The meeting was a Special meeting which dealt, in most part, with the status of redevelopment in Roselle Park. In addition, 14 resolutions were to be addressed and voted on. Mayor and all council members were present, with councilman Robert Rubilla joining the meeting in progress. Also in attendance were Doreen Cali (Borough Clerk), Kenneth Blum (CFO), Jeff Surenian, and Chuck Lettini. The meeting opened up with an update from attorney Jeff Surenian which was followed by the public comment portion from those in attendance.

Mr. Surenian described how the Borough initiated a plan for redevelopment. In talks with Israel Braunstein, property owner of the Romerovski Corporation site, he reached out to the Borough and community to be part of that plan. Mr. Braunstein entered into an agreement with the Borough to start a process of having developers come before the Borough and residents in order to talk about and show their plans to the public and thereby, allow input from the community. In the process of redevelopment effort, the Borough realized that it needed to address the requirements put into effect from the Mt. Laurel decision in order to comply with affordable housing and senior housing. Mr. Braunstein, unbeknown to the Borough, then entered into a private, closed contract with developer AvalonBay. It is then that things turned from an amicable relationship with the Borough into an adversarial one and Mr. Braunstein turned around and sued the Borough.

A summary judgment procedure was started by the Borough or Roselle Park and Roselle Park, LLC (a partnership formed by Israel Braunstein and AvalonBay) where both sides go before a judge and offer the merits of their arguments as to why each side is right in their stance. This is not a trial. On December 17, 2007 both sides laid out their history with relation to the suit. The judge ruled against both parties on certain points of each argument and required both parties to meet in 90 days and begin mediation with an appointed “Master” (title given to a mediator). The Master wants to meet with both parties on February 5, 2008.

The Borough wants to keep progress and status of redevelopment open to the public but mediation may keep that from happening.

The judge in the case left open that she may reach decisions she did not address if mediation does not work. Previously she ruled against the Borough in their argument that Mr. Braunstein basically sued the Borough when he was being helped. She did leave her decision open on the argument that AvalonBay undermined Roselle Park and not only went against the community with residents who expressed a distaste to the proposed development plan of apartments but that AvalonBay used their resource and influence to threaten other developers from coming into Roselle Park to offer their plans to the public.

The Mayor stated that one reason the Borough is in litigation with Roselle Park, LLC is that when the process started, the location of the Romerovski Corporation was made into a Redevelopment Zone under the “New Directions” Plan and Mr. Braunstein was part of that plan. The Borough does not want to be told after all the time and resources and money used in the process that an outside party could come in and tell the town what should go there. AvalonBay has made an assertion that they want to put a total of 300 apartments at the location. The Borough wanted an open process and it has become a closed-door dealing with Mr. Braunstein and AvalonBay, with them saying that they don’t care what Roselle Park says, they are going to make their money and walk away.

Public Comment Portion

Jacob Magiera

Was there a verbal agreement between Israel Braunstein and the Borough of Roselle Park?

  • Mr. Braunstein, in court records, admitted to having an agreement with Roselle Park. Mr. Liddell, as a representative of AvalonBay, stated to forget about the open process – an allegation that he denied. If the judge finds that Mr. Liddell lied, it could be considered a breach of contract.

Is there enough of sewer flow capacity to handle 300 apartment?

  • The Borough has the capacity to handle that amount of accommodations.

Mr. Magiera gave his opinion that, should it come to fact that the apartments are developed, could the Borough request from the developer to pay for the cost associated with having additional children in the school system?

  • Under New Jersey Law, no, that cannot happen.

Years ago, there was talk of having the property condemned. What happens if the developer wins out?

  • The Borough would not have the power to condemn the property since it did not do it before the redevelopment. There was talk of that in the opinion during the summary judgment procedure.

Nancy Kinloch

Would the developer do both sides of the property that is divided by the Gordon Street?

  • Yes

What is the definition of luxury apartments, which is what AvalonBay is stating they want to develop?

  • There is no answer to that. The developer has done other projects and although they are not unattractive, they have never unveiled their intended plan to the Borough before starting work. AvalonBay even tried to suppress their plans in discovery.
  • Mr. Lettini stated that the Borough would need to see what is being proposed. The Borough took considerations, such as school age children, as part of the design criteria when factoring the development. there is no information from AvalonBay on their factoring of Roselle Park into their plan.

