Original Hekemian Offer Back On Table; Grant Calls For Investigation

Rezoning property keeps Hekemian's original offer on the table. Calling it "United Water-gate" Councilwoman Hedy Grant calls for special counsel to investigate failure of Mayor and Council to vote on the purchase of United Water property.

Mayor Ann Subrizi informed the council during Monday evening's work session that a phone call placed to Peter Hekemian 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.

Subrizi said that she also spoke with Inserra who assured her that his current property will remain commercial and intimated that he would be willing to enter into conversations about a potential municipal use for the property, although no specific uses were discussed.  

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. 

"Taken aback" by the council's failure to pursue the purchase of the United Water property in the four months that they were given right of first refusal (January to April 2011) Councilwoman Hedy Grant put forth a motion to appoint a special counsel to investigate the failure of the mayor and council to purchase the property or take any further action regarding it. 

Specifically, Grant wants to know why members of the council who were present when the initial offer for the property was made, never voted to purchase or rezone the property; why the master plan was never addressed or changed; why Hekemian never appeared before the Mayor and Council; and why, when Council President Howard Berner was approached by the Hackensack Riverkeeper with an offer of $1 million from the Meadowlands American Dream project fund to be put towards the purchase of the United Water property, the matter wasn't brought to the rest of the council for consideration. 

Although Berner said that he brought this to Subrizi's attention, she had no recollection. However, Subrizi said that the offer was on the table for only a matter of days during which time the council did not meet and, therefore, they could not vote on it. 

Referring to 2011 closed session minutes that had been recently approved for release to the public, Grant questioned then councilman Keith Bachmann's judgment in saying that New Milford didn't have the funds to purchase the property without investigating if funds were to be had. 

Responding to Grant's allegations, Councilman Dominic Colucci argued that the previous administration, under the mayoral leadership of Frank DeBari, was responsible for designating the United Water property as the location where New Milford will satisfy it's . Given that fact, Colucci said that it was unlikely that administration was seriously pursuing purchasing the property to preserve it as open space. 

When Grant's motion failed, Councilman Diego Robalino put forth a motion to consider rezoning the United Water property and having the borough planner craft a rezoning ordinance. That motion passed with Councilwoman Randi Duffie voting with the Republicans in favor.

Council President Howard Berner and Councilman Austin Ashley recused themselves from the vote.  


