushed to her defense and stated we most look forward not backwards (the Mayor broke the tie breaker and there was no investigation into United Water Gate). Yet, Colucci and Rabolino are always looking back and blaming DeBari for all of this as they did at this week's M&C meeting. These two gentlemen should follow Berner's lead and distance themselves from the Mayor. Something smells here ladies and gentlemen, and SOD will find out the truth to all these spin tactics by Mayor Subrizi.
Denise September 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
If the COAH obligation is located at the swim club property, when the rains come, that is another place beside the northern end of NM that will be definetly flooded. For crying out loud, it is right next to the river. FD Co#1, get your lifeboats ready if this becomes an option....
Barbara September 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Yes Ulises, the truth will prevail as it always does! I hope we can help our mayor turn the corner for our town and citizens well being.
james September 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Well you have finally convinced me Ulises. Or perhaps Mayor Subrizi acting as if she doesn't care what facts are presented has convined me. Either way whatever SOD does to investigate Mayor Subrizi is fine with me and I am wiling to join the fight in person and with signs and "gasp" donations if it comes to that. She isn't listening and that means there has to be an ulterior motive. It's time to get down to the nitty gritty methinks.
Ulises September 28, 2012 at 05:17 PM
james, send us an email at SODNOW@yahoo.com and I'll personally deliver your lawn sign. I have a feeling I know who you are and I promise to keep your identity confidential.
miriam pickett September 28, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Once again I urge every New Milford resident to show up at all the meetings in which this application is discussed. An informed citizenry is our best defense against this insane proposal and a mayor that seems to be very, very close to the developer.
Lauren Maehrlein September 28, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I never want to pretend to know anyone's motives for what they do. I don't know if any deal was made by the mayor to help Hekemian. What I do know is that Ann Subrizi is letting down the people who elected her (and those who didn't) by rolling over for the developers. If New Milford were Ann's child and a thug threatened to break her child's legs would she beg for a better deal? Would she ask the thug to just rough the child up in exchange for something the thug wanted?? I would hope not!! I would hope she would fight for all she is worth to protect her child from harm!! Madam Mayor think of New Milford as your child and FIGHT for it!! Don't just give in to thugs!! STOP OVER DEVELOPMENT!!!!
Ulises September 28, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I think Rick's point is spot on: Rick 9:32 am on Friday, September 28, 2012 If that is so, then let's take our chances and leave it to the Supreme Court, Mayor Subrizi. Hopefully they will see reality and prioritize flood mitigation over development. The worst case scenario is Hekemian gets what he wants anyway, which is exactly the position you're asking us to accept right now.
JUSTIN PISANO September 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Enough is enough. I just reasearched that the Mayor and Council are proposing a 93 plus million dollar budget. Of this, appx. 32% is to come from household. This roughly represents 30 million. Now, of the owner occupied this = 4,015 and the remianing of 2,331 = rental income property. Just to keep things simple, if you took all 6,346 and divided into the 30 million dollars, that would mean each household would pay the city 4,727.00 dollars. My first problem is that my taxes are based on the value of the house, why. A more expensive home does not cost the town any more to run than a less valued. A higher value just means that people worked hard and take care of their homes and pay for permits as they progress. So why punish them and reward the lesser values by taxing less. Second, everyone has noticed that the values have gone down and taxes have gone up. How much do we have to take. Why aren't the rental income homes assessed higher than the families who are retired or goes to work and tries to keep his home. If this was the case, then the homeowner that goes to work or just retired would pay even less. To run a municipality, is like running a business, you need so many dollars to pay your bills.
Lori Barton September 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I couldn't agree more. Your analogy is perfect. That's all we're asking: Fight FOR us, not against us. Cedar Grove won and we can, too.
hewegoag September 28, 2012 at 11:46 PM
So let me see if I have this straight. The proposal is to leave the fate of this "oasis" in the hands of the branch of government that: -gave us COAH -gave us Abbott districts -will force the use of 1980's flood maps over FEMA maps from this decade? No thanks. I don't think Mayor Subrizi is worried about re-election Who would want to be re-elected after the vitriol spewed on this blog? Go ahead, vote her and the councilman out and return the Democrats to power. Then we will all see how these deals are done: quickly and with payoffs. If Mayor Subrizi harbored any malice towards SOD when she suggested another acronym, she would have come up with something more appropriate like: Stop This Unbelievable Project's Implementation Decisively or STUPID. Hang in there Mayor, you speak for those of us who realize we can't have everything we want.
miriam pickett September 29, 2012 at 01:06 PM
That is so defeatist.
