Township Council Reintroduces Edison Redevelopment Bond Ordinance

Residents question project during nearly two hours of public comment

[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 but was , 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

"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 at 7 p.m.

Continue to check Patch for more information on Tuesday's council meeting.

MP March 08, 2012 at 02:58 PM
WO has too many apartments and we can live with fewer apts. I am not sure whether the taxes paid on these buildings are commensurate with the services consumed by the dwellers. Apartments attract more low income people and bring in more problem. Can the township buy my house so that i can get out of here? Do people really think high income people will rent these "luxury" aprtments when they can go to a better a school district. Check out the NJ school report card for Washington and Edison schools. Nothing to write home about.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:04 PM
ConcernedAbout07052: So far as I can see, this has nothing to do with West Orange at all.
Gary Englert March 08, 2012 at 03:10 PM
@ john anthony prignano: While I have no problem at all envisioning you in a Charlie Sheen like roid rage (as we've all seen it before, haven't we?) but, your complete lack of of documentable achievement in life suggests you should disabuse yourself of the idea that you're "WINNING" anything.
Karen Yi March 08, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Hi everyone, Let's keep the personal attacks off this thread. You can disagree, but do so respectfully. We don't want readers to be afraid to voice their opinions. So please, no personal attacks or insults. Stick to the issues. Otherwise, your comments will be deleted and your account will be suspended. Thanks, Karen Yi Local Editor, West Orange Patch
Cynthia Cumming March 08, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Karen, I for one take issue with 'Wohopeful' and his nasty comments about me, and I would appreciate your blocking his account.


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