[Editor's note: This story was updated March 7 at 3:30 a.m.]
An ordinance authorizing West Orange to issue $6.3 million in general obligation bonds to the developer of the Edison property on Main Street was reintroduced Tuesday night. The ordinance was approved on first reading in a 4-1 vote by the township council.
Councilman Joe Krakoviak dissented, voting "no" to introduce the ordinance and approve it on first reading.
The bond ordinance was first passed in a February meeting but was withdrawn after a procedural flaw with its introduction, according to the administration. They said the township's supplemental debt statement was prepared but not on file in the township clerk's office prior to the Feb. 21 meeting.
"There are still, in my mind, a lot of issues that still need to be reviewed and considered and until those questions are answered, I don't think we should proceed," Krakoviak said.
Councilman Victor Cirilo, however, stood by the council's decision to pass the ordinance.
"What we're doing today is introducing the process, we're not approving anything," he said in response to Krakoviak. "My vote is really to continue the process forward … We have to make decisions, we cannot keep stalling."
Phase I of the redevelopment plan for the land surrounding the Thomas Edison lot on Main Street calls for 333 luxury apartment units for-rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the 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.
A dilapidated building currently sits on the property and has been an eyesore for years. Though there seems to be no opposition to revitalizing the area, the current redevelopment plan has sparked a tumult of questions.
A slew of residents spoke during Tuesday's public comment, hashing out a spate of concerns over the project that touched upon taxes, overcrowding at the schools and the township's issuance of bonds.
"The people of West Orange are against it," said resident John Schmidt, adding that the project would only make current problems such as parking and traffic, worse.
Council president Patricia Spango said she also remained concerned over parking and traffic in the area and would like to see an updated traffic study.
She still expressed support for the project and attempted to ease residents' predominant worry over town-issued bonds.
"Prism is going to pay back 50 percent (of the bond)," Spango said. "The other 50 percent, West Orange is using for the curb-out infrastructure — no different than we do throughout the town. If this project never took place, we would eventually have to take care of this anyway."
While resident Kevin Malanga was sympathetic to the council, "irrespective of what decision you make, you're going to have people upset, disappointed," he insisted the council put the brakes on the redevelopment. "Let us have an open and honest discussion about this project before any decisions are made."
Councilman Sal Anderton reassured residents and clarified the finances of the redevelopment. Of the $6.3 million in issued bonds, $3.1 million of the debt service would be paid back by a special assessment on the property, he said.
In addition, the township will receive revenue generated from the project that will pay for the other half, "It doesn't hit your tax bill or my tax bill," Anderton said.
After addressing almost every residents' concern, Councilman Krakoviak concluded that the town needed to take a serious look at whether the project was in the best interest of the town.
"So much of this is a leap of faith, a lot of the stuff we're looking at are projections, and the question we have to figure out is, are those the right projections and are those conservative enough," he said. "We are really in knee-deep with the success of this project."
Krakoviak said that while the financial agreement with the developer won't technically raise taxes, "if project wasn't generating significant revenue, that's where it would hit us."
Resident Maritza Brown, however, was on board with the project and said the crowd in attendance was not representative of the whole township. "There are a lot of people in West Orange that want this project to happen."
Eugene Diaz, of Prism Capital Partners, LLC, the developer, was also on hand to answer questions. Responding to one resident, he said Prism would pay to relocate the public works building currently on the property. He estimated the cost of relocation to about $6.5 million.
"The township will be fully covered," he said.
The reintroduced bond ordinance and the ordinance outlining the financial agreement between the township and Prism Capital Partners, LLC, the developer, will be up for approval during the March 20 meeting.
Two additional resolutions approving a modification agreement and an infrastructure construction agreement will also be discussed.
The meeting will take place at Thomas Edison Central Six School at 7 p.m.
Continue to check Patch for more information on Tuesday's council meeting.