Barbara September 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I wish we could get past politics, which to me is taking sides and not a good use of our collective resources. Aren't we all in this together, no mater how it plays out? We all have a lot invested in this community through our houses. We need to work to keep this town attractive to those who can pay for our houses. some top factors for town choice are: location schools quality of life health /safety This project impacts these factors negatively and will result in lower home values.
Denise September 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM
"We need to work to keep this town attractive to those who can pay for our houses". I was reaised in New Milford, however, needed to receive disability benefits. If the dam taxes in the town didn't keep rising, between the mortgage & the taxes being more than what I receive in disability benefits, I could still "be one of those who can pay for our houses". Bitter, Yes, you betcha...but it's history. I now will have an apartment and unforetunately not be living in good old NM.......
Lori Barton September 30, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Mayor Subrizi has not addressed the fact that HER plan would trigger a requirement for EVEN MORE affordable housing. That's right: retail and commercial development triggers a need for more affordable housing. That's why the plans before the zoning board right now,which include 40 units of COAH apartments, wouldn't even lower our COAH obligation. The size of the development causes us to have to provide an ADDITIONAL 40 units of affordable housing. So there's another reason her "compromise" stinks.
Ulises September 30, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Lori, plus we're technically compling with current COAH requirements and the Master Plan could be amended to remove COAH or housing out of this property and to a different location in town. The Planner, whom the M&C paid $5k to for the rezoning study, responded to a question I asked him, "yes, the COAH requirements can be moved to an existing apartment complex as long as they're updated to COAH standards..." Right away, the Mayor should have sent a written letter to all apartment complex landlords asking for their assistance with this. Instead, the Mayor stated the owner of the BrookChester doesn't return her phone calls, thereby, we need to rezone to commercial. Boy, thanks for trying Mayor. In addition, the M&C is going to spend thousands more on the Planner's write up for the commercial zoning... Mayor, what's your party again - "...New Zoning? Definitely not - New Milford."
MT October 03, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I haven't been able to be personally present at the hearings due to work hours. But has SOD or town hired its own experts to present a testimony. Are we allowed to present testimony from Other experts instead of just questioning developer's experts? Can we hire experts (who can attend hearing as an audience) and poke holes into developer's testimonies? I just wondering if SOD is statutorily allowed or not.
Ulises October 03, 2012 at 07:37 PM
MT, the Zoning Board is hiring their own Traffic Expert, not sure if they'll hire anyone else. SOD is currently trying to raise funds to hire an attorney, planner, etc... currently, we're just regualr folks asking really good questions (visit our site www.SODNOW.org or send us an email SODNOW@yahoo.com for a lawn sign). Al Alonso, who is a Land Use attorney, and a resident in New MIlford, is a great asset to this cause (he's representing himslef and is not affilated with SOD). Councilman Ashley, hired an attorney to stop this development and he's doing a great job too. Oradell has hired an attorney because they understand the traffic nightmare this complex will bring through to their neighborhoods, and they've treaten to sue New Milford if this application gets approved. At the end of the day, we know the developers have NOT made a good argument and they'll probably lose in court too - we've been able to discredit their experts' findings. But who knows if the Mayor's influence will change the Zoning Board's vote, especially those she's appointed to the board. The Mayor has siding in the developer's best intertest, not the town's. She's now knocking on doors, with Colucci and Robalino calling SOD, SID. Bascially, name calling is what this politicians are up to and ignoring the will of their constituents. I hope they change their minds, but I doubt they will (their tue colors have been exposed and the truth will come out in due time, trust me...).
MT October 05, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I just made a donation via sodnow.org.
Ulises October 05, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Thank MT for your support. SOD!
Ulises October 05, 2012 at 06:32 PM
I meant to say, "Thank you" MT SOD!
james October 06, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Sorry about the sign Ulises but the other parental unit isn't as trusting as I.


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