[Editor's note: This story was updated at 11 a.m.]
The Edison redevelopment project got another green light Tuesday night after the township council approved two ordinances on final reading that authorize the finances for the project.
The 4-1 approval, with Councilman Joe Krakoviak dissenting, capped a five-and-a-half hour meeting that turned contentious toward the end of the night.
The township has been seeking a way to redevelop the 20-acre dilapidated land surrounding the Thomas Edison factory building for 22 years, according to planning director Susan Borg.
The current plan, presented by the land's developer, Prism Capital Partners, LLC, would erect hundreds of luxury apartment units for rent, a parking garage and retail space for a total cost of $250 million.
The council is only considering Phase I of the project, projected to cost $125 million.
Phase I calls for 333 luxury apartment units for rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the Edison battery building. It will also include a 635-space parking garage and a Jitney service to both the Orange and South Orange New Jersey Transit train stations.
The air was divisive as residents filled the auditorium at Thomas A. Edison Central Six School Tuesday, torn on whether to move forward with the project.
Resident Richard Stolz said though his downtown business, Supreme Bakery, was doing well, "Main Street is struggling, we need residents in the area, it will get people on the streets."
Council members, too, struck a dissonant cord with each other.
Throughout the meeting Krakoviak echoed concerns expressed by residents over the number of children the project would produce, the affordable housing obligation and the issuing of bonds.
"If it's such a wonderful project, why are we bearing all this risk?" Krakoviak asked.
Coucilman Sal Anderton called Krakoviak's salvo of concerns "disingenuous" and said they both had served on the redevelopment committee for more than a year discussing the project but that Krakoviak had never mentioned any of his deep-seated concerns.
Angered by the remark, Krakoviak maintained he had vetted his questions and concerns regarding the project.
"You're not making sense from a policy perspective," Anderton retorted. "You can't be for redevelopment and be against some sort of financial incentive, thats the very definition of redevelopment."
"I'm for redevelopment but I'm not for taking on most of the risk of the project," Krakoviak shot back.
The approved bond ordinance authorizes the township to issue $6.3 million in general obligation bonds to the developer to pay for infrastructure costs and places a special assessment on the property. The second approved ordinance outlines the financial agreement between the township and Prism. Under the agreement, the developer agrees to repay 50 percent of the issued bonds to the township, with interest.
Council president Patricia Spango acknowledged the tension in the room, "The town is obviously divided on this issue." She added, "Without risk, we wouldn't have development. Success to me involves risk."
Though no one disagreed the area needed a major revitalization, many residents staunchly opposed the project and urged the council to reconsider.
Resident Rosary Morelli said she and others were ready to "hit the streets" with petitions if the project gained full approval. "We will get this on the ballot, we have to take this into our own hands."
Before construction can begin on Phase I of the $250 million project, the council must still vote on two resolutions approving a modification agreement and an infrastructure construction agreement. Both items were originally slated for a vote Tuesday but were pushed back to the April 3 meeting.
If approved, the project also has to garner approval from the planning board.