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Edison Project Raises School Concerns

Township officials say new housing units will target empty nesters, raise school population by less than one percent

New housing proposed on the old grounds of Thomas Edison's factory building on Main Street has some school leaders feeling uneasy.

The redevelopment plan calls for more than and 18,500 square feet of retail space. Township officials say the apartments target empty nesters and predict a less than one percent increase in school-age children.

But with student population , school officials worry the redevelopment plan will only aggravate the problem.

"We're out of space right now," said Board of Education President Laura Lab. "I'm very concerned … I question the number as to how many students are coming out of the developments."

According to a report by the developer, Prism Capital Partners, LLC, four percent of the 600 new residents at the Edison apartments will be children.

"It's fair to project about 30 new students," said Councilman Sal Anderton, who sits on the redevelopment committee. "And based on the 6,800 (students) in the school system, that's less than one percent."

He said going by the data compiled by planning director Susan Borg and the school registrar's office, one in 10 West Orange residents are school-aged kids. "Somewhere between four to 10 percent is where the population will be for school-age children (in the new apartments)," he said, adding that at most, the redevelopment would produce 60 kids.

Anderton said the proposed apartments would be significantly more expensive than existing housing stock and include a 24-hour concierge — discouraging overcrowding in the units. "It's going to be more difficult to put six people in a studio apartment with an active landlord …there's less of a likelihood of that, units are smaller and more expensive," he said.

One-bedrooms units will range from $1,800 to $2,400, according to the developer's report.

Ron DePiro, manager of the in West Orange, who has been in real estate for 16 years, told Patch one-bedroom apartments in the township hover between $800 and $1,700.

He said rentals tend to be occupied by empty nesters.

"It's a low child traffic area," he said. "Rentals produce less children than for sale. An apartment doesn't allow you to lock into the community, most people feel that they can't build on an apartment."

Regardless of how many children live in the new housing units, additional kids means additional costs for the school district.

Yet, under the proposed development, the township will enter a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, where the developer agrees to pay a reduced amount to the township instead of regularly applied real estate taxes.

While general taxes on a property would divert roughly 30 percent to the township and 60 percent to the school district, under the developer's payment program, 95 percent goes to straight to the township. The school district does not receive a percentage of the payments.

Numerous times, township officials have stressed they would allocate a portion of the developer's fees to the schools. Anderton said the township will pay a per-pupil cost for every student that comes out of the development.

"I'm committed to doing this," he said.

Lab said she remained worried the development would tip the scales and add to overcrowding in the schools. "Even if we have the money, it's not going to pay for a new building," she said.

If approved, the apartments would neighbor two of the district's smallest schools – and .

According to a November report by Gregory Somjen, from Perette Somjen Architects in Rockaway, from 2011 to 2016, the number of unhoused students will jump from 46 to 84 at Hazel and from 29 to 24 at Washington. Unhoused students refers to the number of students that exceed the capacity of a given space as determined by the state.

Lab said the district was working to possibly relocate the preschool at to a leased space and suggested having the developer allow the district to house the preschool on the Main Street property. The move would free up additional space to accomodate a growing student population.

Much still remains on the table for discussion, as both the township council and the board of education have yet to set a . The township council's discussion of the project was also

"As you saw from our demographer report, in five years we're going to have 800 kids that are unhoused," said Lab. "I don't see (the project) as a benefit to the school district."