Gregory Kinloch

Does the Mount Laurel decision address affordable housing and senior housing?

  • Yes. According to the decision, a certain percentage of affordable housing must be one-bedroom units, a certain percent must be three-bedroom units, and the rest two-bedroom units.

The building was used for radio. Has the soil been tested?

  • discovery demands on that topic by the Borough were found to be burdensome by the developer. The judge placed a stay on this until after mediation. The Borough attempted to gather information independently through OPRA to the DEC. They did not see a problem from what could be gathered but the Borough is not the owner of the land.

Carl Hokanson
Would this go through the planning board and the zoning board?

  • If mediation fails, there will be a trial. The process was supposed to involve Israel Braunstein working with Roselle Park, but now, Mr. Braunstein is suing the Borough. If there would be a need to re-zone, residents would have an opportunity to to express their views. If it goes before the planning board, the residents would have an opportunity to express their views.
  • On December 17th, COAH (Council On Affordable Housing) proposed new regulations and the Borough is now trying to work with a new set of regulations that have been proposed but not adopted. This factor may need a “master” at the state level to address any new regulations that may affect legal decisions.

Will this be going on for a while?

  • Yes.

Gregory Kinloch

Was Romerovski part of the Master Plan?

  • Yes. The plan urged multiple use development with a mixed use site (retail, commercial, residential)

Jeanine Goodis

Is AvalonBay only an apartment developer?

  • So they say. Unfortunately, due to the present housing downturn, apartments are more attractive enough to pursue. Rental property is more attractive to people due to mortgage rates right now. Developers find Roselle Park attractive enough with access to mass transit, a downtown that has room to grow, and the small town advantage to want to develop here.

Ricky Badillo

On the topic of condemnation, would the property be able to be taken away? What would the advantage and disadvantages be of having that?

  • Mr. Surenian stated he wanted to stay away from that topic for now.

Loren Harms

Mr. Harms stated that he agrees, this situation will drag out a long time. As a councilman, he and the council asked the residents what they wanted and proceeded with the plan after input from residents. Now a developer has come in with apartments. Councilman Harms wanted to make sure that residents know why the Borough took the course it did. The Borough is not going to condemn the property, the Borough is going to fight. That will cost money. He asks that the residents stick by council, to stick by the community. Do not give up on it because the Borough will fight. If residents do not want the plan proposed by AvalonBay, they have to fight.

Jeff Surenian stated that the borough went out of its way to make things an open process.

Phil Woods

His concern is the children and the school age children. If it turns out to be 300 to 600 families with children, what schools are going to house them?

  • The presumption should not be made that 300 units will be built. A developer being a pig is not unusual (asking for more than they can get). Regardless, a municipality is not allowed to zone on the basis of school aged children.
  • Chuck Lettini stated that although the numbers vary by location, a Rutgers study showed a dramatically lower number of school aged children than expected for new developments. In general, they are finding the ratio to be one to two children per every 100 units.

What about Sunrise Village? How many families in that complex send children to borough school? How many units are in that complex?

  • There were no specific numbers available offhand but it could be looked into. There were a higher number of children from that complex than others in the borough but realize that Sunrise Village deals with Section 8, the market rate. With condominiums in Roselle Park, there are not as many children going to borough schools.

Glen Marczewski

there used to be a state law in effect regarding open space. Could the Borough take development land and make it open space?

  • Yes.

Paul Endler

It appears that re-zoning the Romerovski Property to an ‘Area in need of redevelopment’ has caused this problem. What if that zoning is eliminated?

  • It was efforts to comply with the re-zoning that appears to have caused the suit, not the re-zoning. The Borough cannot turn back now and remove the zoning since the Borough itself has plans to redevelop the land.

Dorothy Rossman

The developer in Jersey City turns a warehouse into expensive lofts. They are extremely expensive and how can the developer satisfy Mt. Laurel? Will the affordable housing be in the same building complex?

  • If the development is 100% rental units, the law encourages affordable units in the same building.

Jean Marro

The corner of Faitoute/Gordon and Westfield is very dangerous. There have been accidents and incidents. having children and people cross that highway may be the preventative measure to have families with children to move there.

Jacob Magiera

There is a concern with apartments being a business, landlords apply for tax appeals and consistently get them. can that be removed from this development?

