[Editor's note: This story was updated Apri 4 at 9:30 a.m.]
After years of debate and months of contentious meetings, the township council gave final approval to the Edison redevelopment project Tuesday night.
With a 4-1 vote, the council passed a modification and infrastructure resolution, granting the project the necessary approvals to move forward. Councilman Joe Krakoviak was the lone dissenter and voted 'no' for both resolutions.
for-rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the Edison battery building.
But before construction can begin on the $125 million phase of the redevelopment, Prism Capital Partners, LLC, the land's developer, must clinch approval from the planning board.
Residents to express their unease with the project, rallying around the recent push to repeal one of the project's bond ordinances by referendum.
"We feel the council has ignored our voice," said resident Windale Simpson. "The council is forcing this down our throats … The residents have a right to speak out."
The and would issue bonds to pay for the infrastructure of the project.
"I do love West Orange," said resident Rosary Morelli, who is heading up the referendum initiative. "But we do have a right … If we get this on the ballot and it gets voted down, that's good, that's OK. We know what everybody wants."
One resident, though, was steadfast in his commitment to revitalizing the downtown and expressed full support for the project. He also warned the public to think twice before signing the petition. "People need to understand the cost of this petition … the election would cost the town the salary of one police officer," said Mark Paulson.
According to the clerk's office, should the referendum require a special election, the election would cost the township roughly $80,000.
Resident John Schmidt maintained the council could have avoided any costs had they paid heed to the residents and pushed for a referendum two weeks ago rather than voting in the ordinance. "We could have had this on the ballot with zero cost. This group of people did not want to cost the town a petty, it's not the petitioners' fault."
Council members were sensitive to the initiative but were wary of the circulation of misinformation.
"The first amendment does protect your freedom of speech," said Councilwoman Susan McCartney. She said, however, she had received multiple calls from residents who claimed they had been told by petitioners that the approved bond ordinance would double their taxes.
"It should be true, it should be accurate," McCartney said, as the room broke out in disagreement.
In the end the council agreed to disagree on the project.
"We have to invest because we want to minimize that risk," said Councilman Victor Cirilo, referring to the possibility that the apartments may not get filled. "We want to make sure the public infrastructure around the property is addressed … That's where that investment is going, so the place can be appealing."
Councilman Sal Anderton added that should the bond ordinance be repealed by the voters, it wouldn't necessarily impede the project. "I believe the $6.3 million (bond ordinance) is not the make or break of this project. If public bonding is voted down, it doesn't necessarily stop the project."