Ryan December 11, 2011 at 09:36 PM
How are the developers supposed to make a profit on a park?
Mark Paulson December 11, 2011 at 09:53 PM
A park is not a possibility. The property is made out of material that can't be destroyed and the there are also restrictions of tearing down the building because of its historical significance.. We have a choice between a beautiful development with stores and luxury units or a hole. Make your choice. There are only 2.
Mark Paulson December 11, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Target isn't going to use the current facilitry to build a store.The current structure needs to be restored. It can't be torn down. Rental units are in high demand today because people are reluctant or unable to buy a house. The population of this area will continue to grow. Filling the unit will not be a problem. We just need regulations to limit the number of children who can occupy the facility. People won't want to live in a run down business area but all that will be improved with the restoration. We need this project to pass.
Gary Englert December 11, 2011 at 11:03 PM
@ Mac: First and foremost, your personal objections and preferences as to what you would like to see/not see on the property is a very moot point. Following decades of discussion and ownership by an individual with unrealistic expectations of its value, an agreement to sell the parcel (at reasonable value) was reached and a request for proposals issued. The developers submitting proposals were all in agreement on one point; to succeed, the project needed to be mixed-use (commercial and residential) and the Township selected what it determined to be the best of the plans presented (Prism's). You need to disabuse yourself of the notion that the parcel could be 100% retail with some big anchor store; the parking/traffic as currently projected pale in comparison to the requirements that such an operation would entail...and nobody thinks such a thing is economically viable. A park is another fairy tale as the owners already have +/- $50 Million invested in the property (which they would want to recoup), you'd then have to demolish the buildings (made Edison's famed indestructable Portland cement), wind up with land that wouldn't generate a dime in income that would need to be maintained by the town...all of which local taxpayers would have to pay for. Get up to speed here and understand this is far beyond the talking and planning stages, which went on for 50 years.
Gary Englert December 11, 2011 at 11:17 PM
@ Mark Paulson: More specifically, the complainers and naysayers need to understand that we are long since beyond the point of discussion and offering alternatives, which essentially has gone on for the last 50 years. . An entity (Prism Partners) has purchased the property based on the legal approvals it obtained to redevelope it in accordance with the plans presented and approved by the Township. Those plans remain in place, with the only very modest change being (due to market /financing conditions) from residential condominium units to rental units. All else remains essentially the same. The Township is being asked to provide minimal bonding (more than offset by PILOT) for the cost of required municipally owned infrastructure upgrades (roads, sidewalks, cubs, storm and sanitary sewers)...all of which the Township would bear (over time) anyway.
Gary Englert December 11, 2011 at 11:42 PM
@ Ryan: They can't and they also aren't about to walk away from the +/- $50 Million they've already invested into this project. Perhaps Mac is wealthy enough that he'd like to make a Mark Zuckerbergish gift to West Orange? If Mac can write that check, another to demolish the buildings (good luck with that), then another to landscape what's left and install the park-like ameneties he'd like to see, he should go have a talk with the folks at Prism. Then he can negotiate with the Township toward offsetting the hit it will take to our tax base since the property will no longer generate any property tax income. With an annuity set up to provide that income in perpetuity, I'd guesstimate that $100 Million might just about do it all. How about it Mac, can you cover that? And, if you can't, just where do you think it would come from?
wohopeful December 12, 2011 at 01:44 AM
These millionaire developer friends of puppet Mayor Parisi are free to do whatever they would like with their parcel of land, however anyone who thinks this will have any positive impact on the West Orange slums probably also think they can put lipstick on a pig and win the Miss America pageant. It isn't going to happen and everyone knows it. What is worse is that these millionaire developers want millions of dollars in taxpayer moneys for their project and then have the gall to also expect long term tax abatements. This is not good for the taxpayers of West Orange.
Gary Englert December 12, 2011 at 01:59 AM
@Wohopeful: Listen carefully...you're having one of your delusions again; the recurring one where you think you know what you're talking abut when you clearly don't. Please call your skrink and get back on your meds.
Mark Paulson December 12, 2011 at 02:27 AM
The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what WOHELPFUL or I think. The Edison project could be great or it could suck. The final decision comes down to 5 people on the town council. 4 out of 5 of the members must approve this plan for it to pass. We can voice our opinions but the entire project rests on the votes of those 5 people That's why I don't really care what WOHOPEFUL has to complain about. If his comments were stated with common sense, I would at least read them. However, by now i just ignore them because they are a waste of time.