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You'veGotToBeKiddingMe September 11, 2012 at 11:30 PM
The mayor and council are doing what's best for us? Jar Jar Binks says Pee-a-usa!! Monsters out there, leaking in here. Well dat smells stinkowiff.
Jose A. Camacho, Esq. September 12, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Re-zoning is a big mistake. They should let this application run its course. Lets forget about blaming the the Democrats or the Republicans and focus on the fact that local officials have been elected to represent the people of this town. Those people have been making it clear what their desire is for more than a year, and as it has manifest itself through the creation of SOD, the desire of the people of New Milford is leave the space undeveloped, not to have it rezoned and if possible to explore the possible purchase of the property by the town in order to keep it as open space or if fiscally feasible to explore the possibility of creating a sports complex. The town does not want either commercial or residential development. I cant understand why the Mayor and Council cant seem to grasp this. SOD and all of New Milfords residents need to hold them accountable and vote anyone who is for rezoning the property or for a compromised development of any kind out of office. If necessary SOD should seek specific promises from the candidates and if they dont keep their promises SOD should run its own independent ticket in the next election until the house has been cleared of officials voting their own interest. It may be too late to have an independent ticket this Novembe, but its never too late to write in votes. Whatever extreme act needs to be done until the voice of the people is heard and their will is done!
Lori Barton September 12, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Perhaps it's time for all members of New Milford's boards and commissions to step down. Why should they bother giving up their time and energy if they are going to be ignored? The Environmental Commission is against having this land developed. But the M&C have ignored their input. The Zoning Board has to feel like they have wasted months of their time if the M&C was planning this all along. The mayor says it's too big a gamble to let this run its course through the Zoning Board? Why? Aren't these people competent to make that decision? I trust the Zoning Board to make the right decision for New Milford. The M&C are supposed to represent their constituents. This is supposed to be a democracy. But the people of New Milford have been ignored. Oradell said they would sue if the Zoning Board granted approvals. Now they may sue our M&C. I hope they win.
Bill B September 12, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Are you kidding me??? First they tell us we have to have affordable housing there, then they tell us they're saving us from that by rezoning so we ONLY have to have ShopRite. Vote them all out. They are a bunch of liars. What's best for New Milford is leaving that land alone. With ONLY ShopRite there, we will still have pollution, traffic, flooding and , oh yeah, HIGHER taxes. They are a disgrace.
Bill B September 12, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I have been following this and I never thought I would comment but I can't be quiet anymore. I have lived here for 43 years. I don't want to move. I love this town. My children grew up here, went to school here. but I am afraid to stay if this is how our elected officials act. What is next? Why don't they care what we think? Why don't they listen? What makes them think they know better then so many long time residents? I feel physically sick that this is happening in my beloved New Milford. Why can't we leave just one piece of land green, the way it was meant to be? Shame on you mayor and council.
lynden day September 12, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Thankyou Ulises This is from the agrement United water proposed to Board of public Utilities : The Company states that in considering its options for the sale of the Properties, it has given significant consideration to the State's goals of open space, recreation and affordable housing, and that the requested regulatory treatment is a critical element in its decision to sell the Properties. All Agreements for the sales are contingent on satisfactory regulatory treatment in the Company's discretion" Lets focus on that
Michelle September 12, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Information is knowledge, that’s where we agree Donna. So respectfully I have to say your information is not accurate. I am a member of SOD and your characterization of them is off. They did not lie to get people to put signs on their lawns or to sign those petitions, and they certainly didn’t create some faulty timeline to mislead the public. I have a SOD sign, I signed the petition; it was hardly a matter of OMG I’m going to flood? let me have two signs please. I was persuaded to SOD’s viewpoint by their presentations at their meetings, they were sobering and factual. My experience with the core members of SOD is that they are intelligent and well-informed and could probably outdo most in an information exchange. It’s sad to me that you feel the need to investigate SOD. SOD are your neighbors and friends, and I’m not sure why you’re attacking them. Did you ever think Donna that these people might be scared? That the M&C are the ones they’ve turned to for help, and if they’re disappointed, the M&C is who they will blame because they feel they’ve been let down. It’s not a scare tactic to express withdrawing your support. That’s the only power the general populous has over its elected leaders. It’s not personal, it’s part and parcel of taking those positions. SOD are New Milford residents who feel threatened by this overdevelopment, and they want the M&C to fight for and with them. The M&C with two exceptions, are choosing another route.
