This Is Rutherford
Event Recap: Town Hall Redevelopment Meeting
By Jennifer Ersalesi
On March 3rd, Councilman Mark Goldsack and Councilwoman Stephanie McGowan held a Rutherford Redevelopment Town Hall Presentation at Borough Hall in Council Chambers. The presentation was designed to better inform residents who had requested additional information about current and future redevelopment projects in Rutherford. Goldsack said, “We are here to educate the public and improve the community.” In a town hall format, both Council members and two Borough-hired Redevelopment Attorneys, Kevin P. McManimon and Michael Hanley explained the Redevelopment process and answered questions from some of the fifty attendees.
Discussed were properties at 106 Park Ave (The Parker), Agnew Place (the triangle of land where Union and Erie Aves meet), Highland Cross east of Rt 17, “The Holman Area” (Highland Cross between Park and Lincoln Aves), Meadow Road and the Williams Center. Both the attorneys and council members explained that The Parker is the only project that has been completed and that the Agnew Place triangle is the only other area with an approved Redevelopment plan at this time. Council members Goldsack and McGowan told those in attendance that a Redevelopment plan for Agnew Place was first introduced in 2007. McGowan said that this has been a longstanding, ongoing conversation spanning multiple administrations. Goldsack said that the current council members are now involved in assessing the current Redevelopment plan and the amendment that has been proposed. The plan for Agnew Place was approved in the Spring of 2019. The developer asked the council to amend the plan and expand to 185 units. According to Goldsack, "Those amendments have been sent to the planning board for review, they have sent their comments back to us and the council has not made an affirmative decision about those amendments as of yet."
Each step of the Redeveloper agreement and Financial agreement were explained in detail. PILOTs (Payment in Lieu of Tax) were a key component of the discussion and defined as “an amount that a property owner pays to the Borough pursuant to a financial agreement instead of paying taxes conventionally.”Every part of the PILOT process was provided and the attorneys identified the purpose of using PILOTs to determine redevelopment based on current market needs. Current market needs were identified as mixed-use and light industrial properties, which both attorneys believe would be beneficial for the Borough.
Common misconceptions of the PILOT such as “Under a PILOT, the Borough receives significantly less revenue under conventional taxes” were discussed. Both McManimon and Hanley told the residents in attendance that the amount received by the municipality through the PILOT is “sometimes equal to or more than the amount the Borough would receive under conventional taxes.”
Some of the questions asked by those in attendance were:
Why is a PILOT being considered here, in a non-urban area?
McManimon explained that PILOTs are economically beneficial for the Borough and used The Parker as an example.
Why is Rutherford considering a PILOT program when most areas that use them are urban areas, such as Newark and Paterson, not suburban areas such as Glen Rock and Ridgewood? Hanley answered by saying that PILOTs have been used in Bridgewater, Princeton and other non-urban areas with success.
What is Phase two of the Parker?
Councilwoman McGowan said that there is no approved phase since nothing has been brought to the Council for approval.
Has the four and a half story Redevelopment plan for Agnew Place been approved?
Council members explained that it was approved and the process is moving forward as they are negotiating the redevelopment process and the amendment that was recently proposed.
Has the council considered the need for more services such as DPW, Fire, Police, etc. with the increase in redevelopment?
Mark Goldsack explained that policy decisions regarding these areas are made each year. The council members meet with heads of departments to determine the need for expansion within departments. The council is currently in the process of negotiating the new budget and is considering these topics.
Do you not worry about changing the character of Rutherford with these Redevelopment plans?
McGowan answered this question by saying that in her six years on the Council every council member she has worked with has cared about the character of the town and has wanted to preserve the place that they love.
Has it been considered that the conditional redeveloper for Agnew, M&M at Rutherford Urban Renewal Company, LLC has been involved in previous lawsuits?
Goldsack answered by saying that the council did not make judgments about M&M based on bad press. He said that this type of thing happens in business and disputes go to litigation because that is the nature of how business disputes are settled. Goldsack said that the council is aware of the situation and will continue to monitor it accordingly.
Has the council taken into consideration the historical relevance of areas being considered for redevelopment?
Goldsack, who was the Liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission last year, said that he and the other council members are aware of the historic component of the Holman properties and this has been and will be taken into consideration as redevelopment plans are introduced. He stated that it is important to preserve the history of Rutherford to teach future generations. He mentioned that council members are working on a bi-weekly newsletter which will help council members disseminate information. Residents will be able to sign up to receive emails with important information from the council, this way all members of the community will be informed, including those concerned about the Historic preservation of the town. In addition, they hope to post redevelopment plans and studies to the Borough’s website.
The Councilmembers discussed their recent meetings with the Board of Education during which they tried to determine if or how any of the redevelopment projects will impact schools. Hanley sited data collected by Rutgers University that indicates that redevelopment projects, such as The Parker with studio and one and two-bedroom residences, have not impacted the schools in other communities since many of the residences do not include children. Hanley stated that current redevelopment projects are designed differently and do not often attract families with school-aged children.
All questions were required to be written on index cards and submitted as the night progressed, minimizing any chance for follow up questions or public commentary from the audience.
Goldsack and McGowan concluded the evening by explaining that public hearings, such as this one, are a great model and they hope to conduct similar meetings in this format in the future.