Gary Englert December 12, 2011 at 04:17 AM
@ Mac: "What is 1 reason that rental units are good for the town?" The answer is simple: there is a demand for rental units and we have an opportunity to supply them. The success of Edison Village has always been dependent upon it's being a mixed-use (commercial and residential) project. Every one of the developers willing to submit an RFP and entertain any financial involvement said the same thing. The market has changed with the economic downturn and, while housing sales are down, residential rental demand is up. That there is demand for residential rentals is enabling the developers to obtain construction financing that evaporated with the home-mortgage crisis...and success of the over-all project is dependent on the residential component. That is why we "need" rental units.
wohopeful December 12, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Sure there is plenty of demand for rentals..Section 8 rentals and that is exactly what will end up in the Parisi Projects once the millionaire developers get millions of dollars from the hard working taxpayers at the hands of incompetent politicians like Parisi.
wohopeful December 12, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Ask yourself this one question...are you willing to pony up; thousands of dollars of your hard earned income to help millionaire developers who have stalled this project for years. Not because they weren't ready but because they could not extort millions from the hard working honest taxpayers to pay for their development. The WO taxpayers should not be the financial backers of millionaires who have no interest in our community other than to squeeze us for money. The financials for this project are unacceptable as residents struggle to pay their property taxes and incompetent politicians like Parisi ignoire their hurt and push to get millions for his developer friends in long term taxpayer backed bonds and tax abatements. When is the last time your family recieved a tax abatement?. Say NO to this ignorant tyranny!
Gary Englert December 12, 2011 at 01:16 PM
@Wohopeful: Again...Listen carefully...you're having one of your delusions again; the recurring one where you think you know what you're talking abut when you clearly don't. Please call your skrink and get back on your meds.
Tom G. December 12, 2011 at 01:48 PM
So when exactly are these 5 people taking a vote on the project? Every time I come to this site I read about another delay.
Mark Paulson December 12, 2011 at 02:00 PM
When people criticize the leadership in this town, I think they fail to realize that these leaders live here too. They have to consider the impact on the schools for their own children and the kind of neighborhood that will be here in 10 years. They pay taxes too. They have to personally deal with the outcome of their decision. They are taking minutes, days, months or years so that they can get a full understanding of this project. There are many more details in this plan that have not even been presented. They are carefully waiting to get all the facts before they vote. There could be new items in the days ahead that could make this plan much better or worse. We all have thoughts about this plan but the council doesn't have all of the information to present the plan to the public or to vote. That is a very wise decision on their part. When people shoot and aim later with their comments towards the council, they show that they don't comprehend the situation at all. Bottom line... They aren't ready to vote yet because they want to make the best decision for everyone. Delays are good if it helps to determine the right decision.
Gary Englert December 12, 2011 at 02:31 PM
@ Mac: Your posts indicate that you are woefully uninformed about this project and lack any historical perspective whatsoever. Being a resident here for only three years, that's more than understandable. You're raising questions that were answered and put to bed years ago and we're far beyond them now. Unfortunately, you are not alone and a re-education process is part of what must be accomplished to get everyone up to speed and to understand where we are, what is and is not possible, and what is now necessary to proceed along a course already chosen. Again, revitalizing this parcel has been a topic of discussion for 50 years; giving it a few more weeks to get it right is certainly a reasonable position for the Council and Administration.
wohopeful December 12, 2011 at 10:37 PM
Here are a few more things to contemplate over this failed project: Ask yourselves this question..when did the township ever offer a tax abatement and millions of dollars in long term bond funding to you? Then why is our puppet Mayor Parisi offering up millionms of the West Orange Taxpayer dollars to his millionaire developer friends? These millionaire developers have stalled this project every step of the way with one purpose and that is to extort millions of dpollars form the honest hard working taxpayers to pay for their property improvements. Well that is ludicrous and it is time to say No. Instead why isn't the town issuing summons to these developers for failure to keep their property in good condition, if you or I were to allow our property to fall into disrepair the town issues summons and levies fines. Why is Mayor Parisi on the side of the millionaire developers instead of standing with the hard working citizens and make this millionaire pay their fair share! It is time to end this sham that puppet Mayor Parisi is trying to put on the backs of the honest hard working property owners of West Orange.