Michelle September 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Cont… The only people I have seen fighting tooth-and-nail are the ones who were up there fighting, mainly SOD members: attorneys, housewives, realtors, architects, admin assistants, engineers... Also attorney Al Alonso. Attorney Marc Liebman on behalf of Austin Ashley. ZB Chairman Karl Schaffenberger, a 24-year veteran of the environmental commission, recused himself because of his concerns with the environmental impact that “any proposed development of this property would have on the surrounding area.” He was up there fighting, I saw that. (And he may or may not know what “slide protection” is, but I’m willing to bet he knows what “elevation 18” is.) And there were many substantial residents who helped in the shadows and wished to remain in the shadows. This is the community that came together. But WE did not come together as you imply. I sat next to you at the ZB meeting, we were not a “we.” I never saw you fighting for SOD or against this development. However I have seen you on Patch duking it out with SOD members. Oradell and SOD came together. Democrats and Republicans came together. But WE didn’t come together. That’s why we’re at this distressing juncture. Some people are okay with the development apartments included, some are okay with a compromise, but we are not okay with developing that property at the expense of our neighbors and high school kids.
Michelle September 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
If the M&C refuses to rezone; if the ZB doesn’t grant the variances; if the M&C relocates the COAH units to meet the second round obligation, that would leave that property with 38 developable single-family residences as per Kirwan’s report. Hekemian is not going to stick around for 38 single-family homes. I have to question the timing of this re-zoning decision. Why pull the rug out from us now after so much time and resources are invested? Why not way before right off the bat. Why not later after the ZB made their decision? Why now? It’s a punch in the stomach to those who have worked so hard to get this far, and it is my hope that the decision to rezone is not a done deal. It’s not too late to become a WE.
lynden day September 12, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I Suggest going to the web site Ulises put up and read the petition United Water proposed to the Board Of Public Utilities
Ulises September 12, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Mr. Day, United Water is the big elephant in the room. Their mismanagement of their dams, from NY to Oradell, cost taxpayers lots. And they preach overdevelopment is to blame for flooding, yet they sell their watershed land to developers throughout. You should come to our SOD meeting tomorrow at the Senior Citizen Center, at 7:30 PM, and share your thoughts with us. We're just concern citizens and your inslight is more than welcome.
CB September 12, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I agree with you Michelle. Why now? Why not before all the hearings or after the zoning board decides? there is no reason to do this after all the hours the zoning board has devoted to this. The WE is all of us and the THEM is our mayor and council. It would be nice of THEM to join US and become a WE THE PEOPLE, and stand for what this town wants, not what THEY want.
AML September 12, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Perhaps you should have been at the Mayor & Council meeting yesterday evening (lasted till almost 1am) and witnessed for yourself that the 'throwing of darts and negative antidotes" were made by the Mayor & Council among themselves for quite some time. It was a three-ring-circus! For a moment, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was not dreaming, & I did come to the realization that I was not. It was abominable, disgraceful, apalling, shocking, and embarrassing to have witnessed such a spectacle, & yet you ask us why we throw out negative barbs? Perhaps you should redirect your post to the Mayor & Council as they were the ones yelling, screaming, interrupting, & pointing fingers at each other.....food for thought!
M. September 12, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Timing of re zoning may have something to do with the contract. Appears Hekemian is running out of time on there contract with United Water. They were given a max of 21 months to get approval for the development beginning Dec. 30, 2010 according to Ulises link. 15 months plus the option for two 3 month extensions.
Lori Barton September 12, 2012 at 11:21 AM
According to M. the timing of the rezoning might have something to do with Hekemian running out of time on their contract. So instead of letting the contract run out, our wonderful M&C throw Hekemian a lifeline by offering to rezone to make it easier for them. If the contract runs out, maybe NM could pursue those grants and purchase the property. But no...that would be a "gamble." You really have to wonder what's going on here.
TommyIce September 12, 2012 at 12:57 PM
All very important, valid points Mr. Day. I'm concerned about No. 4 "Can we ignore teh possible tax revenue of a development?" I think we should. Any revenue received would be more than lost by the things that will need to be provided--schools, roads, fire equipment (potential paid fire department), and the most important Police and their BENEFITS PACKAGES. Any budget can be trimmed and this town never seems to accomplish that task to its fullest (I admit they have trimmed quite a bit already). I had to take a severe pay cut. I could have increased my revenue by getting a third job but quite frankly working 18 hours a day is not in my best interest (nor any of my employers) so instead I cut the budget even more than it had already been cut. There's still plenty of places this town can trim without selling out the residents in the name of the almighty dollar.
TommyIce September 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Are they throwing a lifeline to Heikemian or to themselves?
Bonita September 12, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Really? Calling me ugly somehow advances your position? I am a resident of NM who believes that part of the property should be developed and the rest left open. You need to rename your organization SAD for stop all development, some of us just did not what the apartments and want the shopping center and a open field for the high school.