  • In order to address tax appeals, there would be a need to re-evaluate housing values in the Borough. in this market not many residents would be willing to do that. Also, in Roselle Park, the rate of market value with apartments is 21%. If it were increased to 100%, then tax appeals could be removed.

If the Jack Seeger report available?

  • It was not a report, it was a sketching rendition.

Rick Matarante

Originally, were the opponents going to be at this meeting?

  • No.

Glen Marczewski

How much is this process going to cost Roselle Park?

  • The final tally is not known.

Could there be age requirements for condominiums?

  • These units are non-age restricted. The Borough is not proposing age requirements.

Carl Hokanson

Has the burden on extra police, fire, emergency services and other municipal services been taken into account?

  • Yes.

Patricia Pagnetti

How many stories (floors) are proposed for the development? Could there be a height restriction?

  • The Borough, nor anyone really, knows since the developer has never shown anyone the plans.

Lori

Will these units have rent control?

  • There will be no rent control measures.

Nick Pagnetti

At what point will the developer need to give disclosure of their plans?

  • Most likely at the mediation.

Larissa Chen-Hoerning

Is there any precedence from other communities on how to handle this matter?

  • The case of Toll Brothers, Inc v. the Township of West Windsor would be one case but in most instance, developers have the upper hand since they have money and resources. Most municipalities end up giving up due to the cost associated with fighting.

Jacob Magiera

To answer a previous question on possible height restrictions, Roselle Park has a 100-foot ladder on their fire truck, which would be able to reach a four-story building.

Unnamed Resident

With the zoning board and the housing units, could the land have been zoned for commercial use, which would allow for ratables? Could we go back to that option?

  • The Borough is in a different place now and we cannot go back.

Why did the Borough want to redevelop the location to become residential?

  • Mr. Braunstein had originally had his location zoned only for industrial. Roselle Park thought about changing it to commercial/ residential with the ground floor being retail and the rest being residential; no taller than three (3) stories. The stumbling block was the bridge which prohibited big retail stores from developing there. It was then considered for more residential than commercial with added bonus provisions for historic preservation (Marconi).

Unnamed Resident

Will the development provide for parking?

  • Yes, presumably underground parking.

Nancy Kinloch
How long has this case been going on?

  • Roselle Park, LLC sued the Borough of Roselle Park on February 15, 2007.

Jacob Magiera

Did Mr. Braunstein ask to have the zoning changed?

  • No.

Did he agree to it?

  • He had no say in the matter.

Is there any legal ramification of being a partner?

  • None.

Patricia Pagnetti

Will the developer be the owner of the property and is the developer a U.S. company?

  • The Borough has no idea if it is an American company but legally, it is not relevant.
  • The developer would be able to sell the rights to anyone it wishes once the project is done.

In closing, Jeff Surenian and the Mayor wanted to stress that Roselle Park demands to have the status of development remain an open process. Unfortunately, a gag order may prevent that from happening. Regardless, the Borough wants the residents to be part of the process.

The public portion was convened and, after a short recess, the meeting resumed.

The Motion that Bills & Payrolls Not Be Read and Motion that Bills & Payrolls Be Passed For Payment were all voted on and carried.

Resolutions

  • Resolutions 278-07 and 279-07 were removed from consensus by Councilman Dinardo. Resolution 282-07 was removed from consensus by Councilman Matarate.
  • Resolutions 269-07 through 277-07, 280-07, and 281-07 were moved, voted on, and approved.
  • Councilman Dinardo asked the reason for both resolutions since it appears that the borough negotiated for crosswalks then immediately gave out the contract. The Borough Clerk bid the project out twice and both bids were rejected for being too high. The Borough Clerk was then authorized to negotiate a price with the bidders to have the project come in under the budget. The project has been scaled back to only six (6) crosswalks.
  • Additionally, Resolutions 279-07 and 282-07 go together. They deal with projects and costs that were budgeted months ago. If both pass, there will still be $500 left.
  • Resolution 278-07 was moved, voted on, and approved.
  • Resolution 279-07 was moved, voted on, and approved with councilman Rick Matarante voting ‘No’.
  • Resolution 282-07 was moved, voted on, and approved with councilman Rick Matarante voting ‘No’.

Councilman harms wanted to remind everyone that bulk pick-up will occur on January 9th on the East Side of town and on January 10th on the west side, unless there is snow over three (3) inches. The rain dates are January 23rd and 24th respectively.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

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