Gary Englert December 12, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Here are a few more things to contemplate whenever you see and read one of wohopeful's ridiculous posts: he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.
wohopeful December 13, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Oh really, then perhaps you would like to enlighten the tax paying citizenry that puppet Mayor Parisi wants to take millions of dollars from and hand them over to his millionaire developer friends when the last time you actually paid a property tax bill in West Orange was?
Gary Englert December 13, 2011 at 02:26 AM
@ wohopeful: I need not "enlighten the citizenry" about any such thing as Mayor Parisi is neither anyone's puppet nor is he handing anything over to anyone to the detriment of local taxpayers. As to my real estate holdings, we can discuss them when we're on a level playing field. That is unlikely to happen as it would require you to come out from behind your screen name and identify yourself, moron.
wohopeful December 13, 2011 at 02:40 AM
Not interested in your non-existent real-estate holdings. The question goes to your credibility as a non-property tax payor on this topic. And you have answered the question already with your non-response.
Gary Englert December 13, 2011 at 02:59 AM
@ wohpeful: Let me assure you that absolutely nobody is interested in the repetitive ranting of an uninformed idiot hiding behind a screen name. The hypocrisy of your proclaiming any knowledge of anything, let alone challenging me, while cowering behind a computer keyboard is apparent to all, moron.
wohopeful December 13, 2011 at 11:32 AM
No challenge Mr. Englert, jsut a question which you clearly answered with your non-response and repeated nonsense. When you actually pay a property tax bill in West Orange then you may have some credibility on this issue, until then no credibility whatsoever. Just more of your repeated nonsnese and playing town bully.
Mark Paulson December 13, 2011 at 01:11 PM
Gary, WOICANTSTANDTHISTOWN was negatively responding to the latest Patch regarding the Board of Ed at 6:40 this morning. How does anyone roll out of bed and immediately start bitching? If I had to start my day like that, I'd be miserable. If he offered some solutions, it would maybe be worth reading. instead he just wakes up and starts bitching. Who wants to read that?????????????
Gary Englert December 13, 2011 at 01:29 PM
@ wohopeful: ROFFLMFAO...the Township's greatest single purveyor of absolute nonsense wants to question my credibility? OK, moron, I'll tell you what...I'll show you my tax bill when you show us yours. Does that work for you?
Gary Englert December 13, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Mark, Clearly, in this idiot's pathetic little world, he thinks anonymous character assassination and denigrating anything anyone does for the common good is amusing and also makes him somebody; the paradox being that he's so proud (sic) of himself that he hides behind a computer keyboard. Sadly, if not refuted, his nonsense might be given credence by some.
Mark Paulson December 13, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Gary, I have one question regarding charter schools. If the schools are already crowded, why are we concerned if a few students go to a different place. This might be a solution so that we don't need to build an an additional building. Let the charter school get their own facility. Maybe they'll take some smart kids away but we are bursting at the seams already. Why should we be concerned if some kids go somewhere else. I know I can get an honest answer from you.
Gary Englert December 13, 2011 at 02:08 PM
@ Mark: I freely admit that I'm nowhere near 100% up on this issue but, a few thoughts do come to mind: 1. Absent these being a "school within a school" new construction is likely called for and that is always an expense. 2. Funding a charter (on a per pupil basis) removes funding from the district from which that pupil came. 3. Is this "opportunity" open to all? Clearly not. 4. Is this all defacto segregation? You tell me. 5. Start an "elite" school (i.e; Science High in Newark) and you effectively have a brain and leadership drain on all others from which students are drawn and you've effectively created an artificial community which neither reflects real life nor the world those students will actually inhabit.
Mark Paulson December 13, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Excellent answers. Thank you.
wohopeful December 14, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Did someone force you to read the postings here Mr. Paulson? Seems to me you have the same choice as the rest of us to ignore a posting and not read on. And while I suppose if all of us had an easy job tinkling the ivories a few times a week we too could afford ourselves the luxuries of sleeping in or not having to work jobs that require varying shifts. While you may be snug in your bed @ 6:40am others may be approaching the end of their shift, racing for a train/bus, or have been awake for several hours.

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