Lori Barton September 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Lynden, you know I love you. But Tommy is right concerning #4. First of all, any increased revenue will be offset by increases in police, fire, emergency and court costs. Second, we will pay dearly for the deterioration of the quality of life (traffic congestion, pollution, increased crime, and loss of open space). Third, as commercial properties age, they depreciate so the tax burden gets pushed more to the residential taxpayers in town. Tommy made a great point that there are still places this town can trim without selling us out in the name of the almighty dollar. They can start by eliminating medical benefits for themselves, an immediate savings of about $100,00/year.
Bonita September 12, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Lori, we already have a shop rite and since that one would close, how is it there would be greater expenses associated with a new one? You would not need extra police or fire, Banks have their own security and the only crime associated with grocery stores is shoplifting and fender benders, your claims don't have a lot of merit, it sounds like you throwing things out there and see what sticks.
Lori Barton September 12, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Bonita: we have a very small, rundown ShopRite. A new, huge ShopRite will generate more traffic. Retail operations attract crime, whether it's shoplifting, stolen cars, or stealing from cars. Ambulance calls are frequent at ShopRite. Also, if the current ShopRite location is developed commercially, you have more needs there. Hence, the need for more police, fire and emergency services. You may not think my claims have merit but I recommend that you read the report from ANJEC (Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions).They are highly respected. This is where the facts concerning depreciating commercial properties come from. It is not that the nearby properties will depreciate (although they will). But commercial properties are allowed to depreciate in value as compared to residential real estate which almost always appreciates in value. As the commercial properties age, their costs to the community do not decrease but the community takes over more and more of the tax obligations from commercial properties. These are facts, easily checked. You can accuse me all you like of my claims not having merit, but I assure you they most certainly do. Check the facts in "Open Space Is a Good Investment: The Financial Argument for Open Space Preservation." It makes good sense economically and environmentally. And just because the high school needs a new field (& they do) does not mean that ShopRite, a bank and who knows what else need to be developed on the UW property.
AML September 12, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Bonita Please realize that not all people who are against this development are members of SOD, & please do not make fun of SOD by saying that SOD needs to rename the organization. Please direct your comment to the person who wrote the original comment. Thank you!
Don Johnson September 12, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Don't forget that Peter Rebsch was on the council last year when it failed to take any action that might have averted the current situation with Hekemian. Rebsch is a Team Subrizi "yes man," too! Councilwoman Duffie is the only 2011 council member who kept pushing for a vote on the option to purchase the UW property. Sadly she was outnumbered by those who threw away our best opportunity to purchase the property and fashion it in a way that would be most beneficial to New Milford.
Michelle September 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Don Johnson: I had the opportunity to work with Peter and have experienced his integrity from an inside perspective. He is the last man on earth I would call a “yes” man. If you give yourself the opportunity to get to know him better, you won’t be saying that. He is a principled independent thinker who is not afraid to speak his mind. He also has a heart of gold and is very much for his community. There are rivers of people who have been on the receiving end of his generosity and wisdom. I am definitely going to vote for him, and I’m secure that that vote will yield more for the community than any vote I can cast. Peter will contribute to his community whether he gets voted in or not, and that’s the type of guy I want running the show. Someone who genuinely cares.
Sam B. September 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I agree. I've known Pete Rebsch for many years and he is everything you said he is. Hopefully people realize that and vote him in even though he's on the same ticket as his complete opposite Howard Berner.
TommyIce September 13, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Bonita you may not be aware of this but Inserra received his variances/permission to REBUILD his current location. It comes down to him not wanting to close that location and thus lose revenue while it's being rebuilt. If he builds a new, exponentially larger store, he can keep his revenue stream flowing.
Nancy mitchell September 13, 2012 at 02:09 PM
If our mayor and the council allow for the rezoning of this property, the citizens of New Milford should let them know we will seek to recall all of them...they will nit be reelected anyway, but we should let them know that we, as a community, will "pay them back" for their betrayal of us! NM
JQ September 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Hello All, Why don't we call the FBI to investigate any and all actions? From the outside looking in, and without pointing fingers or making accusations; it appears somebody is on the take. However, since I do not have all of the facts and most of what I've read on the comments appears to be hearsay. Let's let the FBI proved all of us with the facts. Also, I would like Ulyses to see Ulyses run for Mayor!!!!!
JQ September 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Sorry, provide
JQ September 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Sorry, I would like to see Ulyses run for mayor & like to see him win!!!!


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